Hi fellow jewelers,
I teach metal smithing at a Massachusetts Creative Arts Center. We
currently have 2 acetelyene B tanks inside at the soldering table
which run two torches. 'They' are being asked by the fire dept. to
rearrange the current set up for soldering. 'They' would like the gas
to be kept outside. Is it possible to have an acetelyene or perhaps a
propane tank outside all the time and have the hoses run inside
through the wall or a basement window. Would the tank need to be shut
off after each session? What size tank would be needed? Do you
recommend a company to purchase the needed equipment from?
Thanks so much for any recommendations and thoughts.
Teresa Ellis Cetto
Teresa, this wasn't on your list but I'd go with natural gas if you
already have it in the building. Then you don't have to think about
tanks at all (except for oxygen). The safest way to use it is with a
gas booster, which is just a compressor for natural gas. It allows
you to up the pressure enough to use a flashback arrestor, plus it
has other internal safety features. G-Tech is the company that makes
them (not affiliated) and they are very knowledgeable and helpful
with installation advice.
Personally I used to use propane but I have been using natural gas
for all torch work, including casting, for years and have no
problems with it at all. It's nice to never have to buy a tank of
gas. Something to think about anyway.
I use propane/oxygen in my home shop. The propane tank is located
There may be local regulations where this tank may be placed in
relation to windows, foundation vent, and the like. The tank should
be protected from the weather. Mine is under an up-turned garbage
can, with the bottom held above the ground by three bricks. I'm sure
a more elegant enclosure could be devised!
On this tank is a "stage one regulator" which lowers the line
pressure to something a few pounds above the needed final pressure.
The reason a stage one regulator, or first stage regulator, should be
used here is because it does not need to be turned off when the
system is not in use. Local regulations may restrict this, however. A
flexible hose made for propane connects the tank to a black iron pipe
leading inside to a central point, where there is a "stage two
regulator" bringing down the pressure to the required for the
torches. I punched a hole in the foundation of my house, to run the
pipe to a central point in my shop, where it comes up through the
floor. These valves, and any inside regulators should be turned off
when the system is not in use. Also at this central point is an
oxygen tank with a standard regulator. There are cut-off valves
placed in both lines, where the entire distribution system, including
all second stage regulators, can be cut off in case of emergency. A
"Y" fitting on each of the two inside regulators provides for the two
propane/oxygen torches in my shop. Standard welding hose is used to
carry gas to the individual torch locations. I use Smith Little
Torches, which have standard fittings on the hoses, but those hoses
are much thinner, and much more flexible. I use standard connectors
to join the two hoses.
The gas pressures at each torch are controlled by the same
regulators. If you wanted each torch location to be able to control
their own gas pressures, a single stage regulator would be put on the
oxygen tank, with individual second stage regulators at each torch
location. The propane already has a stage one regulator at the tank,
so simple hoses would lead directly from the central propane entry
point to each torch location, with individual second stage regulators
for each location.
Any good welding shop can help with the parts and pieces needed, as
well as give advice on the design of the system. Seek out the
supplier's most experienced person, as I have found that many
employees are not used to dealing with two regulators for each gas.
The same system can be used if oxygen/acetylene is the desired fuel
gas. I prefer propane, which, although heavier than air, and so can
accumulate in low places, burns much cleaner than acetylene, which is
the gas in your "B" tanks.
An air/acetylene system, which is what you are now using with the
"B" tanks, can be done in a similar manner. This tank could also be
placed outside under cover, with a stage one regulator. The black
iron pipe leads inside, where a second stage regulator can be used at
the central point, or pipes or hoses can be lead directly to each
torch location, where there are individual stage two regulators.
If you switch to either propane or oxygen, you gan something, and
you lose something. The torches on the "B" tanks are probably
something similar to the old "Prest-o-lite" torches, which cannot do
the very fine work of a Little Torch or similar, but which has, as
I'm sure you know, a wonderful bushy soft flame, which is great for
heating a large piece, or annealing.
There are many permutations possible to the systems I have
described. I am not an engineer or have any other formal credentials
in this field, just the experience of having set up my mentor's shop,
and with his passing, setting up my own. Take anything I have said to
a qualified person in your area, who knows all the rules and
regulations (these vary from place to place) and is familiar with
this type of setup. That could be someone at your gas supplier, or
someone at your local fire department, or both.
Good luck! (Said WITHOUT my tongue in my cheek!)
'They' would like the gas to be kept outside.
Yes, I have taught at art centers where it's done just that way.
