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New to oxy acelytene soldering


#1

Currently I use a butane torch for soldering silver- I am just
starting out. I would like to get into making jewelry out of silver
on a better level. Rings, earrings etc.

I am trying to find out what a good middle of the road set up would
be, AND what size tanks do people use for a couple times a week
usage.

Thank you, Mark


#2

I am one of many jewelers here using oxygen and propane. There are
very small refillable tanks (mine is 10lb), easy to get exchanged or
refilled.

With that, A Meco Migett torch will do pretty much anything you could
wish, without the soot of acetylene. Tips run from hypodermic to
rosebud. Short of welding rebar, it’s all you need.

Noel


#3

I use propane / air, use the little blue tanks that i get at
Walmart.

John


#4

Mark. There are lots of options and I think that I have tried them
all.

The torch that you buy is somewhat dependent on what you want to do
with it. This will also change over time and so to will your torch. I
used a plumbers single stage acetylene torch and B tank for 35 years.
Definitely hot enough for what you want to do. You can also use
propane and air with an EZ Torch. Propane and air isn’t hot enough to
work larger pieces and definitely will not allow you to melt silver
to cast, but it is an inexpensive way to get a bigger torch than what
you are using now. O2 and acetylene is a very hot flame and can be
delivered by a number of torches on the market. You will have to buy
regulators (different regulators for different gases), hoses, check
valves and flash back arresters. Tank sizes can be relatively small.
MC or B for the acetylene and a bit bigger for O2 as you will use O2
much faster than acetylene. You can also substitute propane for
acetylene in most gas and compressed O2 torches. It is a bit cooler,
but a lot cleaner than acetylene. You can use a 20 lb. propane tank,
but you can also buy a 5 lb tank and even use a 1 lb tank, but it
will require a different nonadjustable regulator. In the last five
years I made it my goal to get as much compressed gas out of the shop
as I could without impacting my ability to work. I now run both a
little torch and a Meco Midget with Paige tips on propane and O2. I
use 1 lb. propane tanks that can be refilled from the 20 pounder out
in the garage and O2 from an O2 generator. This has worked out to be
a very good setup and I only have the 1 lb. tank in my shop at any
one time. I have the precise flame that I need for fine work as well
as a big hot flame to anneal big pieces, do long solder joints and
cast. As a result, I now have unused regulators, hoses and tanks that
are in storage in my shed. I keep an EZ torch on my bench for those
times when I need to do a quick in and out job that doesn’t require a
lot of heat or precise flame. I have also confirmed that I can run
the Meco on street pressure natural gas and O2. In the end, there is
not an easy answer to your question. Take your time and read all the
catalog descriptions and look at the Orchid archives. Look at the
equipment used to work glass. There are several glass working torches
that can be used to work silver. A quick step up would be either the
EZ torch or a visit to the local welding shop to look at single stage
acetylene torches.

Smith makes one and then all you will need is a regulator, hose and
a tank.

I suggest a B size. It will last you for a long time. Both of these
torches only produce fairly large bushy flames, but once you learn
how to use them, you will have learned a lot about soldering that can
be applied to other more precise torches and finer work. You need
more than a torch to successfully solder silver. You need to learn
how to file and fit pieces together, how to keep your work area
clean, how to use flux, what kind of solder to use and when, how to
pickle and how to finish. Answers to all of these questions can be
learned over time. You can, however, find a lot of guidance on Orchid
and other similar discussion boards. Keep asking questions and, when
you learn something, pass it on. That is how we all grow and learn.
Good luck. Rob


#5

Mark,

I am trying to find out what a good middle of the road set up
would be, AND what size tanks do people use for a couple times a
week usage. 

Your subject heading suggests you’re thinking of oxy-acetylene for
this. I think that’s a mistake. In general, o/a is too hot for much
of what is done in jewelry, unless very tiny flames are used, such as
with the “Little Torch” or copies of it. And these are then also
small scale, even when you want to work larger or heat a broader
area, which is often the case with silver.

One of the first “real” torches I bought, over 40 years ago now, is
still serving me well, and has always been especially well suited to
the needs of a silversmith (or at least, a silversmith working on a
jewelry scale. Not as good for things like teapot sized objects,
though it can be done.)

