I trained as a materials engineer, heat treatment and welding are
things I've done, comfortable with. I have been a mineral collector
since I was 6.
I've been meaning to get back into lapidary, jewelry, lost wax
casting et al for some time now (I'm 45... some time now better get
here soon. Last time I did this was 10 years ago, prior to that
Despite being a practical hands on guy and engineer to boot, I'm
petrified of gas torches. To put it bluntly, I don't know what I'm
doing. Suspect this means I'm liable to blow myself up through
ignorance. Note I'm more than comfortable blowing myself up with full
knowledge of what I'm doing, just not through ignorance...
Are there any (authoritative) online resources that cover the basics
of safety, different types of torches, techniques, things to look out
Dr Paul van den Bergen
Learn from doing. Buy a torch and use it. Start with a single stage
propane or acetylene torch. EZ Torch or Prestolite (Smith). Move to
gas and O2 if your work requires it. Think about fire proofing your
work area with pieces of tile backer board. You can sometimes buy
broken panels of backer board for very little money and it can
easily be cut by scoring and snapping. Ventilate your work area and
then get to work. Work in copper for a while as it allows you to use
your bigger tips on inexpensive pieces and get over being scared of
your torch. Move to other metals when you can. Can you blow yourself
up? Yes, but it is hard to do unless you are an idiot. You say that
you are an engineer. Engineers are fairly practical people. Apply
what you learned in engneering school. Work in your garage for a
while if you are worried about fire and explosions. By the time
winter comes, you will be ready to move inside. Check with your
insurance people first. In summary, stop talking about it and do it.
Ask questions as you go. Orchid is agreat place to do this because
you will likely get a good answer. Good luck. Rob
While you're researching, and perhaps shopping for, the ultimate
torch that you'll be most comfortable with, you might want to pick
up an inexpensive, small butane ("creme brulee") torch, just to
noodle around with very small items. Lots of places carry those. I
think I saw one in the Kingsley North (lapidary) catalog.
Go to the bottom of my website page to access my "Torch Talk" videos.
Granted its only about butane torches, but thats all I use to make &
teach all my metalsmithing workshops. They are smaller and since I
travel teach & have to haul torches around to my various classrooms.
Its a good place to start & it's free.
Good luck & have fun!
I dont know of any specific guide such as you ask for, but Ill point
you in the right direction.
Open a paper? file, folder, on collecting your starting
with the following.
1.Research all you can find on the main gases you will use, oxygen,
propane acetylene butane., what tank cylinder sizes and cost.
2. then research the regulators you need to reduce the gas pressures
to anything from 1/2 psi to 30 psi. and above.
3. then look at the flexible hoses that go from the regulators to
the hand peice or fixed flame head.
4. then research all the different types of torches, from the little
jewellers types to the big gas cutting/welding used in industry.
5. dont go out and buy anything until you have done all this and
6. Gone to a welding kit supply store, the ones you go to to get
your mig and tig consumables.
7. try and get to see people using the torches listed above, such as
car body shops for oxy acetylene welding, scrap yards for oxy propane
cutting, jewellers or silver smiths for silver brazing with fluxes.
8. Only then sit on your data and decide what fits what you want to
use it for.
Now, as a long time gas user for 50 yrs, id advise you go for a oxy
propane medium sized setup, with say a 30 lb propane cylinder and a
100 cf oxy cyl. Get the right regulators, hoses and torch with the
different nozell sizes usually abot 6, so you can braze up small
components like button shanks up to larger heating.
As an engineer, you know this is what you have to do to start any
Any specific questions mail me off list.
Happy to help.
Pity you the wrong side of the pond, if you had half a day here youd
learn and see all you need.
In Dorset UK.
You've gotten some good suggestions. yes, the little butane torch is
a good way to start and watching others will desensitize you and
help remove your fear. If you want the ultimate in safety, get
either a water torch (thereare now some cheap Chinese versions of it
for under $200) or use a 1lb bottle of propane and an oxygen
concentrator with a Little Torch or Meco midget torch. The
concentrator can be picked up cheap if you watch your local
Craigslist, from someone's estate. This latter system is what I now
use and the 5l/m concentrator is adequate for all but heavy duty
casting. There is a 10 l/m model, but they are harder to find. Not
to say that tanks are unsafe, but there can be insurance issues with
them in a home shop...
There are lots of good videos on you tube describing the various
jewelers torches, how to light them etc. etc. Rio Grande has an
excellent one. Check it out.
There is absolutely no need to be afraid of using the torch, if you
just relax, follow directions, and pay attention to what you are
doing. You will find video's on the internet, showing how to set up a
fire proof station where you will do your soldering.
you have a choice of many different types of torches. Here again,
you tubes videors on the internet will describe them in detail and
show how to use them.
My own favorite for small items is the Smith little torch, which
uses small disposable propane canisters (very safe), and a small
However, for most of my work, soldering, annealing and melting metal
for lost wax casting, I use my trusty Prestolite torch and acetylene
gas (B Tank). I have used the Smith silver smith torch, but found
the Prestolite easier to use as the shape of the torch fits my hand
better and is great when I am doing a lot of melting of metal as
when casting. I don't use propane, as it is not as safe as acetylene.
However, I dohave friends who prefer it, but they put their tanks
outside when then arefinished using their torch, and do not keep it
in the house.
I assure you, if you follow directions, pay attention to what you
are doing, work on a fireproof area, you will not burn your studio
down, or blow yourself up.
