Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Small butane torch


#1

Hi,

I have been avidly following all the discussion about torches, and
I’ve saved the for the future, when I am able to
actually sey up a workshop. Right now, I am working with silver,
sometimes copper or brass, making small items, and functioning
somewhere between beginner and intermediate level. I have many tools
at home and am able to do sawing, hammering/forging, cold
connections, tumbling, and finishing with a flexible shaft. I take a
weekly class where I have access to acetylene/oxygen torches. I am
interested in starting to do some small projects at home that include
soldering (small bezels to rings or pendants), annealing, and fusing
of fine silver rings, and I’m not ready to get a large torch. I have
been reading about small butane torches that can be used for the kind
of work I’m interested in doing at home: Microtorch, Blazer torch,
Proxxon, Jumbo Max. Does anyone have experience with any of these
and any recommendations? I’d appreciate any suggestions.

Thanks so much,
Lorraine


#2

hi lorraine,

i spent many years suffering through a torchless workspace and as a
result, have a fair amount of experience with the alternatives. (even
now, though i have acetylene at home, it’s so difficult for me to get
refills that i still end up in this predicament from time to time! ah
the car-less life of newyorkers.) i started out with a micro torch,
and though it is good for some things (honestly, i still enjoy it for
jumprings and the like), it really does not put out a lot of heat. i
supplemented it with a big blazer torch (blazer max?) which allowed
me to do an extraordinary number of things. i have a preference for
large jewelry, so my projects tend to be ambitious – still i was
able to complete hollow forms that were as much as an inch and a half
to two inches in diameter using the blazer. occasionally one must
make little charcoal “tents” in order to buttress the heat, but it
can be done. i’ve had some other torches which have had difficulty
even holding a flame, but i’ve conveniently forgotten their names as
i quickly disposed of them in utter frustration and annoyance. blazer
is great. alternatively (though i know, this sounds scary), you can
buy one liter containers of propane at your local hardware store
which you can hold in your hand and purchase all varieties of pencil
tips and what not for. this is what i resort to when i can’t get
myself a large tank of acetylene. it’s not perfect, but if you’re
forging large pieces of metal, the ability to have a big fluffy flame
at your disposal is really wonderful, and given that it’s so small
(and so smelly when it’s not properly closed!) i seriously doubt that
you’re putting yourself in harm’s way. then again, i’m definitely not
the right person to ask about that. i’d never, though, be comfortable
with a BIG tank of propane. i’m only suggesting that the tiny ones
aren’t so scary.

best of luck!
hilary


#3
I have been reading about small butane torches that can be used for
the kind of work I'm interested in doing at home: 

I have a small, handheld Bernzomatic butane torch which I use
virtually all the time. I only drag my big oxy/propane torch out for
jobs which the butane torch won’t handle. Even if I am using my big
torch, I will always use my small butane torch when applying Prips
flux to my sterling silver, as you have to gently heat the piece
prior to spraying on the flux, and if using the oxy/propane torch,
it instantly oxidises the silver/copper, which is what I’m trying to
avoid in the first place. I also prefer to anneal using the butane
torch, for the reasons I stated above.

Before I got my big torch, I used a butane torch exclusively, and
there wasn’t much that I couldn’t do with it. Obviously, if you want
to start making larger pieces such as cuff bracelets, tiaras, baby
rattles, etc (which require much more heat than such a torch can
handle), then you’d need to rethink. But for the time being, you can
design within the constraints, and make pieces that are of a small
enough size for the butane torch to cope with. I managed to
successfully solder bezels onto backplates for large cabochons (2" x
3") a few times. Yes, that was quite difficult, but it can be done,
especially if you were to buy two such torches and rig up the
soldering job so that you can heat from above and below at the same
time.

All the best with your endeavours.

Helen
UK


#4

Lorraine, I am about where you are in your experience with torches.
For about 6 months I used a Proxxon, which is a small butane torch.
it worked very well for hollow silver beads, balling up silver for
earwires, soldering jumprings and small projects using medium or easy
solder. Where I had difficulties is when I was doing more complex
jobs where you are needing to start with hard solder (bezels) or
there is more metal mass than say a 1 inch hollow bead. In my
experience the small torch didn’t have enough heat to overcome the
heat loss from the mass of the object or enough heat to make the
hard solder flow. So I bought a Smith Little torch for disoposable
Propane/oxy tanks and have been very happy with that purchase.
Perhaps not the most economical with the small disposable tanks, but
I liked the size because it didn’t seem so scary. There are two
websites which give really good instructions as to operation and
safety which if you are interested would give you a lot of
reassurance as the torch really doesn’t have any instructions as
purchased. Anyway, using the smith really cut down on frustration
and is so much quicker and easier to use. Happy I made the switch.


