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Query for California metalsmiths/jewelers with home studios

Hi everyone!
We are contemplating a move to Southern California and I was wondering if anyone that is currently living in that area could give me insight into the rules/guidelines for having a home jewelry studio (primarily having an acetylene torch set up). Also, any information on the acquisition of B-tanks would be helpful.
I plan to set up my studio in the corner of a garage or small outbuilding.
I’ve had studio spaces in different types of locations in for the past 12 years in my current state, so I know that what is written in the law books doesn’t necessarily translate to how things happen in the real world. Obtaining B-tanks over the years has been “interesting” - I’m not sure how so many ppl in my area have the deliver direct to their homes!!
And yes, some people are going to tell me to contact my insurance company, but they are not helpful.

I see people on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram have full forge set ups in the garage/outbuildings without any problems it seems, but others panic at the mere mention of having anything larger than a tiny cook’s butane torch “inside.“ (and nope, a tiny butane torch is off-limits for me b/c 1. They are nowhere near hot enough, 2. they are not reliable, and 3. I’ve had 2 very bad experiences with them.)

If you don’t feel comfy answering here in the fora, please DM!

Thanks!! :blush:
Lori
(in the northeast, where winter has finally left us alone, I hope)

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California is a strange place. Everything causes cancer. To the subject, find out form the community you will live in. Each community will have different rules/laws about the tanks. The best next step is the local fire department people. They will have even more information. Living in the East Bay of San Francisco for along time, It was fine having a B tank when we moved there, but half way through our years there, that changed. If you have the ability to have it in a shed outside of your home, I would go that route.

Aggie in Florida where the heat and humidity are rising.

Thank you Aggie!
I would think that storing a gas tank outside of a climate controlled location is far more dangerous!

I would think that storing a gas tank outside of a climate controlled location is far more dangerous!

There is a very large propane distributor in my area with tanks of all sizes stored outside in full exposure to the sun and weather. It gets up to 105-109* here, must be hotter in full sun. When I asked, they said unsheltered storage was perfectly safe, did no harm.

I’d be more concerned about any hose exposed to the weather deteriorating, but apparently propane tanks do just fine. Of couse some kind of shelter wouldn’t hurt so long as there is good ventillation.

There was a story just the other day about a leaking propane tank inside a shed that exploded when the door was opened and the propane got to a burner during a ‘crawfish boil’. Propane tanks are not intended to be used in confined spaces.

My small (5 lb.) tank is in a steel cabinet outside, with sheltered hose going into my shop. I had an MC acetylene tank out there which did leak, but the acetylene dispersed and couldn’t get into my shop or near the torch flame. I’m very glad it was not strapped to the foot of my soldering bench.

Outside is good. Or use the small 1 lb. propane tanks others on Orchid have advocated.

Neil A

Thank you for your input Neil!
I’ll have to investigate propane as an alternative to acetylene.
Bad experiences durning my childhood with propane have me skiddish…and trust me. It took 3yrs or so for me not to get tachycardia when I’d have to turn the tanks in my studio off/on. I’m super comfortable with my acetylene B tank now. I’m very contentious and regularly ck my hoses. Yes, I imagine outside temps/UV would eat up those hoses quickly.

Not sure which small propane tanks you are mentioning. The plumbers torches?? If so, my arthritic hand can’t grasp those.
Sucks getting old, but I still have a fair way to go before I’ll be out if commission.

-sent via the interwebs🖖🏼

I’m sorry about your bad experience.

Here’s a link to a 5 gallon propane tank. It’s shaped like the bigger ones, just smaller, sort of cantaloupe-size:

I’m glad you are using a B tank rather than an MC. It is bad to draw off too much acetylene, which I was doing with a very big torch tip and an MC tank. You get a reaction like dropping Mentos into a Coke bottle - it foams, reduces ‘air’ pressure releasing more gas, and the Coke shoots out of the bottle. Release too much acetylene for a tank’s volume and the same kind of thing happens. A nut cracked on the tank side of my regulator and acetylene and acetone leaked out. The large tip would not have been a problem with a B tank.

That spooked me enough that I swore off acetylene because I can’t fit a B tank in the steel cabinet I have bolted to the outside of my garage shop. I would never ever use an acetylene tank indoors, let alone near my torch after that.