That torch is the Smith “silversmith” torch. It uses only an
acetylene tank, and the torch mixes atmospheric air with the
acetylene at the base of the torch tips.

Air/Acetylene is cooler, but still plenty hot for almost anything
you might need to do (there are exceptions, which I’ll get to) in
making silver jewelry. the flame is somewhat gentler and literally
slower velocity than oxy/fuel torches. It heats a broader area for
each flame size (there is a very wide range of tips for different
size flames) This makes it ideal for silverwork, where usually you
need to heat broader areas in order to get an even soldering job.

Another torch that does the same thing, and may be somewhat cheaper
is the prestolite brand of air/acetylene torch. Roughly the same as
the silversmith torch, but the body has a bakelite handle rather than
the all brass-with-chrome/nickle plating of the silversmith. In
practice, I think the silversmith is built to a higher quality. And
the adjustment knob on the silversmith is right at the front of the
handle, for one handed adjustment during use, while the prestolite
has the valve at the back end of the handle, needing your other hand.

There may by now be other brands of air/acetylene torches, so check
around, but it’s hard to beat the Smith Silversmith torch.

Generally, these torches are designed around a B size Acetylene
tank, which is small enough to be portable, but large enough to get a
lot of use out of. Tank refills are fairly economical, cheaper than
oxygen tanks were you to get a torch that also needed oxygen.

As I said, there are limits to this torch, as with any. The smallest
tip is pretty small, but if you’re looking for very tiny pinhead
sized flames, you’d need to move to an oxy/fuel torch like the little
torch for it to be useful in very small sizes. The smallest flame
with the silversmith is about the size of the last knuckle of your
pinkie finger, or smaller. Fine for soldering fairly fine wires. But
you won’t be repairing worn prongs on someone’s diamond ring with
this, or at least, not as easily. Similarly, if you have a finished
gents silver ring with a stone set in the top which needs to be
sized, one of the best means is to immerse the ring, upside down,
just deep enough in a container of water (I use an empty cat food
can) so the stone is under water. Then you solder the sizing joint at
the bottom. But the silver top of the ring around the stone is an
enormous heat sink, so getting even the back of the shank, some
distance from the water, hot enough to flow solder can require an
intensely hot flame. The Smith Silversmith just isn’t hot enough. For
that, you might need something like a smallish oxy/acetylene torch
normally better suited to welding or melting substantial amounts of
metal for casting.

Still, you say you’re just more or less starting out. You are not
likely to exceed the ability of an air acetylene torch for perhaps
the first couple years, and then only if you branch well away from
just making silver jewelry. As I said, I still find mine useful, now
4 decades later. And acetylene also has the advantage that the tanks
are not high pressure, which makes them somewhat safer to have
indoors, if you do this. And the gas does not have the dangerous
ability to pool at ground level the way propane does if leaked. No
fuel gas tank is entirely safe from all possibilities, but these come
close. They are also commonly used in tasks like plumbing and the
like.

Hope that helps
Peter Rowe


#6

Mark, I think an air-acetylene arrangement would be good.
Oxygen-acetylene would only be needed if you wanted to do casting of
larger objects. I use a B-tank of acetylene. I own a tank of oxygen
but have not used it for years.

Judy Bjorkman


#7

I am using the smith little torch oxy/propane. Grill sized propane
tank and 40 CU Ft O2 tank. Works well for me. I wouldn’t run off the
disposable O2 tanks long, they get expensive. I started with the
disposable tanks, but the first thing I changed was to get an O2
regulator and tank. I know there are people using re-manufactured O2
concentraters, but for my low volume, it is not yet worthwhile.


#8

Welcome to the world of fire. I use an acetylene/atmospheric torch
set up. I love the Smith Handi Heat with a B tank.

Check the Rio Grande web site.

Jean Menden


#9

Here are my two cents worth on this topic;

I have an acetylene torch set up and a Smith Little Torch
Oxy/Propane. My acetylene tank is the 20" cylinder (B). This size
will last you a long time. Naturally it depends on how much
soldering you intend to do in the 2 days but mine tends to need
changing 1-2 year.

