Kim, I have a Swiss torch, and I like it. I work primarily in 18k and
platinum, so oxy/propane works fine. This is not an inexpensive
torch, however it is very versatile. I can quickly change tips from
a "normal" flame (like what I would use for most fabrication) to a
tiny flame (jump rings, close quarters soldering). There is a tip
that will work for annealing or melting alloys for casting, but I do
not use it. I have a separate torch, and a separate area with lots
of ventilation, just for this purpose.
I don't know if you can purchase this torch with all the
accessories, an oxy tank and regulator, and a propane tank and
regulator, for under $500.00. I would also caution you about
bringing a propane tank, that was made for outdoor use, into an area
(especially a basement) with poor ventilation. Propane is heavier
than air, and will pool like water in the lowest area it can find,
waiting to be ignited. Be extra, extra careful and never forget to
turn off your tank and torch. Check for leaks. It is OK to act
paranoid with your bottled gas. The garage sounds like a good idea,
since most garage floors slope towards the door and would allow
propane to escape. Pour some water on the floor, pretend it is a
propane leak, and watch what happens. If it leaks outside, that's
good. Leaking down a drain would not be so good...
Since you say that you will be working mostly in silver, brass, and
copper, I would suggest that you get a Prest-O-Lite type torch. They
are inexpensive, work with acetylene (so you only need one tank and
regulator) and produce a larger flame (great for annealing and
soldering silver, since silver and copper are such great conductors
of heat). I have one, and I still prefer it for silver work.
If you are in the Frederick, MD area, you are welcome to drop by the
studio and try these torches out. I also have the Meco torch and the
Little Torch set up. Just let me know in advance...