There are pluses and minuses with each fuel. Learn all you can. I don’t want to spook you, but acetylene is vastly more explosive than propane, and if you set your regulator to more than 15 PSI the gas is ‘unstable’. Acetylene requires much more care than propane. I can tell you a few stories about really dumb stunts some people I know have done with it.

Rob Meixner in particular has posted a lot about using the small camping-size propane tanks and an oxygen concentrator indoors. Next to a water torch that’s about as safe as you can get. As far as I know almost all jurisdictions allow the camping tanks to be used indoors.

Regards,
Neil

hi lori

these Coleman propane 16oz tanks are readily available in hardware, grocery, etc

they are 8” high, 4” diameter

perhaps these, along with an oxygen concentrator, would be the solution you are looking for

https://www.riogrande.com/product/re-manufactured-oxygen-concentrator/500140

https://www.riogrande.com/product/ready-ox-ex-5-oxygen-concentrator-torch-system/500150

(this concentrator is photographed with a slightly taller sized propane tank…)

julie

hi

water torches have been discussed on the forum…could be a viable option for you…

julie

How about using for most of the jewelry work a torch like this https://www.ottofrei.com/Handy-Flame-Butane-Torch I smashed my dominate hand 6 years ago and now it’s held together with what I call a plate and bailing wire. I have hand strength, but my hand will shake if I grasp anything heavy for very long. Ys it’s butane, but it is the godzilla of butane torches. I’ve used it for everything short of melting for casting. You learn how to handle it with all the various needs.

Northern California has strict laws about propane tanks. Comes from idiots trying to use propane bar b cues on balconies unattended, and burning down apartment complexes. What I did with the larger propane tank torches was to do it all in my garage. I backed the cars out, nd closed the garage door down to just the width of my baseball bat I put under it. Then I would open the garage side door and have a fan in front of it blowing outward. It caused a nice gentle flow of air through the whole room. Afterwards I would just close everything, roll (Had the soldering table on wheels) the table back to the side, and put the cars back in the garage. A little effort, but sa lot of safety. Also have a good up to date fire extinguisher near.

Aggie

Nope…been down that road already - I had 2. Not a good option for me.
I literally couldn’t give them away.
I begged a metal scrapper to take them.

:white_check_mark: on the fire extinguisher! I was a volunteer firefighter for many years, so I’m super careful. That why I’m so darn hesitant about the different gasses. I’m most comfortable with acetylene b/c that’s been what I used the most for 12 yrs. Its the only system I’ve never had a horrible experience with…Although the move isn’t happening right away, we will be moving into a house with a garage - most likely Riverside or Orange County.

I guess my only other choice would be to find a maker space and do all my soldering, heat colorization and recycling silver scrap there. Inconvenient as all fell though, and takes away my ability to be as creative as I want.

I currently have that issue - my studio is16miles away and I am barely there due to health problems. It would sure be great to create in my own home, like so many people do.

Myself and many others have posted about using 1 lb. camp stove propane cylinders and medical O2 generators to run a propane and O2 torch. I use both a Meco and Little Torch on the same setup. The only challenge I have it melting large amounts of brass and copper scrap. I regularly solder heavy 8 gauge round wire twisted bracelets and do up to 50 gram melts for scrap recovery. Like you, I worked with acetylene for many years on a B tank and Prest-O-Lite torch system. I wanted to move to a more controled flame and get as much compressed gas out of my shop as I could. After several iterations, I settled on that described above. The only other solution that I considered was a natural gas booster. You can go to my website to see pictures of my shop and torch set up. Good luck…Rob

Thank you Rob!

I’ll definitely look into this option.
The Little Torches are the ones that the “poop” acronym applies to, right?