My propane tank is 20-30" tall and my oxygen tank is 60". I did not
choose these sizes specifically and in hindsight could have gone
smaller. I just took what the supplier gave me (also being rather a
novice for this set up)! You can also get the disposable tank
equipment.

I use both torches. Many seem to swear by the Oxy/Propane torches
and use only this one for everything. Whilst I have done many
soldering projects with this, I found myself switching back to the
acetylene for a particular piece and wondered why I had not done so
sooner!

The oxy/propane torch produces a very hot flame and so you need to
be careful not to melt your pieces. It definitely requires plenty of
practice and getting to know which tips are best for which projects.
The flame is also very bright so you might want to arm yourself with
some tinted safety glasses. Sometimes it’s hard to see your piece
and the solder with the bright flame (when close to your piece).

The acetylene torch is a good all-rounder (in my opinion). You can
change the tip sizes depending on your project. In layman’s terms, I
find this torch produces a nice “all over heat”, especially if
you’ve built up some walls around your piece. Be careful though, it
gets hot too! Whilst you can’t home in on tiny pieces with the larger
acetylene tips, I have found that by keeping the flame at a safe
distance, the whole piece heats up nicely and my solder flows
without having to pin-point the area. This is using sterling silver
and so you do need to heat up the “whole” piece in order for the
solder to run properly. I don’t work with gold (yet) but my
understanding is that I wouldn’t have to heat it all up to get the
solder to flow - (please correct me anyone if I’m wrong!)

I started out with a butane torch and whilst it did the job on small
pieces, I cannot imagine using it anymore. I know some do use a
larger butane torch and it works just fine for them.

Of course with any gas tank set up, you need to be sure you’re in a
safe environment. Chain the tanks to a wall or sturdy work bench
(check your local fire regulations, some US states require you to
chain them to an outside wall), always bleed your tubes when you
finish for the day and make sure you have good ventilation (best is
a ventilation hood, otherwise an open window and a fan, directed
away from your soldering station to “blow” the fumes away from you).
Soldering in a confined space is not safe and certainly not good for
you!

Hope this helps a little…
Emma Tallack


#10

I recommend a “B” size tank to my students. Not too big; not too
small; Just right.


#11

I am a fairly new student of soldering and have found that I am
comfortable with two torches. I bought a Smith Little Torch just
before I enrolled in a silversmithing/jewelry class. We used a Smith
Silversmith torch with a B tank of acetylene, I found that torch more
forgiving for a beginner and figure that’s why they used them at
school. Although I burned up a few solders, I found that I did less
damage with that torch than I did with my little torch. Now that I
have “graduated” from class and have had more experience
withsoldering I find that having both torches is very helpful with
the work that I do. The little torch is very hot but is small and
easy to use with small pieces of jewelry and has very small tips. I
use the silversmith torch when working with larger pieces and
especially copper. In hindsight, I wouldprobably have purchased only
one torch, the Smith Silversmith, as I think as a beginner it would
have been all I needed for quite some time.


#12

And here’s another question about torches.

I’m not “new” to this, but I might still be dumber than i look.

I have used many kinds of torches in a great variety of situations.
Little hand-held Bernzomatic torches, Presto-lite torches, bunsen
burners, oxy-acetylene welding and cutting, oxy-propane. Everything
from jewelry to welding & brazing steel. I am by no means an expert.
More like a gadfly. But I usually get the results I want, if not
with the finesse of a pro. Hardly any formal training

But as the various chapters in my life run on I end up with bits and
bobs which I cobble together - trying to be safe. Right now I am
mainly using my oxy-propane rig with a Hoke torch. Works good enough
for everything I want to do.

Questions arise -

1 - I don’t even remember how I ended up with a Hoke. It was not an
educated choice because i have no education nor experience with
other brands. But it does OK. I like it. No complaints. It has a
good range of tips. But what do I know? I notice the names of other
makes cropping up quite often in Orchid posts; Meco, Little Torch
etc. But Hoke is hardly ever mentioned. Is it not well-regarded in
the trade? Any opinions for or against?