That the space is in the basement makes it harder.
I taught at the DeCordova Museum School in Lincoln, MA for nearly 20
years. the Lincoln fire dept required the tanks to be kept outside.
The acetylene tanks were outside in a locked shed attached to the
building, and piped inside. We had a main shutoff valve where it
entered the building, as well as at the junction from the line to
each torch. The tanks were left on outside. At the end of a class,
we turned off the gas at the main valve insdie, turned on the
exhaust, and bled the lines.
I would talk to your gas suppliers for referral to appropriate people
to install the pipes, etc. I can recommend IGO's in Watertown, and
Instead of large propane tanks, have you considered the small "camp
size" canisters. I bought a economy pack of 4 and after doing custom
fabrication and sizing for a year now, I am still on my first
canister. They last a surprisingly long time. The smaller size is
allowed to be stored inside businesses/stores on their shelves (as
opposed to the larger tanks requiring outside storage), so maybe this
will alleviate "their" concerns.
I hope this might be a rather inexpensive option for your challenge.
You can easily put them outside think gas stoves and hot water
I would suggest that you hire a licensed plumber to install the gas
lines and simply install cut off valves inside for safety and to cut
off the gas when you leave.
Either one can be piped into your space from outside. I would suggest
that you stick with acetylene though. I like propane and use it in my
studio but propane is heavier than air and with your space being in a
basement it is more of a hazard than the acetylene. If there is a
leak the propane will pool while the acetylene will tend to
James Binnion Metal Arts
I use these small 1 pound tanks on my EZ torch and they last a long
time. I use a 5 pound tank for my Meco midget. This is a miniature
grill style tank that also lasts a long time. I use my torches every
day and this set up meets my needs very well. I share the concern
about storing propane inside and this set up started out as a
compromise. It has turned out to work well. I have checked with the
local propane dealers and they don't have a way to regulate propane
to the pressures that I need for these torches and still locate the
tanks outside. I may pursue this a bit more, but for now, the setup
that I describe above works. Rob
I piped both my oxygen and my propane into my studio. Black iron
pipe for the propane and sweated copper for the Oxygen. Both tanks
are in their own loosely built "huts" attached to the outside of my
Hard pipe must be used to penetrate walls and if you drill through
concrete you need to coat and protect the pipe from the alkaline
cement. I get this from a pipefitter/ metalsmith (thanks Jeannette,
if you are reading this.)
I have a UL listed ball valve inside the studio for the propane,
otherwise, it is left on, along with the oxygen outside.
This has worked really well for me, saving space and maybe my home
Acetylene should be the "go to " gas, if there is a choice-for
melting and larger pieces the additional heat Acetylene provides are
a benefit particularly if gold is introduced at the centre. If
possible though natural gas lines can be run within the
building-making it easier to maintain and do monthly logging of tasks
when its snowing outside. You must put the tanks in a shed. Natural
gas lines probably exist already and are safer- in fact many insurers
discount this feature in studio insurance. There is also a water
torch which requires no gas but is limited in the size and quantity
of metals it can handle being suited far more closely to precision
operations. Water torches are the safest way to go, but pricey and
offering less experience as far as skill building goes (the
techniques involved are specific to water torches, and don't
translate to Oxy/ Fuel torches exactly. the Oxy/ fuel torches
offering the student a far more vast set of skills from reclaiming
scrap melting, and refining it, to the ability to judge the heat in
a piece with multiple soldering operations and how to control that
heat, torch colouring some metals, etc. A water torch requires
knowledge of matching disposable plastic containing tips to a
workpiece without melting the tips, pin-point accuracy in soldering,
limited size of work (in terms of gauges the tips can handle), flux
as an additive in the machine OR on the solder join, etc.).
So if you have a choice *natural gas shouldn't be overlooked.
Acetylene*is superior to propane (and a returnable grill style tank
is acceptable as there are meters that monitor their capacity of gas
and flashback arrestors, and other safety products made to be
compatible with them). Water torches have positive and negative
features but are often the safest options for some insurance zones in
cities or govt./state owned properties. Any propane tank, acetylene
tank or otherwise fuel gas must be stored in a covered and preferably
locked enclosure with regular maintenance checks preformed at least
monthly if outside the studio. Have a licensed plumber experienced in
gas work check any work or designs that are proposed to insure they
are truly safe as a spark from an arcing light switch can set off
propane gas that has leaked out and the spark from a thunderstorm
that goes through, say, an electrical outlet near the floor can set
off collected acetylene gas that has leaked from a faulty hose or
tank, a regulator or flashback arrestor. Worst of all are "pilots"
added to any torch set up in an uninhabited building that is not
shut off daily... rer
I use these small 1 pound tanks on my EZ torch and they last a
I note that you use the EZ torch with a 1lb tank for your work.