#5

Hello Lorraine,

Like you, I’m somewhere between beginner and intermediate in my
jewelry making. I bought my torch at Harbor Freight for some
ridiculous price like under $20. It’s a Bernzomatic refillable
torch. It uses butane which can be bought at Harbor Freight or Home
Depot, or just about anywhere. It serves me well. I have been able to
do any soldering I need to do with it and have no plans to upgrade
anytime soon.

Barbara


#6

To springboard with Helen’s comments: there are situations were an
inexpensive “plumbers” style propane torch, supported under a tripod
or the like, can supply some of the extra oomph that the hand held
lacks for larger, or more ambitious endeavors. A seat of the pants
approach, but… use what is available.


#7

Reading these posts about small Bernzomatic torches, got me real
curious so I went and bought one today. I thought it would be good
for quick one of’s and not turn on my oxy acetylene Little Torch.
But, I was immediately disappointed soldering some test pieces. It
simply would not heat a couple pieces of 18ga wire to solder until I
raised them off solder board and held them with tweezers. I didn’t
return it because I did find a place where it will help me. I’ve had
some trouble with 26 & 30 gauge bezel and sheet occasionally melting.
This torch looks like it will be real good for the light mass
projects like that or for annealing.

I’m still looking for an acetylene / air torch as small as my Little
Torch.

Good discussion so far.
Regis


#8

I found a place that sells Gentec acetylene/air and propane/air
torches: http://www.torchtools.com/Torch_Kits.htm

let me know it that is a help.

jill


#9

I have been following this thread with interest since I do my jewelry
work in my home as a hobby and am interested in torch options. Since
I do my work inside my home I wanted to limit my options to
disposable propane tanks and NO oxygen (because of insurance
concerns). My first torch was a Bernzomatic Mini Torch which had a
hose which added great flexibility. This worked on most of the pieces
of silver I was doing, a few of the larger ones I did resort to a
"plumbers" torch. I finally decided I wanted more capability and got
an EZ-Torch from Otto Frei which I have been very happy with so far.
I am quite sure there are better options out there for the dedicated
jeweler but for a retired engineer who wants to enjoy a hobby with
minimum risk, this appears to be a good solution.

Ernie


#10
It's a Bernzomatic refillable torch. I have been able to do any
soldering I need to do with it and have no plans to upgrade anytime
soon. 

This has been my experience too. However, there are people for whom
such a torch will only solder things like jump rings! This confuses
me. I’m guessing that to a certain extent, folks’ experiences are all
different because the individual torches will differ, but I wouldn’t
have expected there to be such a huge difference in the range of
things people can solder with these torches. Prior to my Bernzomatic
torch, I had a cook’s creme brulee torch, which hardly had much of a
flame at all, and yet I was still able to solder actual pieces of
jewellery, bezels, bezels to back plates, bales, etc. I think there
must be a lot of variation with people’s working practices too, to
also account for the differences.

If such a torch is all you have access to, then you’ll probably make
it work for you, by hook or by crook. As was also suggested today, a
handheld plumber’s propane torch is also a useful addition in such
circumstances. For larger soldering jobs, with the work propped up on
a stand and a torch in each hand, it can be done. However, it takes a
bit of practice, as it’s easy to lose sight of what one torch is
doing, and you can end up melting part of the piece whilst watching
for the solder to flow. But it’s still possible. If the two torch
option is not a favourite, then just use the propane one on its own
for larger jobs.

Helen
UK


#11
I was immediately disappointed soldering some test pieces. It
simply would not heat a couple pieces of 18ga wire to solder until
I raised them off solder board and held them with tweezers. 

That’s a shame Regis, although I’m glad you found a use for it
anyway. I find mine useful for annealing and fluxing with Prips.
Perhaps it’s because you are used to a torch with far more BTU’s?
For those of us who struggled at home with such a handheld butane
torch in the early days, we somehow found a way to make it work for
us. Conversely, I’m struggling to control the heat put out by my oxy/
propane big torch set-up, so still find myself using the butane
torch, only getting the big boy out if I absolutely have to. I find
that I can get bad firestain really quickly when using my huge torch.
I am, however, thrilled to announce that I have (eventually) just
received my Smith Little Torch back from a warranty repair due to
badly leaking hoses. I’ve missed it loads!!! It’s a good compromise
between the butane torch and the huge oxy/propane welding torch.

Basically, I think that if you’ve used a bigger torch set-up,
whether at college or work or whatever, you would find it very
difficult to then manage to solder similar things with a butane
handheld torch. But if you’re starting out, and that’s all you have
access to, then it works just fine, until either you can upgrade, or
you learn to work within its limits. But that’s just my opinion and
experience of course.

Helen
UK


#12

I want to thank the members who responded to my question about
recommendations for a small torch. I will be making a decision soon
and will post my experiences with whatever I purchase. I learn
something new everyday on this discussion group!

Lorraine