Ideally, taking a class in jewelry making where they use torches
regularly will be a great help, as you will learn how to use it
Just, relax, enjoy working with your torch, consider it your friend,
and as Jo says, "make lots of jewelry."
you need to be more careful when you say acetylene is safer than
propane. It is not. Acetylene is highy unstable, has a high flame
rate compared to propane, and has a lower calorific value.
Anyone using fuel gases MUST do their own research, then make their
own decision on what suits there work and joining requirements.
If you find it suits you that fine, ive both here and use oxy
propane for everything except thin gas welding of steel. Thats best
done with oxy acetylene. In fact nothing else will do that other than
electric tig or mig. For this you need argon for tig, and argon co2
mix for mig.
thats without getting involved in using helium. out of this forums
reference range. id think.
Anything is dangerous if you are an idiot :) Just search the archives
for the links to the pics to the blown up cars. I have acetylene,
butane, propane and oxygen in my shop. who knows what will happen if
they allleak at the same time! And alcohol, nitric acid, acetone, and
belly button lint. who knows what will happen if all that combines!!
Use commonsense. don't be stupid. Check your hoses and regulators
regularly. Treat chemicals with respect. Research and understand the
stuff you work with.
Anything is dangerous if you are an idiot :) Just search the
archives for the links to the pics to the blown up cars. I have
acetylene, butane, propane and oxygen in my shop. who knows what
will happen if they allleak at the same time! And alcohol, nitric
acid, acetone, and belly button lint. who knows what will happen if
all that combines!! Use commonsense. don't be stupid. Check your
hoses and regulators regularly. Treat chemicals with respect.
Research and understand the stuff you work with.
When I started I simply used a small hand held butane torch that was
refilled with a canister. It was useful for relatively small objects
such as chains, rings and small bezel mounts. That was replaced with
a Smiths little Torch which I run from a 4.5Kg cylinder of propane
and small refillable oxygen cylinder connected through regulators and
flashback arrestors. So far I have used that torch for 9 years
without any problems, it does everything from fine work such as
soldering eyes in 0.8mm wire with a tiny flame from a #4 tip to
pouring out some serious heat from a #7 tip. I even used to use it to
melt up to 40 grams of silver using the rosebud tip.
I now have a crucible furnace to melt metal. The rosebud tip still
comes in handy when I need to silver braze plumbing fittings. I also
have a old Primus torch with 3 burners including a large 20mm
diameter burner which gives a large soft flame for annealing
depletion silver raising. It runs on another 4.5kg propane tank.
The important point to stress is that the torch must be familiar and
comfortable. I remember when changing from the old butane torch to
the Little Torch, the old torch suddenly felt like a blunt
instrument. The Primus torch still does, but that doesn't matter
because I use it where a blunt instrument suffices. However when I
need good flame control I reach for the Little Torch with its
familiar feel and finger tip control.
The main reason I don't use acetylene which I am quite familiar with
having used it for welding and flame cutting in the past, is cost --
not for the gas itself but for the rental charged by gas companies
for cylinders because you can't buy cylinders here but have to rent
them from the gas companies. I spend maybe $60 on oxygen in a year
and $150 to rent a small oxygen cylinder to be replaced when I buy a
refill. With propane I can buy the tanks for around $30 and they are
rated to last 10 years
My studio is well ventilated and I ensure that the gas is turned off
at the cylinder when I have finished using a torch.
All the best
Treat chemicals with respect. Research and understand the stuff
you work with
I so agree. Beyond much more than stringing beads when we make
jewellery we work with potentially dangerous tools and machinery, hot
metal and hazardous chemicals. Hopefully we understand the risks and
how to minimise them and learn from the misadventures of others
rather than our own. We need to either get a grip buttressed by
knowledge and shared experiences or stick to stringing beads but even
then scissors can cut and crimping pliers can pinch.
There is a wealth of shared experiences here so we can read, learn
May your torch be an extension of yourself and your soldered joints
be neat and secure.
I understand. I do all my work with a small kitchen butane torch.
You can buy on Amazon, a kitchen supply store or Walmart. It has a
head you screw to the can. You just push the trigger. They also have
an adjustable flame.
I love it. Cheap, easy and no added insurance needed. You can use it
at the kitchen table!
Have you tried finding a good teacher in your area? It is nice to
have someone who is well trained in HOW to teach you. A good teacher
should be trained to "hold your hand" only until you understand that
there is no need to fear something that can be so helpful in the
hands of someone (you!) who understands how it works. When you are
guided beyond your fear, your skill will be freed to take off and
fly. U-Tube is fine; articles are fine; anecdotes are fine. There is
nothing to compare with a competent and caring teacher to guide you.
I hope you can find someone to guide you in a class near you to
overcome this aversion to the torch.
Rio Grande not only has a video on YouTube as someone else
mentioned, but they've got an online class or two (some for a fee) on
Craftsy.com. For those of us who self-teach, some of these can be
invaluable! I'm speaking only from direct personal experience, as
I've no affiliation with either Rio or Craftsy, just a very happy
I've now gone through several courses, and more are added with
increasing frequency it seems. They are professional, with detail and
closeups, plus - a BIG plus - you can post questions that the teacher
of that class will answer.
Here's a link to the jewelry making section:
Also check out videos and classes and books by Kim St. Jean on
YouTube. She does classes as well in using butane torches.