Large conventional tanks are a problem for me (local rules and
regulations) and I have considered the EZ torch and small tank. I use
a selection of small butane torches right now, and these work very
However, they don't have enough heat for the larger pieces that
continue to swim unbidden into my conciousness and that I'm dying to
make! (Think wide cuff bracelets and large pendants in Sterling,
copper and bronze) I know I can use techniques other than soldering
for larger pieces, and I have and continue to do so, but some things
need soldering, and I'm becoming somewhat frustrated by the many
designs in my head that I can't make! And I know (and enjoy it) that
limitations can make for challenge in design - but just occasionally
it's rather restful to do something relatively simple, without much
of a challenge ...!
I'd be interested to know if you have had success with the larger
stuff using your EZ torch?
Anyone else out there who has had success with large pieces and an
For a perspective, take a look at my website
to see what size pieces I typically work with. Most of my work is
large, heavy, forged and fabricated sterling silver cuff style
bracelets. I do some gold and copper and also do a lot of lapidary
work. So far I have been able use the EZ Torch on simple joins for
up to 10 gauge wire, but there is a limit to the amount of heat that
the EZ will put out. I sometimes get frustrated and fire up the Meco
to finish a job because I just don'thave enough heat. What the EZ is
very good for, at least in my experience, is the quick job that
doesn't require the heat or precision of the Meco and I use it
almost exclusively for annealing, especially when casting, rolling
and forging ingots. It's just a real (EZ) torch to get going and
move on to another task. Over the years I have used a single stage
presto-lite acetylene torch, Little Torch, Water torch, EZ Torch and
Meco Midget Torch. I like the EZ/Meco combination on propane or
Propane and O2. I have mounted the EZ Torch tank right to my bench
to stabilize it. The Meco sits on the floor and is stable enough by
itself. I would like to try a NG concentrator, but the cost is a bit
of a problem just to experiment. It would address the safety issue
of having gas tanks inside the house. That is one reason for the
smaller 1 lb. and 5 lb. propane tanks. I would also say that, in
spite or having done this for forty years, I am always learning to
solder and suspect that I always will be. Let me know if you want
pictures of the tank setup and I can post them. Rob
my EZ torch is back in its box. Replaced it with a new brazing torch
The EZ torch is fine for small pieces, but to get the heat I need
for larger pieces it just can't do it.
Also my brazing torch can produce small flames, soldering stud
backs, to 'monsters' fusing and reticulating large pieces.
Google House of Jewellery, soldering, on page six bottom row, second
from right is the torch I use.
I am also looking for a torch for soldering larger work as I now
just use abutane torch. I don't want the larger tanks in my house
and don't have a suitable place for them outside. I am considering
the Smith silversmith torch with acetylene - m tank. A local jewelry
supply store had a different torch (Goss, I think) with the
acetylene - m tank filled. I tried to move it, and it was heavy. So
I am unsure if it will be easy to pick up andput in my car when I
have to get it refilled.
I was at the store last week and they had sold this outfit. So I am
looking for other alternatives as I'm not sure about this setup and
I wanted the Smith silversmith torch.
Rob, do you use the Meco with oxygen tank and 5 lb. propane tank? I
would like to see pictures of your setup.
I will put them up temporarily on the shop page of my website
(robmeixner.com). It is easier to post pictures there. Rob
I know this will sound simplistic, but I would first check with your
gas supplier. If you buy from a big box store, I would find a welding
supply store. They will be able to give you on what you
need as far as safety is concerned, for your location. Different
locations have different rules. No matter if it's inside or out, make
sure it is chained in position so it will not fall over. I was in a
building when a tank fell and the neck blew off. Luckily nobody was
in the way, but it shook the whole building, and did quite a lot of
Ditto to Steve's comment about chaining gas bottles. I form a frame
around the middle of the bottle as well. Back in the day when
inspecting swimming pools, I saw one after a chlorine gas bottle had
fallen over (into the pool, thank goodness!), breaking off the neck.
The bottle became a torpedo and ricocheted back and forth off the
walls of the pool until it was empty. Every hit took out a chunk of
Not a pretty sight,
Judy in Kansas