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Safest fuel to use

Hi. I’m having problems with my soldering rig and am probably going
to exchange it…it is acetylene/atmospheric air. I have another
question out on Orchid regarding these problems, but my question here
is: which is the safest fuel/rig to use? I live on the second and
third floors of a two family home and my studio is on the third floor.
I want to work primarily in high-karat gold jewelry but will be doing
some silver jewelry and small copper objects as well. I won’t be
doing casting, but I would like to melt down gold scraps on a
charcoal block.

I went with acet/air because that is what I used in school. I
briefly considered propane, but someone once told me that propane is
the most dangerous fuel because it never dissipates … that it is
heavier than air and if there is a leak, it will drift to the lowest
point in the room and lurk there forever, like some gaseous bogeyman,
waiting to blow you and all your loved ones to kingdom-come.

Doing research on Orchid, I see a lot of people using propane,
which, it seems, must be used with bottled oxygen, about which I also
know nothing.

Any input will be gratefully appreciated.


For some reason propane-air torches are not very available in the US
, Silver is mostly worked with propane -air in Mexico and torches are
available there. They are a copy of the European Sievert-Primis torch
that has 3 different burner heads a small flame, a medium flame and a
very large bushy flame good for annealing. Melting for casting is done
with Propane- Oxygen in Mexico. I have never run Across the Sievert
torch in the US but they seem to be available someplace:

I bought a system in Mexico and it works fine and was actually
cheap but they could use a little better quality control.

Acetylene has a density about 0.9 that of air a little lighter it
diffuses pretty well and does not linger in low pockets like propane
with a density about 1.5 times that of air.

Propane is not allowed for shipboard welding and cutting , Acetylene

I am not very fond of acetylene cylinders and I worked in that
industry for 35+ years and managed a number of Acetylene plants.
There were a lot of very old cylinders and some ratty valves. Some
vendors had good stuff and took good care of it some were terrible.
Its a people-business thing Since I retired there has been a change in
US regulation pertaining to propane and acetylene cylinders
regulating allowable age and requiring retesting. I haven’t seen the
regulation but it should improve things.

I personally do not like to see any flamework in a combustible
structure. A clean well ventilated work area, minimum inside gas
storage and good work practices such as careful leak testing and the
equipment safety procedures provided with the equipment. is
essential. With good cylinders and a leak free system fire problems
will start someplace else first.


Hi, this is the first time I will be writing here since I’m new tothe
site. Arguably the safest fuel to use would be water, that’s right,
water. I don’t know how popular the hydrogen torch is but it is a
system that RioGrande and many others carry. It works by separating
the hydrogen and the oxygen with the help of electrolyte resulting
with very clean burning fuel. Another thing is that the fuel you’ll be
storing is nothing more than distilled water, not very dangerous right?
Anyways the only drawback is the price tag of the torch which usually
costs over a grand. Good luck in searcho of a better system!

Dan Yokota, MA

Hello Susan, I’ll just put in my $.02 here. If natural gas is
available to the home, do consider it. I’ve been using it with
bottled oxygen for years in my home and with an assortment of torch
tips, find it does everything you’ve described; it is very clean
burning too. You can have a plumber tap an existing natural gas line
and install the necessary shut-off. As with any pressurized gas
bottle, the oxygen tank must be well secured so that it can’t fall
over. I’m sure you will get several comments from propane users.
That was what I used before, and was pleased with it - again you need
an assortment of tips. I just got tired of buying propane and
natural gas is very inexpensive. Judy in Kansas, where we are
supposed to see 80+ degrees this week;
I hope we haven’t skipped spring!

Hi Dan Finally someone that is going to talk about the hydrogen torch.
I was wanting to know if you like this system. And is it harder to
use than any of the other torches since it puts out more heat? Also
would like to know how you control the heat for light duty soldering


Sorry to say, Natural gas is no longer “inexpensive’” in Ohio. The
price per CF has trippled here

Hi Susan, I have used propane for the last 24 years. I use a bench
mounted gas jet which has a flexible plastic tube that I put in my
mouth & blow into. I works great. The heat produced from a propane &
air flame is not as hot acetylene & I get very few pit marks in solder
joints. Having the gas jet bench mounted gives me two free hands for
holding items to be soldered. Supplying the air by blowing gives me
very precise control over the flame. It is possible to heat small
objects using a puffing action to supply tiny amounts of heat until
the solder flows. Solder can be heated until it flows & kept there
without overheating to move a setting or retip claws. It takes a bit
of practice to get the hang of circular breathing but everyone I know
who has changed to this system has stuck with it because of the
control it gives. I use propane & oxygen as a melting system. It is
hot enough to melt white gold but not hot enough for platinum.

As for the safety aspect of propane I keep an eye on the hoses &
connections. In Australia propane has something put into it that
stinks. If a gas jet get blown out you smell it quickly. When I’m not
in the workroom I always turn of the gas at the bottle. I’ll be
interested to hear what other people know about this gas.

