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Torch handle fire

Hello, this is my first time posting to the community. I have recently had 2 incidences where, after using my air/acetylene torch the handle has become very warm and a terrible smell has happened. I have concluded there was a fire in my handle and of course am now afraid to solder anything until this is dealt with. My tank is turned off.
I have an ASCO torch handle that dates back to 1974 and most likely needs replacing. I guess I am wondering if anyone has experienced this before and was there something to replace within the handle like an o ring or something.
Secondary is this: If I am to get a whole new handle should I go with the same set up or is there an advantage to something different - like the Smith little torch. My inclination is to stick with what I know but am wondering if the Smith is that much better to what I am used to. I am a jeweler working primarily in sterling and have been torch firing enamel for the last couple of years. Thanks for any insights you may have!
Katherine

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My old Prestolite acetylene and air torch used to pop once in a while if I didn’t have the tip screwed in correctly. I suppose that it is possible that a small flame could happen at this same location. Regardless, you need to fix what is going on before you use the torch. Take it to a welding shop. Yes, you will probably be better off replacing it. Going to a Little Torch is a very different experience from what you are used to. You will also need to find a source of oxygen. It could be a tank and regulator or an O2 concentrator. Lots of torch discussion on this site. Search for them, especially if you decide to go to a Little Torch…Rob

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Hi Rob, thanks for your quick reply! Yes I am familiar with the pop. This is different. I was done soldering and the torch handle was shut off and on my bench and I was across the room when I noticed an awful smell. I then picked up the handle and it was very warm. I turned everything off and took the the tank outside and away from the house! I thought that maybe something got into the tip and was burning out, but when it happened again I knew it was something more.
I agree with you about the learning of the little torch and all. I probably will stick with what I know; it’s worked for me this long!
Katherine

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Katherine,
I strongly encourage you to make the switch to propane or even natural gas if that is a viable alternative to what you have been using. Over my 45 years of using a torch, I have worked with all three types of fuel gas, and I prefer either natural gas or propane. Let me say before I give my reasons that I am unabashedly biased against acetylene for two reasons: It is a less stable gas than the other two, and it is a dirtier burning fuel (more sooty) than either natural gas or propane.

Rob is right. There will be an up-front cost to switching to a different system whether propane or natural gas. There will also be a bit of getting used to - say, a propane torch like a Smith Little Torch and how it behaves when you use it. But torch work is entirely about heat control (how much and what direction is the heat going), and I found in my own experience the transfer of skill did not take long to feel comfortable and confident using a different fuel gas with pure oxygen.

Here are the advantages, IMHO, of using either propane or natural gas for doing your jewelry torch work: 1.As I mentioned before, either of these are a cleaner burning gas than acetylene. This is particularly important for someone like you doing torch-fired enamel work because there will be far less chance of carbon mixing in with your enamels while firing a piece. 2. Depending upon what type of torch you use with one of these other fuel gases, you will be able to refine the size and type of flame you are using during any given torch work process. Acetylene is great for kicking out a tremendous amount of heat, but is lousy at refining a torch flame down to a much smaller/delicate flame when you are doing some real fine work. The Smith Little Torch comes with 5 different size torch tips which will allow you to work on a wide range of jewelry pieces (size-wise), and if you are working on something really large, or if you do your own casting/alloying/ingot making there is an additional rose bud tip you can pick up from any jewelry vendor that carries the Little Torch. For several years I used the Prestolite acetylene torch that Rob mentioned and I was able to get the job done, but missed using the Hoke torch I first learned on. There are several what I call 2-valve torches (one for fuel, one for oxygen) and they all come with more than one torch tip. In additon to the Little Torch, I would encourage you to look at the MECO Midget, or the Hoke torch. Now in my shop I use the Little Torch with the Paige torch tips which are another investment, but up the torch flame control to another level.

Hope this helps,
Mike

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Thank you for your response Mike. I will look into the options you have mentioned. I appreciate all your information! K

I have happily used the Acetylene/atmosphere torch for 10 years. After the line has been cleared, like after not using it for a few days, the air in the hose will mix with a bit of the acetylene as the gas fills the hose for lighting. When you light the torch, there may be a pop where the air is pulled in. Have no fear, turn the hand regulator on the torch off, and try lighting again. The pop seems to be due to insufficient gas in the line to remain lit. Usually takes me 2-3 times then all is well. No problem when I have not used the torch for one day. Quick light. Happy soldering. By the way, I have never had a soot problem!

