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Torch Advice

I’m enjoying the list and appreciate the wisdom that all of you share
so willingly. I’ve been faceting for a couple of years now and have
grown weary of pre-fab settings for my stones. I’m ready to begin
baby steps in fabricating custom settings. One of the purchases I
must make, of course, is a torch. I am so confused by the choices. I
recognize that I will want to move on to casting fairly soon. And
eventually, I may even want to dabble in lampwork. Is there an
all-purpose choice that will give me the flexibility to move from
soldering through these other arts as well? Can I use the same torch
for glasswork that I use for metalwork?

I’m particularly confused by the choices in fuels. I would be
interested in hearing your opinions. I am not as interested in cost
as I am in flexibility and appropriateness. I don’t want to be
wishing I had made a different choice a year from now.

Thank you for your input!

Suzette Crim

If you really want to make your own setting go to this is the site of Preston Reuther’s. He does
amazing things wire -wrapping. Best of all, he has Videos, Books, some
gem stones and a fantastic Free News Letter that he ends out
weekly.believe me it worth the time to look him up.

Lady Gem

  I'm ready to begin baby steps in fabricating custom settings.  One
of the purchases I must make, of course, is a torch And eventually, I
may even want to dabble in lampwork 

Before you decide on a torch, you may want to look into the fuel
first. I’m not sure how hot lampwork torches need to be, but I do
know that both propane and natural gas can be used and both can be
used on metal as well. You will probably want to stay away from
acetylene, as it’s pretty dirty. But I think that’s how I would
approach the decision – from the fuel side.

My 2 cents on the subject !!

dear suzette,

i faced this problem too, when i was just leaving school (and short
of money!). i found that the Little Torch worked best for me. i use a
rosebud tip for melting metal and for glasswork. you won’t be able to
do super huge beads or sculptural work with it, but it still works.
there are just some limitations on size, and you have to be careful
with heat on the glass because the little torch rosebud tip makes a
smaller flame. right now i’m looking at getting a torch just for
glasswork, with a larger head.

i use propane and oxygen for both metalsmithing and glasswork, and
with the torch i use flashback arrestors and regulators. i got some
very good, inexpensive regulators from i chose
propane/oxygen over acetylene because acetylene is dirty, and tends to
contaminate metal and glass. we used natural gas in school (texas
institute of jewelery technology), but propane was easier for me to

as for casting, i worked with two jewelers who both used the Little
Torch for casting - only heating small amounts of metal, though.

in my opinion, this was the best choice for me. i’m looking at adding
(a bobcat torch for glasswork), but fundamentally i’m still very happy
with my system. basically, it just depends on the kind of work you
want to do. good luck! i hope i’ve helped!


I'm particularly confused by the choices in fuels.  I would be
interested in hearing your opinions.  I am not as interested in
cost as I am in flexibility and appropriateness.  I don't want to be
wishing I had made a different choice a year from now. 

Suzette, for any indoor work, the Oxygen/Propane fuel is the best for
the cost involved. the Propane burns clean without the oxygen and
will not leave soot floating around on ignition like Acetylene does.
It also doesn’t burn as hot so your control is better. As to the
torch you use, you will need one with interchangeable tips. You will
need to be able to produce a needle sized flame up to a large high
heat flame for casting or large silver work. The torch I use is the
"Little Torch". Using the Propane/Oxygen fuel and the #3 tip, you
can get your very fine flame. For most ring sizings and re-tips, etc
the #4 tip works well. I have tips up to #7 as well as a special
large “Melting” tip for casting. I use all of them on occasion
depending on the job I am doing This is the torch I started with and
I am quite happy with it. Others will chose another torch though. I
would take the time to test different ones, IE see how the feel in
your hand. It’s somewhat like choosing a faceting machine. There
are a lot of choices but most will do the job if used correctly.


There are a lot of great torches out there. We use two types in my
shop. The little torch and the Hoke torch. I personaly use a Hoke for
everything even delecate work and if you are only going to get one get
that one. Also use propane and Oxy. The advantage of the bigger torch
is versitality. I can even cast snall flasks of gold with my hoke.
Sometimes the smaller torches just dont produce enough heat to do
bigger jobs like welding large platinum piecies and pouring ingots.