2 - Can I safely use regulators and hoses originally made for
oxy-acetylene to run oxy-propane? Oxy is oxy, but propane is not
acetylene. Can that be detrimental to hoses or regulators designed
for acetylene?

3 - Can I use transparent neoprene tubing downstream from the
regulators where pressures are very low. (I have been doing so with
no problems) Because the tubing is transparent I can see no
deterioration, condensation, or discolouring inside the tubes. But
is there any reason this might be unsafe?

Thank you for any offerings of wit and wisdom

Marty in Victoria - known for occasional fits of wit but maybe not
so much for wisdom.


#13

I use a Prestolite torch and a B bottle. And I still have the hand
piece that Rob and I first fired up with our Dad’s guidance. I
believe that what you use depends on what you do.

I am a tool hog. I own new stuff I have never used but bought
because like buying tools. The point is spend the time on research
and get what you need. Right now I have no reason to change my set
up. My three Prestolite tips meet my needs. I anneal with a
Bernzamatic torch. Solder and melt with the Presto. I don’t have any
soot in the air.

I am looking into an EZ Torch for craft fair demos but that is a
size issue only.

Another issue to consider is your hands and what you can handle. My
hands are badly damaged and I can’t maneuver very small or very
heavy tools. The Presto is just the right size.

Try every thing you can.
Don Meixner.


#14

I have the Smith Silversmith acetylene / air torch mentioned earlier
by Peter Rowe, so I remember about it. If you go this
route, get the B tank, not the MC tank. It was pointed out on Orchid
some time back that the Silversmith with a large tip can draw too
much gas out of the small MC tank, making the acetylene unstable (as
in BOOM). I can’t remember who made that post, but it was someone
reliable, who got the original from Smith.

Neil A.


#15

My favorite torch is the Prestolite. I had a Silversmith, but the
shape of the Prestolite makes it easier to hold for extended periods
of time. I have small hands and they would begin to ache when using
the Silversmith. I use a B tank, never have a soot problem, and
thePrestolite is a workhorse. I use all of the tips—ranging from
the largest tip for melting metal when casting, and the smallest tip
for fine delicate work. Alma


#16

Dear Martin & All,

Here is a bit of historic perspective.

The Hoke torch was a trade shop standard for many years being
introduced in the 1950s and still available today. Prior to that
compressed air and Natural Gas torches and blow pipe and Natural Gas
were the standard.

The benefit of this torch is that the controls are on the side
allowing a one handed adjustment. The tips were easily modified for
different projects.

Standard issue torch tips were always modified.

The Smith NE 140 and Smith NE 150 were also used extensive at during
a period of time until they were discontinued in the 1990s.

I think the Smith Little torch replaced the NE 140 and 150.

The Meco Midget is a smaller version of the Smith NR 140 & 150. The
Meco was also discontinued for a bit and reintroduced a few years
ago.

The torch fuels in a trade shop were Natural Gas and Oxygen.

This fuel combination was the best clean and simple combination
utilized.

With furnaces running on Natural Gas the access was easy to set up.
Black pipe, ball valve, torch hose and torch were fairly easy to hook
up.

The fear of flashback explosion has diminished the use of Natural
Gas.

Although in my 45 years of jewelry work I have never heard of any
problems or explosions with Natural Gas. You need a high pressure to
create the flashback condition. Most bench torch pressure is very low
with oxygen maxing out for bench work at about 6 pounds. Platinum
work is where the high pressures are a safety concern.

The nice part of this torch work is that for most bench work you do
not need a welders goggle to do your work.

A second choice is Propane. The problem here is that most fire
inspection prohibits a refillable tank indoors. The solution is to
use a disposable tank under one pound in size. That will meet most
fire codes. Or to have your propane tank outside and run a hose the
shop.

The main problem I see with acetylene is that the welders set up of
Oxygen and Acetylene mandate dark goggles which impact the vision.
You may adjust the fame to a usable brightness, but oxy/acetylene
should not be adjusted with the naked eye. You are more likely to go
too bright finding your flame and slowly damaging your eyes. I’m
surprised none of the Orchid experts have addressed this eye safety
issue. Oxy/Acetylene is called a welders torch and always has been.
Welders always wear dark goggles. At least the ones that want to keep
seeing do.