I still have my B tank acetylene torch, after nearly 50 years at the bench, but these days mostly I use it for copper plumbing.
Working for and in retail shops for most of my career, I have learned to use whatever torch and gas is available.
Acetylene/Air, Hoke ( nat. or prop.), Smith.
Laser to my left, now, plus the Smith on my right, on my own small home based shop, is my preference.
(As a chef I occasionally take cooking classes from says about cooking, a skilled chef can cook on a hot rock)
I am pretty sure I could still solder and cast with that old Acetylene Air torch, but I like the small Smith torch with the new Paige tips I recently added.
Once, quite long ago now a shop I was in lost their natural gas source while I was doing a RUSH sizing, and I was able to complete the job using the alcohol lamp and brass blow pipe that I had been required to learn while training at Bowman Tech, back in 75.
Could I do that today? Not without effort, but craftspeople created amazing work with less, and I am perrty sure that somewhere deep inside, such a skill is still lurking, waiting to be awakened.

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I second the LittleTorch and Paige tips. I now mostly use the Meco for melts. I still us the EZ torch for annealing. Still need some way to melt brass and copper…Rob

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The heat and smell you described from the hand piece was common in the boatyard I worked in. We did not mess with it. We sent the torch off to be rebuilt or replaced depending on the economy of the situation. I still have the Presto Lite I learned on. More as a relic than another purpose. And the pop was always evident when turning off the torch

I have an EZ torch I use only for annealing. Some how it blows out not quite enough heat with too much force for soldering the way I do. But for annealing it is excellent. I don’t do any bench enameling to say yea or nay but I assume it will have too much pressure and blow away the enamel powder.

I will second or third the Smith Torch and Paige tips as well. But be prepared for a learning curve. I am into my little torch for three years and am still learning its intricacies. I do appreciate the lightness of the torch and I can use it like a pen.

Don Meixner

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Thanks Don, I agree it is nothing to be messed with! The first time I thought it was just a fluke. The second time was the last time I have used it! K

Hi Katherine,
There is a solution for most tanks. A flash back arrestor!
I can explain what has happened to you and it may not involve a faulty torch.
What you have experienced is flash back where the flame follows the acetylene back through the torch tip into the handle. It is caused by not turning the torch off properly so there is some gas leaking and usually if there is a small flame remaining it follows the gas toward the source back into the handle. It is pretty obvious when it happens because it has a sweet rather unpleasant smell. .If you smell it happening immediately turn off the gas at the tank and also the knob on the handle. Be careful because it may be hot so don’t touch it without protecting your hands. Let everything cool down. What can be very dangerous is it can also travel into the hose and down to the regulator and possibly the tank if not detected. A flash back arrestor is a small brass part that can be installed near the regulator connection. It is a safe guard. Look it up in a tool supply catalogue. In my experience it does not happen often if you are careful about turning off the torch carefully. If you catch it right away it doesn’t ruin the handpiece. When it all cools try lighting the torch and it will probably be fine. If in doubt go the a jewelry tool supplier or plumbing place and get them to check the torch to see it is operating properly. Don’t get rid of the torch unless obvious damage has been done. Always get it checked if you feel something is wrong and ask about controlling the pressure of the gas. That may be part of the problem if you are unsure your torch works. Ask! Learn how things work so you are prepared and know about safety. I like soldering with acetylene or propane and air. The air comes into the tip at the bottom though round holes on most torches and the size of flame is controlled by the amount of fuel and the pressure. Propane is a cleaner fuel but more dangerous because it is a heavy gas and if it leaks it can remain and not mix with the air in the room.

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We’ve been using “Little Torch” for many years, replacing components as needed. Sounds like a gas leak inside the handle, which could be a crimp, or a hose deteriorating. At the very least, I’d take it apart, replace hoses, make sure your blowback valves are good.(( On the other hand you could probably find a complete Little Torch kit from Stuller, or similar, which would include everything, except, maybe, the blowback valves. Oh, and , not to be a wise guy, but I’d do this, “yesterday”, and not use it until fixed or replaced. (Never blown anything up, but, as they say, “don’t ask how I know this”…). The torch is often one of the handiest, and adaptable items we use; but it’s still a fire in your hand.

