Torch choices

My workshop is in the home, like many of you. Without going into too
much detail, due to insurance issues and my own and my wife’s safety
concerns, I’ve decided to get rid of my oxy-acetylene Little Torch
setup and go with one of two other options. I currently work in
silver, but look forward to someday working in gold and perhaps even
in platinum. I might eventually cast some pieces, but if I started
to exceed the capacity of a small torch (over an ounce or two of
metal at a time), I think I would just go with an electromelt furnace
or sub out the casting.

I am considering two options. The first is a water torch with a
capacity of about 100L/hr. Both very small tips and larger ones are
available for this unit and I think it will work fine for the
everyday soldering and annealing I will be doing. The one possible
drawback is the inability to change the oxidizing/reducing nature of
the flame.

The second option is to keep the Smith Little Torch, get an oxygen
concentrator capable of 5L/min and use a 1lb propane bottle with an
adapter and an acetylene regulator. I have checked and it is
perfectly OK to use an acetylene regulator with propane. This setup
minimizes the risks of propane and should be acceptable to my
underwriter and insurance agent. There is still a small risk of
problems from leaks, but the risk is very low. The upside to this
system is the ability to vary the flame’s character, but I don’t know
how important this is in everyday practice.

I am not concerned with the difference in expense between the two

Both will be cheap enough and cost effective (I can get a very good
deal on a water torch). I’m just concerned with whether the
propane/oxygen system is “better enough” that I should opt for that
or not, given the very small extra risk involved in using gas in a
bottle vs gas (hydrogen and oxygen) that is generated only as needed.

Thanks in advance for any help that folks who are familiar with both
systems can give.

I use a Presto-lite Plumbers torch and I have had no concerns wit
it. My insurance agent is fine with it as long as it is chained and
my flamables are minimal.

My Brother Rob has done a great deal of research on torches and torch
safety in the home. I am sure he will weigh in and his advice is
always worth it.

Don Meixner

Roy, I got rid of my propane and oxygen tanks for some of the same
reasons you mention.

I chose acetylene (the small, MC tank) and the Smith Silversmith air
/ acetylene torch, with the acetylene piped in from outside. I liked
the Silversmith for most work, but the smallest tip on the
Silversmith torch (00) gives too fat a flame for really close work
and I found that tip pretty much useless, so I got the Rio oxygen
concentrator and used an oxy/acetylene LittleTorch for the times I
wanted a really small flame.

The LittleTorch / concentrator combination did not work well for me.
The oxygen fluctuated, so the flame went from oxidizing to reducing
and back every few seconds. This may be just a problem with my
concentrator, I don’t know. For health reasons I’ve stopped working
in my shop so I haven’t looked into it any further. You should find
out what to expect before you buy a concentrator.

Neil A.


Can’t help you with your choices. However, I use an oxygen
concentrator all the time with natural gas. It works great. The only
drawback is that when you turn it on it need to vent for about 5
minutes so that the output stabilizes. I turn mine on in the am and
it runs all day most of the time. I use oxy/acet for casting and
melting metal. Somehow I feel safer with it than I would with a
propane container in the house.

My shop is in my basement.


Bob Keyes

I have gone through an exercise recently investigating torch related
safety issues and options. Keep in mind that my comments are from
the point of view of someone who makes jewelry for a hobby and works
in the cellar of my home. My goal was to store the minimum amount of
compressed gas in my cellar and still allow me to work. My original
torch was a single stage acetylene Presto-Lite plumbers torch. It
served me well for thirty five years as long as I worked on fairly
large pieces. As the price of silver went up and the size of my work
began to include smaller pieces along with the larger bracelets that
I still make, I started looking for torch alternatives. After a
brief trial of acetylene and O2 I decided to go to propane and O2 as
it is cleaner and easier to refill the propane tanks. To serve my
safety concerns, I use a small 4 pound propane tank (looks like a
miniature grill tank) and small O2 cylinder. I have to exchange the
O2 a lot more frequently than the propane. I store any extra tanks
in an out building and move all of my tanks to this building if we
are away from home for any length of time. I also have an EZ torch
on a small 1 pound camp stove cylinder and use it for quick in and
out jobs and annealing (saves the O2). So, my current setup is the
EZ torch, Meco on propane and O2 (this is a really nice torch) and a
Smith Little Torch. The Meco and Little Torch share the propane and
O2 tanks. I did do an experiment to see what kind of flame I could
get on the Meco with compressed air and street pressure NG. It
worked, but was just not hot enough to do what I need to do. Others
may want to comment on this set up as it was a topic of discussion
some time ago. I may try the Little Torch on it. My long term goal
is to get all compressed gas out of the house. To do this, I would
start with a NG concentrator and compressed air. If that doesn’t
work them I would add an O2 concentrator. Others have spoken well of
these concentrators, but they are a big investment for a small
operation like mine. The big concern behind all of this
investigation was what my home owners insurance company would be
happy with. I finally visited my agent and told him exactly what I
was doing and asked if they had any technical advice that would
allow me to do the work that I want to do and keep the underwriters
happy. Their position was that, as long as this activity was a hobby
and not the way that I make a living (I am a retired school
administrator with a nice pension), I could do what I am doing. I
did write them a summary letter after our discussion for the record
and they have not replied to the contrary. In the end, insurance
coverage or not, safety is still my biggest concern. To that end, in
addition to the above, I have a hood over my soldering area that
exhaust to the outside, a dust cyclone at my sanding and grinding
area that works well keeping the air fairly clean and capturing all
the stuff that I might want to recycle, a 900 CFM blower that pulls
air and dust through my polishing hood, a set of baffles and
exhausts the air to the outside. I am able to capture most of the
polishing duff to recycle, but know that I am losing some. I wear a
dust mask and face shield during all sanding, grinding and polishing
operations (at least most of the time). I keep a fire extinguisher
handy and a phone near by. We all pursue creative activity,
sometimes at the potential expense of our own personal safety. We
need to keep this discussion going so that those of us who may have
learned the hard way can keep others from making the same mistakes
that we have made. Thanks. Rob

Rob Meixner

I use either a Presto-lite torch with acetylene and a Little torch
with oxygen-acetylene. I use the smaller MC tanks and they are
chained to my bench. My insurance company had no problems with any
tanks in my shop, which is in my basement, as long as I had
flashback arrestors on the tanks.

Ideally the Presto-lite and the Smith acetylene/Air torch should be
run offof a “B” tank. The MC tanks are too small for the volume of
fuel usually running through that torch.

This can be a safety issue. If you have questions, please call Rio
Grande or your favorite supplier and ask for technical assistance.
This is info we have received from Smith equipment so I thought I
would pass it along. Wewant everyone to be safe.

Phillip Scott

Technical Support
Rio Grande