Joel McFadden

I went through the same decision making process almost exactly a year
ago as I emigrated into the US from the UK.

I ended up with an oxy/acetylene system with a Little Torch, I I am
utterly delighted by it With a set of five tips I have wonderful
control over the flame size (from pencil lead to a big bushy
annealing flame) and with the addition of the multiple orifice tip
have a strong flame for melting and casting.

I bought it through a local welding supply company at about 2/3 of
the catalog prices - and the people there insisted on taking a half
hour to demonstrate the set up and teach me about safety!

Tony Konrath
Gold and Stone

I suggest you check out insurance issues while making your decision.
There are some useful posts in the Orchid archive.

Most torches are frowned on by insurance companies, especially in your
home. I am only a beginner learning the baby steps, but my first
teacher urged me to stick to the cheap propane torches you can buy for
about $10 at Home Depot until I got much more proficient. It produces
all the heat I need now for soldering and annealing because I work on
small stuff. Of course, control of the flame is minimal to

These small torches don’t contain enough propane to blow up your
house, and the flame is pretty small. (In contrast, the tank of
propane used for the outdoor barbecue grill is equivalent to 2 sticks
of dynamite.) Even so, I have flame proofed the wall behind the place
where I solder by hanging a large piece of plywood covered with sheet
metal on it and I have another one under the fire bricks on which I
put the soldering pad or stand I use. It would be very hard to ignite
the plywood with the small flame produced by the torch.

Good luck.

Dian Deevey

I am a beginner and I recently purchased a Bernz O Matic
Brazing/Welding/Cutting Torch Kit at Lowes Home Improvement Store.
The kit contains a burner wand, hose, oxygen regulator, fuel gas
valve, MAPP gas cylinder, an OX9 1.1 cubic foot cylinder and a spark
to ignite the flame. Can this type of torch be used to solder metals
(sterling silver) for jewelry making? I can’t afford a jewelers
torch right now, so I welcome any suggestions on an economical way to

Thank you. Nance

  I can't afford a jewelers torch right now, so I welcome any
suggestions on an economical way to solder. 

Nance, my suggestion is to get the right equipment to begin with.
You need the control and versatility of a jewelers torch. Your
hardware store torches are not designed for the fine work of making
jewelry. The amount of silver and or gold you will destroy using the
wrong torch will pay for the correct tool times over. Voice of
experience speaking. As the say, been there, done that, don’t want
to do it again.


Nancy, I am sure that your torch will work fine for your beginning
needs, and since you’ve already got it, why not give it a try? Just
get some silver wire and some soft solder and go at it! However, I am
not a professional jeweler, I just make a few things for myself and
others, also hand make chain and such, and I use a cheap regular
propane torch, combined with a little butane model when I need fine
fire. It sounds like the one you bought is a step up from those
models, since it has oxygen control. (wow, “well, la-di-da, such

All you need to solder metals is a fairly directed flame, with the

heat enough to melt the solder. With the cheaper torches, the heat
control is harder, but it works fine once you get the hang of it. Then
you can save up for the better quality and control of a jeweler’s
torch later, as your skills improve.

Have Fun!

Drew Horn
Furniture Design and Amateur Jewelry

      I can't afford a jewelers torch right now, so I welcome any
suggestions on an economical way to solder. 

I spend a good bit of time making jewelry in fairly remote locations
in south Asia and I’ve had fairly good success soldering with the
torches that the locals use. Kerosene and lung power are the fuels.
The flame comes from a small one liter tin container that looks just
like a watering can for plants except it has a multistring wick in
the spout. Some folks like a closed unit like a paint can with a
spout so the kerosene doesn’t dry up. The lung power is provided
with a blowpipe but any old piece of 10 inch long copper tubing will
work-- crimp the working end [nozzle-like] so a fine stream of air
come out. Torch sits still on you bench; workpiece is held in hands
on a screen or on a charcoal block. It takes a steady stream of air
directed into the flame. It is very slow, which I kind of like as I
worry less about accidentally melting my piece. I works fine for
relatively small items like rings, pendants, and earrings but I would
think again before trying to tackle something like a large bracelet
or teapot. the whole rig can be gotten in Asia for under us $2
dollars, triple that price for the west. I’ve tried using one of those
disposable propane fixed head tanks available at hardware stores. I
had much trouble doing it in traditional solder style with the
workpiece sitting still on a solder board and bringing the torch in
hand down to the workpiece. every time I’d invert the tank the flame
would readjust and dance around, finally a worked our and adaptation
of the Asia thing with the torch sitting still on my bench and moving
the workpiece to the flame and puffing a but on the blowpipe. anyway I
now own a oxy-propane little torch by smith and feel like hot stuff,
every time I use it I’m in heaven. good luck with your solution.
Mark Kaplan @mark_kaplan

