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Torches: ESAB or Little Torch?


#1

I’m looking at buying a torch outfit, and planning to go for
oxy-acetylene. I’m debating between the ESAB Prest-o-Lite and the
Smith Little Torch. You can see the ESAB outfit heRe:

http://tinyurl.com/4u4enl

I was wondering if anyone could give me their thoughts? The ESAB
seems like a heavier duty torch, it’s certainly bigger than the
Little Torch.

Paul Anderson


#2

Paul, I just went through the process of determining which torch to
buy. IThere are many opinions about which is the best for what.

I have an old Prestolite torch–which is supposed to be good for
silver work due to its non-oxidizing flame.

But I had some difficulty with overheating items --possibly because
the torch was not quite hot enough for some jobs. In those cases I
heated the item repeatedly, and ended up with serious firescale
problems. There were also many times when my joints simply did not
take. As everything was clean I blame this on the acetelyene fuel.

The consensus was that propane was a cleaner fuel and when used with
oxygen, hot enough to even cast small objects.

So I purchased a Meco torch from Otto Frei–which is supposed to be
a fine, well balanced easy-to-use torch. However, now there are some
difficulties with using the fuel inside a building.

That’s my two cents for now. Good luck with the process.

Cheers,
Carol


#3

IMHO, it depends on what you are looking to do. Will you be doing
pieces with more mass? What type(s) of metal will you be working? I
have had my Little torch for a couple of years and like it a lot. I
have not used any of the other units, but to date, it has done what
I’ve needed it to do. I like the fact that it has five tip sizes
which are easy to change. Do you have an outlet near you where you
can see, touch, feel the torch in your hand? I like the Little torch
for its’ small size and it “feels” good in my hand. Think to the
future about what you intend to create and go accordingly. Also, this
thread has been discussed multiple times in the past so you may want
to check out the archives. Good luck. peace.


#4
I was wondering if anyone could give me their thoughts? The ESAB
seems like a heavier duty torch, it's certainly bigger than the
Little Torch. 

It depends on the kind of work you are doing. With the majority of my
work done in silver and some pieces big like belt buckles the size of
a canned ham (just kidding but sometimes really big) I prefer the
bigger prest-o-lite. If you’re going to do smaller work the little
torch will work for you. Both will work on the other extreme (i.e.
Prest-o-lite with a #1 tip works for small precision work).

Rick Copeland
rockymountainwonders.com


#5
I'm looking at buying a torch outfit, and planning to go for
oxy-acetylene. 

You don’t say what sort of work you’re doing. But for my money, most
jewelry scale work is best done with torches running something other
than oxy-acetylene, which is just very very hot, and rather dirty.
The smith Little Torch, or it’s several imitators, are small enough,
with tiny tips and resulting tiny flame sizes, that they end up being
an exception to that opinion. But a larger torch than that, with o/a
is just asking for overkill. I’d consider a prestolie acetylene only
torch, which doesn’t use an oxygen tank. These, which includes also
the somewhat better quality smith Handi Heat, are wonderful for
silver work in particular, and their larger tips are big enough for
even modest sized work with holloware, not just jewelry. But with
oxy/acetylene, anything other than those tiny torches is just
overkill, and to me, is a welding torch, not a jewelers torch.

I'm debating between the ESAB Prest-o-Lite and the Smith Little
Torch. You can see the ESAB outfit heRe: 

Well, see above. The little torch is a wonderful, well built tool.
That ESAB torch looks like it would be right at home in an auto body
shop cutting off mufflers and welding stuff. Now, you can still do
jewelry with it. Heck, you can do jewelry with a flame thrower if you
can master the skill. But I’m thinking you’ll find that large torch
to not be quite as useful as you’d like for classic jewelry work.
Just too hot, and it’s pretty dirty to work with.

