Earlier this spring, I did a wonderful reticulation workshop with
Harold O’Conor. He used a torch I was previously unfamiliar with (The
EZ-Torch) and got gorgeous results. It’s propane/air and can run off
of a disposable tank or a refillable one. The torch head looks a
little like a garden hose nozzle and it has 3 or 4 tip sizes. The
only place I’ve found it is www.ottofrei.com and it’s $89 (complete).
According to Harold, the key to reticulation is to use a very hot,
very pinpoint flame. Propane is ideal for this for silver and doesn’t
have some of the oxidation issues that acetylene has. Without adding
oxy to the mix, you can’t get the flame as intense and pinpoint as
you need with acetylene.
Having said that, I’ve done some nice reticulation of silver with
acetylene… just not with the level of control that Harold gets
with the pinpoint propane flame.
In terms of your studio being in your home, acetylene is generally
considered a much safer choice for indoor use and in many areas is
the only gas that would be allowed by fire code (and your insurance
company). You may want to double-check the fire marshal in your area
and with your insurance company on that issue, just to be on the safe
The reason for that is that acetylene is lighter than air. In case
of a leak, it floats up, then dissipates. Propane, on the other hand,
is heavier than air. A propane leak “puddles” near the floor (where
you can’t smell it as easily) and doesn’t dissipate, leading to
potential explosive flashover if an ignition source comes into
contact with it.
Now, does that mean that we don’t use propane indoors? No! But it
does mean that it’s generally either piped in from an external
holding tank (best practice) or used in a small disposable tank that
limits the potential for disaster. The “bbq grill” tanks are
definitely kept outside!
Hope this helps!
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