HI all: Just snother comment for those wanting to try the blowpipe
Mark mentioned. most folks in this country use an alcohol lamp with
a faceted base which can be set at various angles. Many have one of
these already for wax dopping for lapidary. However, any suitable
wick material could be put through a cork with an appropriate hole,
and the bottle could be tilted by using a “donut” such as that used
to steady a pitch bowl. Blowpipes are available from the jewelry
supply, but, as Mark says, any metal tubing could be used, just crimp
the end as needed. A technique can be evolved where you puff out
your cheeks and draw in breath through your nose while the breath in
your cheeks prevents any interruption in the flames extent and
direction. The blowpipe is excellent for small items. Large
sterling items seem to require at least an acetylene-air torch, the
simple propane tank may not produce enough heat. I am not sure
whether the MAPP-oxygen combination will be as hot as that, but it
will do much better than the simple propane tank.

I would agree that the Smith Little Torch or the Meco torch with
propane and oxygen are about the best.


Hi Nancy,

Just get some silver wire and some soft solder and go at it! 

In response to the above statement; DON’T do it!

Generally, in the jewelry trade, the term ‘"soft solder’ implies a
lead or non precious metal based solder. Mixing this type of solder
with sterling or fine silver isn’t reccomended. It can result in
pitting of the finished piece & definitley will result in problems
for anyone who tries to do any soldering on it in the future.

Solders for silver are available that melt at different temperations.
They’re generally called ‘Hard’ (hi temp), ‘Medium’ (medium temp),
‘Easy’ (low temp) & ‘Extra Easy’ (very low temp). They have melting
points of: 1490 F, 1265 F, 135 F & 1170 F. The flow points for each
of the solders is higher for each. Also be aware that the melting
temps may vary from mfg to mfg, but will be close to the numbers

Solders are generally available in sheet, wire & paste form. Paste
solder is usually sold in syringes with differnet size needles
available. The paste solder has a flux & liquid added to it. The
sheet & wire solder is generallry cut into small pieces called
paillions or chips for placement when soldering.

All the solders except paste solder require the joint to be soldered
to be painted with a flux before soldering. For most silver work. the
flux is usually borax (20 Mule Team) & water. The flux serves to
clean & keep oxygen away from the joint being soldered. Some fluxes
contain cadmium &/or flouride salts which have been known to cause
health problems if used excessively or in persons with certain

It’s also a good idea to coat the rest of the piece with a firescale
retardent. One of the more popular firescale retardents is Prip’s
Flux. It’s basically a combination of boric acid, borax, trisodium
phosphate & water. Another popular fire scale retardent is boric acid
dissolved in denatured alcohol.


Nancy, I currently am using a “Shark Torch” (a.k.a., Whale Torch), I
use it disposable propane (95% of the time) or MAPP, with appropriate
regulators it reportably can be used with any common fuel gas. It
comes with three tips, plus an adjustable sleeve to adjust the fuel
air ratio, from soft and sooty to a hard oxidizing “hissy” flame. I
really enjoy the light weight controls in hand torch, and under
$100.00. I got mine from Kent’s Tools ,
Macaw Tools also carried them but I can not locate them on the web any
more and have no physical address for them. From the limited
instructions I assume the unit is Asian?. It was imported by (or
manufactured for) JSP, an Los Angeles, CA wholesale only importer.
Again, I’m rather impressed and very comfortable with this torch,
using MAPP I’ve even cast around 3/4+ ozT of silver in under a minute
with mine. I use a MAPP Bernz-o-matic for most casting.

My $0.02, Ed