Hello Katherine, Your posting is valuable to other forum users from a safety point of view. The only way combustion could take place within the torch body is if fuel is present in the torch. For fuel (Acetylene) to be present there must be a leak in the torch valve or you did not turn it off completely. Your tuition is the best indicator here. The torch is 50ish years old and does not owe you anything. If you change to propane or butane you might miss the heat acetylene produces. If you are enameling or annealing large pieces the propane and butane might not do it for you. Best to test these pieces of equipment first if you can. The issue of acetylene producing smoke is easily overcome by introducing a small amount of oxygen before igniting. I don’t know about the acetylene/air mix. I have all three fuel sources and prefer oxy/acetylene for its versatility. Keith

Thank you Keith and others who have replied to this post. I agree the torch owes me nothing! I am leaning to stay with what I know and get a new torch handle. Mine is an ASCO handle and it is very comfortable and just a nice piece of work. It is all brass and very well made as the longevity implies. I have so appreciated the input on this thread and I hope it has been and will be helpful for others.

I have a very old (maybe 40 years) Little Torch that has become my go to after equipping it with Paige tips. I am trying to use it to do all of my heavy soldering to include soldering multiple 6" long pieces of 8 gauge wire side by side using propane and O2 to see where I might need to step up to my Meco. I am not replacing my Meco, I still use it to do melts with the new Paige melting tip. I managed to damage a couple regular Paige tips using them for melts. This discussion has gotten me to wonder when it is time to replace a Little Torch handle and hose. I have never had a problem with it or replaced the hose set. They aren’t that expensive, I am just wondering how they might have changed over time like the old Hoke design has. There are also a lot of what appear to be knock offs of the Little Torch on the market. Since many of us use the Little Torch, I would be interested in hearing how knock offs might differ from the real thing. Thanks…Rob

Hi,

i once had a leak in one of my hoses
(smith little torch, O2 propane).

i had lit the torch, and the handle and hose sort of burst into a 3-5” flame ball of sorts (i am goong on memory…it ws quite fast)

it startled me
i instinctively dropped it to the floor
the flame extinguished
i shut off the tanks

then i called rio support and they had me unscrew the handle to reveal the inside hose and connections
and test the connection and whole hose for leaks with the soapy water product.

i did not realize i could/ should test the (fiber hose shealth/ hose) with the liquid product

it immediated indicated a leak in the hose.

i ordered a replacement and called rio grande and they walked me throught the installation process and again how to test the system.

i love Rio Grande and their tech support!

julie

Hi Rob,
As you can see from another post in this thread, someone else had a hose leak on a Smith LT. I had one and had let it lay in a box out in the garage for several years…but nowhere near 40 years…maybe 5 or 10? Anyway, it turned out that my hose developed a leak and a local jewelry supplier helped me replace the hose, which just require some crimp fittings at the ends of the hose. What I did not realize was that the hose, under those nice colored red and green braided covers, is just plastic hose. Mine had gotten all hard and yellowed and developed a leak. IDK if you have the same hose or not…I’d be surprised if you did, because I can’t see a plastic hose (like you use for your aquarium pump) lasting that long…but, anyway, there is it, FWIW, the LT hoses I know about are plastic and probably should be replaced, or at least tested, from time to time, as the hose does age and I guess eventually leak. I was shocked that it wasn’t something more permanent. I eventually replaced it with an old Hoke with all the tips, down to the small hypodermics. I think I actually like the Hoke better. I use a larger size plastic hose with the Hoke, but at least it is not covered, so I can see its condition. I’d like to have a rubber hose, but haven’t found one to fit yet. The old LT is kicking around here somewhere, I guess it’s back in the box in the garage…YMMV…-royjohn

I bought my Little Torch back in the late `80’s or early 90’s. The original hoses failed within the first five years. Being too cheap to spend (at that time) $40 for a pair of hoses that may only last another ~5 years I used drip irrigation tubing. That tubing is still on my torch and is working great.
I guess if it can hold up outdoors at ~30 psi water pressure it can last pretty good indoors at ~5 psi (and the acetylene/propane hasn’t seemed to cause any deterioration.)
I’ve also used drip tubing on my Meco torch with no problems.

– alonzo

royjohn… I did a little research and, based on what is stamped on my torch, it is a Tescom Corporation product. Tescom appears to have predated Smith and was acquired by Smith at some time in the past. I also found some discussions about how to find a fake Little Torch, and the most telling attribute is how the woven sheath is attached to the tubing. If the sheath moves, it is a fake. That’s it for now. My Little Torch continues to work just fine and I will leave well enough alone until it doesn’t. Thanks for your input…Rob

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On the advice of my mentor nearly twenty years ago, I use aquarium “bubbler” tubing. It has worked these twenty years past. I inherited his old torch which is a Tescom, that I believe he bought in the late fifties or perhaps the early sixties. The Tescom still has the aquarium tubing as I inherited it, so no idea how old the tubing is.

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