Goggles are mandatory for annealing, melting and casting with any
fuel combination. Protect your eyes.

As for the hose, I have seen everything for hardware store clear
hose to a rated welders supply hose rated for different fuels. I
myself buy a propane rated fuel line from my oxygen supplier.

The hose takes about twenty years to get old and brittle. I have
never had a hose problem in all my years of jewelry work which
included building nine complete workshop including two state approved
classrooms here in Minnesota.

Currently I am building the last shop I hope to have in my home
basement. A bit smaller, but with everything I’ll ever need down the
stairs.

Another issue many don’t think about is the oxygen tank and where to
get them. Many times the oxygen companies don’t want to fill a
privately owned tank. They would prefer to lease them so when you get
a refill you don’t get the same tank back. There is a date stamped
into the top part of the tank. At this date the whole top valve is
replaced and the tank is recertified. It’s a safety concern of moving
these and filling them. A substandard or old tank will be a problem.
Before you buy a tank talk to the company this is going to fill it.

Here my disclaimer. I never make anything up and still don’t ask
permission to comment. What I have to offer is always done with
encouragement. Be safe and make a lot of well-made jewelry.

Always kind regards,
Todd Hawkinson


#17
Hoke is hardly ever mentioned. Is it not well-regarded in the
trade? Any opinions for or against? 

Hoke is the standard torch of the jewelry industry. I think it is
not mentioned as much here because the firm has never advertised to,
or tried to garner much share of, either the art jewelry or hobbyist
market.

Elliot Nesterman
ajoure.net


#18

Todd, I like your answers but do have one problem. Ox/acy. My
knowledge of using it is that the problem with the eyes has nothing
to do with soldering or brazing or the flame brightness, but when
you use it to cut metal or weld it! Then the light from the molten
metal puts off rays that destroy the eyes. Like working with
Platinum. You need eye protection then from the intenselight from
the metal, not from the brightness of the flame of the torch. Even
if you use ox/propane It will blind you if you are not careful
soldering platinum over time. Soldering gold, silver etc. No
problems without protection.

That said everything I have learned from being a welder to being a
jewelry that you have mentioned is 100% right on. Thanks for your
input and I hope people listen to what you have said.

Vernon Wilson
Panama Bay Jewelers


#19
The main problem I see with acetylene is that the welders set up
of Oxygen and Acetylene mandate dark goggles which impact the
vision. 
You may adjust the fame to a usable brightness, but oxy/acetylene
should not be adjusted with the naked eye. You are more likely to
go too bright finding your flame and slowly damaging your eyes. I'm
surprised none of the Orchid experts have addressed this eye
safety issue. Oxy/Acetylene is called a welders torch and always
has been. 
Welders always wear dark goggles. At least the ones that want to
keep seeing do.

I have used oxy-acetylene for 40 years with the little torch, the
above is not true. I am 68.

It Is not the flame, but radiation from the heated metal, orange or
red hot. By the time your gold or silver piece reaches that temp,
you have ruined your work.

I have retipped thousands of rings. Soldered, brazed actually,
fused, tens of thousands of jewelry items.

Casting where the crucible and metal give off eye damaging
radiation, or pouring an ingot, is where care and caution are needed,
as well as platinum work due to high temps used for fusing or
fabricating.


#20

Todd Hawkinson talked about the low pressure of natural gas
eliminating the possibility of using a flashback arrestor.

New York city jewelers use natural gas but are required to employ a
concentrator which raises the pressure to the torch. I have used
natural gas for 25 years and only about 8 years ago purchased a G-Tec
concentrator.

It allows for installation of a flashback arrestor but more
important is that it greatly improved my ability to run large tips
for big work. In addition, I use the Paige ventilated tips which also
improve my options at the bench. Paige tips are available for the
Meco Midget (my choice) the Hoke torch as well as the Smith little
torch.

G-tec source - http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ep824m - sell directly
as well as thru some jewelry supply houses.

Paige tips - http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/paigetools - also a
source of about welding and fuels.

No conflict of interest - they just get my money, they don’t pay me.

Judy Hoch