And you should also give serious consideration to other fuel gasses.
There’s not much of anything in jewelry you cannot do with natural
gas or propane, with oxygen. Propane requires attention to safety
issues, and not everyone has natural gas available in their workshop.
But you can get it in tanks, the same as acetylene (well, not the
identical tanks, but you get the idea). Either of these would give a
cleaner burning gas that’s better for both soldering and metal
melting. With the little torch, the smallest tips aren’t useful, and
the largest ones might be small for the heavier jobs, but for much
jewelry work, it’s a wonderful combo. Or consider something like the
meco midget torch. Tips are available that go down to very tiny
sizes, as well as large enough so you can melt a half ounce of
platinum at the bench… A very versatile torch. For more money, the
"Swiss torch" sold by Frei and Borel is a wonderful though pricey
tool, and Rio now sells one that is cheaper, and looks about like a
copy of the Swiss torch (or it might just be they’re selling it
cheaper)

In summary, if you’re doing blacksmithing, iron work, tool making,
auto body work, that larger welding style torch will be perfect. If
you’re doing delicate jewelry, it won’t do the job, I don’t think…

Peter Rowe
Seattle


#6

presto-lite over smith gets my vote between those 2, However, look at
the Hoke, and Mecco- both are great torches. I have used Hokes for
years and the only complaint there is they are more designed for
people with med-large hands! Otherwise solid and anti-problematic.
Mecco is also a nice torch, and for air /fuel I like pur-ox as one
needs no O2 tanks…and for most silver work they are better than
adequate. I am unimpressed with smith though overall ( have one
sitting on a shelf), and the gentec is an exact replica built
sturdier and costs far less, with same warranty… FDJtools / Roseco
/ Rosenthal’s / Contenti / harbour Freight(only gentec) / Kassoy /
Otto Frei / GRI /, etc carry Hoke, gentec and Some of that list carry
Mecco as well…Hoke compared to Preato-lite’s cost less and work as
well if not better, and will last forever - barring natural
disasters!

rer


#7

Paul

This set is to big, it will do well for sculptures, working on your
car, but if you buy it, plan on also buying the Smith Little Tourch
to put on the end of the hoses for jewelry sized work.

Terry


#8

Hi Paul,

I’ve been using the Smith Little Torch for about twelve years now. I
run it on LP and oxygen. It is light weight, of very simple
construction and is much more robust than it’s toy-like appearance
would lead you to believe. With the stock tip selection you can do
virtually any jewelry size work (short of casting) from soldering
ultra-light weight chain to fusing heavy platinum shanks. You could
probably also do one piece castings with the rose-bud tip, although
I’ve never tried.

The Smith’s controllability is what makes it such a great torch.
Because of it’s small size, round shape and the light weight hoses,
you can move it anywhere you need to while holding it in two fingers,
using a little finger on the edge of the bench as a stabilizer and a
knuckle and thumb to adjust the gas and O2 all while keeping the
flame exactly where you want it on the piece. I don’t think you’ll be
able to do that with the Prestolite unit or any system that uses 1/4
inch two-line gas and oxygen lines. The hoses are just too heavy and
inflexible to be able to allow such easy one-handed control of heat,
flame profile, position and direction.

Although I’ve not used the Prestolite unit, it looks to me like it
would be overkill for all but the heaviest jewelry work. You didn’t
say what kind of work you’ll be doing with it. If you plan on doing
bronze sculpture or silver service type work the Prestolite might be
just the ticket as it appears to be designed for plumbing and similar
type work requiring large amounts of heat over a broad area. But if
you plan on soldering earring posts to 24 gauge silver sheet, the
Little Torch on LP would be my recommendation. Insert the standard
disclaimer here.

I recommend LP over acetylene mainly because it’s cleaner, cheaper
and less likely to cause contamination. You can use it to cook on a
grill, so you know it burns clean. I never tried grilling a steak
over acetylene, but I’d imagine it would taste kind of like cooking
over gasoline. Can’t be good for a clean pit-free solder joint, imho.
I know some will say LP doesn’t get as hot, but when mixed with
oxygen in the right torch, LP will melt three ounces of platinum in
less than twenty seconds. So unless I’m welding on a boat trailer it
gets plenty hot enough for me.

Dave - in North Carolina, where spring has sprung, the lakes are full
and fishing season is almost here (hence the boat trailer
reference).