Dean Watson

Hi Gary, I’m glad that some people are interested in the subject that
I brought up. I’m sorry to say but I do not own a hydrogen torch
myself but only know people that work with this system. I have only
used it once, and to answer your question, yes it is hard to work with
such a high temperature flame but if you have experience in gas
welding, it is closer to that then soldering. In other cases though
there are advantages to this, since you have an array of tip sizes
(flame sizes) and a highly concentrated heat, fusing (welding) and
solderng small metal pieces such as jump rings and chain works can be
easier. I believe it’s just a matter of getting used to. And with
proper maintenance and regular cleaning it is very energy efficient,
so in the long run will be cheaper than any other system (you can go
buy the fuel (distilled water) at CVS for crying out loud!). I’m
planning to buy this system for myself some time in the near future
but for now this is as much that I can tell you about this subject.
Anybody out there actually using a hydrogen torch? I would like to
know more about the drawback of the system, since all I’ve heard are
good things from proud owners. Dan

Dan, I don’t have the system you mentioned but I do in fact use
hydrogen as a gas. I use hydrogen/oxygen with a little torch for
soldering and a large torch for casting. It was recommended to me as a
very clean flame for casting. I just switched from acetylene and used
the same torch as my local gas supplier said I could. People say the
flame is hard to see but I have no problem and I really like it. I’ve
also been told it disapates upward instead of pooling on the floor if
a leak should happen so it’s safer than propane or acetylene. As I
said I really like it but I wonder what draw backs some other
Orchidites might mention about it’s use. I don’t have a lot of
experience and maybe don’t know any different. Annette

Hello, hello! I nearly commented on the first mention- I can’t lurk
through this one. I’ve used a Hydro-flux pretty constantly for the
last five or six years, and I love it, I’m lost without it! First, the
flame is never adjusted- you change the tips- I long ago abandoned the
expensive little sets Rio sells, they’re the same kind as the the
color coded plastic tips for paste solder or adhesives- and a broader
range of sizes, too. It’s compact, safe, efficient, with pin point
accuracy- I have a Y for two hand pieces on mine. It’s excellent for
spot soldering and repair work, fine work and successive fabrication
(laziness- I’ve done pieces with 10, 15 or more solders- all easy).
It"s never quit on me. Disadvantages- it runs on water by having a
serious caustic catalytic in the fuel chamber. Over time the clear
plastic tubing that tells you when to add more gets darker until
you’re guessing. Manufacturer’s suggestion is to drain it and ship it
off to have it factory serviced every year. Yeah, right! Grant you
they replace all the tubing, clean it up and resupply the chemicals
(catalyst and flux) it’s $100 and at least a week without it-
fortunately for me the manufacturer is in New Jersey : I’ve had it
done twice, and both times I’ve delivered it- a 3 1/2 hour drive is
easier than paying shipping, the extra transit time and having to
dispose of the nasty toxics myself. And I still rely on my
air-acetylene for fusing, annealing, large heavy heat it all up
things. But on the whole I wish all my equipment purchases had done so
well! Hope this helps- Stephanie

The primary thing to be concerned with is leaks. Check your system
carefully with a dilute solution of liquid dishwashing detergent (Joy)
. Make sure you equipment is shut off and the pressure bleed off when
not in use. Hydrogen is combustible at concentrations 4 to 75 % in
air and from 4 to 96 % in oxygen. High point room vents are
desirable or required so you don’t get explosive pockets in the
event of a serious leak. While leaks can catch fire easily from a low
energy spark ignition- In practice the gas usually diffuses fast
enough that the combustible mixture envelope is so small that fires
from tiny leaks are very rare. Still avoid leaks. Hydrogen is not
stenched with an additive so has no smell . The use of hydrogen as a
brazing fuel seems to be increasing in the US . I think it is a
little more common in europe. The use and availability of small
electrolytic generators seems to be increasing. I worked in the gas
business for a very long time and was very aware of where the hydrogen
we sold was used and it was not torch brazing in those days other
than lead fusing when constructing nuclear shielding.

The electrolytic generators should be quite safe and very
convenient. I haven’t seen many of these actually in use but those I
saw worked very well.

Hydrogen should be the cleanest purest common gas available. This
all depends on the vendor of course.

The electrolytic systems often containing a system with a liquid
flux added to the gas which will color it so the flame can be seen
more easily. A pure hydrogen flame has no color and flame color will
come from impurities or off the heated material. The flame issues no
radiation in the infra red so there is no billowing heat like with
hydrocarbon fuels. The heat is where the flame is. Heat you feel is
off the air heated by the flame or radiated from the heated object. In
my opinion, hydrogen is a safe fuel when used properly and offers
many advantages over hydrocarbon fuels.