-sent via the interwebs🖖🏼

I have never hear the Little Torch described “Pooping”. They may “pop”, especially on acetylene. You may be thinking of the EZ Torch, that does, upon occassion, excreet something nasty when it is first used. The only explanation I have heard for this behavior is that there is some residue in the hose that has to work its way out. I also run an EZ Torch on a 1 lb. camp stove cylinder and use it mainly for annealing. There are orchid people who use them for all of their work. I never found them to produce enough heat to do what I need to do. They are fairly inexpensive and you can get adapters that will allow you to run them on 1 lb. camp stove cylinders or regular 20 lb. grill type propane cylinders. Look at natural gas concentrators. They are expensive, but the only option for some jewelers who work in large office buildings. The logic being that there is no gas stored under pressure. I would do the research so you know your options but hold off buying anything until you get to where you are going as there may be other outside factors that will impact what you buy once you get there. Lots in the archives, so do some looking as others may have different ideas…Rob

Propane
Oxygen
(Order of turning on the valves)
Oxygen
Propane

(Order of turning on the valves)

I didn’t make it up - I learned it from MassArt students!

(I’ve dredged the archives. I asked b/c I need current info tho b/c options and rules re gas tanks in private dwellings change, and vary from town/city to town/city. I’m doing the deep dive in the archives on Delft casting - and found new alternatives!!)

-sent via the interwebs🖖🏼

Ha! Never heard that before…Rob

I think you all have covered the options here pretty well. There are “water torches” from China for $125 to $200 on ebay. The propane 1 lb bottle plus concentrator has already been covered. Using two little bottles, both oxygen and propane, is only slightly less safe. It’s cheapest to refill the 1 lb bottles from a 20 lb barbecue tank, but only slightly more expensive to use bought 1 lb bottles. You would have to do a lot of torch work to use more than a 1 lb tank every few weeks. Then there is the natural gas booster that Rob mentioned, but I think that comes in at a much higher price and depends on there being natural gas available at the street. Any of these options would work for the majority of jewelry work. Will be interested to hear what the OP chooses. -royjohn

I tend to go with the simplest set up for my work. Simple can have a broad definition I have learned. I suspect that were acetylene available on Sundays in Central New York I’d still be using a Presto Lite torch or a similar set up. I traded off for the Smith Little Torch because Propane can be bought at the grocery and I worked for an agency that had oxygen concentrators to lend. I still have my B tanks and regulators and hose however. Rob and I do similar work to some degree and very often I find we have done the same experiments with similar results. All things being equal I would use NG if the equipment was remotely affordable and it served my needs. Were I starting out now instead of 35 years ago using my Dad’s gear, I probably would go with the Little Torch. I was coming from a ship building job and I knew gas and oxygen pretty well.

My advice is to look long and hard at what you want to do right now. Spend the money on the system that will do that job even if it costs a little more. Nothing is harder than doing professional work with inadequate tools. A good torch and a good rolling mill I would max out a credit card for. The rest of the stuff I would buy as needed.

Don Meixner.

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This is exactly what I use — oxygen concentrator and camping gas (propane) canisters. I buy in a twin pack at Lowes. This has been my setup since 2016. My studio is in a spare bedroom. BTW - acetylene is a dirty fuel. I wouldn’t use it indoors for that reason alone. Also, oxygen under pressure is as dangerous as either type of gas and has a lower combustion temp.

Every single jewelry school here in Massachusetts uses simple acetylene torches. Thats how most of us are taught.
All have exhausts. I am fine setting up exhausts - I’ve done several,

The jewelry schools here that do have one combo torch do not allow/rarely allow general student use because of extra danger - and make it clear how dangerous the 2 gas torches are if not turned on precisely or the pressure is accidentally too high. (as explained in the manual someone kindly posted).

Only time I was observing someone (a professionally trained and/experienced jeweler use a propane/o2 little torch, the darn thing malfunctioned. Not sure exactly what happened, but her hair and a shelf full of supplies above her folder area got burned. Not a pleasant experience.

What I’m hearing and reading here is scaring the hell out of my husband - now there us no way he is going to allow any kind of gas torch system in our new home. It took me 2 yrs to get him OK with acetylene (with exhaust of course) - but in SoCal it’s probably not an option. If I can get away with it, I’m sticking with what I know as it is straightforward to use. I have a fantastic vent fan I’ll bring with me.
All I want to do is make jewelry.
It’s all I have left now that I’m older with medical issues.
I’m not forging blades for gawd’s sake.
I cannot do something that will risk us losing our home insurance or violating the rules of our HOA…