#9

I have been using a Prestolite torch for over 30 years, and it is a
good, reliable torch. The torch handle is quite ergonomic, and
lightweight. It comes with several different sized tips. I use #3 for
almost everying—tiny little fine silver bezels, and pendants up to
about 2 inches (l8 gauge). When necessary, I use the anealling torch
which really puts out a lot of hot flame, and I use the largest tip
for casting. I have even used the small tip for fine delicate
filigree work.

Aside from getting some new hoses, the rest of the torch and
regulators are in great condition.

Alma Rands


#10

Hello Dave,

Come on now dave you know the German MicroTorch is the best torch
out there! It’s time you started spending some of all that retail
cash your making over there. Just kidding. You are “the Man” I will
say that although I am still young in years regarding torch stuff I
am soooooo happy with my G.M.T.

Bowing deeply to mr. Phelps

Gassho
Karl


#11
Although I've not used the Prestolite unit, it looks to me like it
would be overkill for all but the heaviest jewelry work. You
didn't say what kind of work you'll be doing with it. If you plan
on doing bronze sculpture or silver service type work the
Prestolite might be just the ticket as it appears to be designed
for plumbing and similar type work requiring large amounts of heat
over a broad area. 

Granted I work mostly in silver so take what I say with as many
grains of salt as you wish. I’ve been using a pres-to-lite since the
70’s. Not the same one mind you. I’ve replaced regulators, hoses, and
torch handles when needed. It can be a very versatile torch. I do the
bulk of my soldering with a number 3 tip. I can turn it down to a
soft birthday candle size flame for fusing bezels with sterling wire
or turn it up to an 8 inch flame for heavier work. If I’m working
with gold or doing earrings I switch to the number 1 tip. For belt
buckles I use the number one eyebrow removing flame thrower tip.

I realize the acetylene is not recommend for platinum but with the
air/gas mix being automatic by design I never get soot when I’m
lighting my torch. Except when I want to smoke an ingot mold then I
have to hold my hand around the air intake on the torch.

But if you plan on soldering earring posts to 24 gauge silver
sheet, the Little Torch on LP would be my recommendation. Insert
the standard disclaimer here. 

I solder earring posts on 28 ga bezel cups all the time. If I’m
going to do a bunch I switch to the number 1 tip. If just a pair then
I can turn the flame down on the number 3 tip.

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado
rockymountainwonders.com


#12

Hello,

Was just reading thru and thought I would add my comments regarding
Prestolite versus Smith Little Torch. I have both of these torches
at present.

I began my soldering with the Smith Little Torch (oxy/ propane)
(mostly on silver). I found I was overheating things a lot, and
burning out the solder, etc…I never felt 100% comfortable
soldering in the beginning…

Much later, I was introduced to the Prestolite (acetylene/ ambient
air) in a jewelry class. The experience changed my soldering
outlook!. I think it was easier for me to move forward in soldering,
by spending more time with the Prestolite first. (I don’t know why,
no technical reason forthcoming…)

My personal feelings are that:

  1. the Prestolite (or rather any acetylene/ ambient air torch)is a
    "softer,bushier, happier" flame, and things seem to happen just a
    wee bit slower (which in my case can be good sometimes!) For some
    reason, I prefer to use this for medium to larger type items, like a
    silver cuff bracelet. Mostly use for silver work. Mostly tip #3, and
    sometimes #4. (there is a smaller tip that I must also get soon!)

The Smith “rosebud tip” does have a broader flame, but for some
reason, I like to use the Prestolite for these applications.

  1. The Smith (or rather oxy/ propane) is a "harder, sharper, hotter"
    flame, and things seem to happen much faster. I tend to use it more
    for tiny, to small to medium sized things, when more precision
    soldering is needed. I also find it is better when I am working in
    gold…usually tip # 5, 6, 7

The Smith control knobs are well positioned to adjust the flame
while soldering, and the lightweight nature is very comfortable.

I sometimes feeling like I am wrestling a snake when I am using the
prestolite, as the rubber hose can be a bit more…obstinent…

“Flame size!”…(And Temperature!)

The largest Smith tip # 7 (and even the rosebud) flame is much
smaller/ narrower than the Prestolite #3 tip. The Prestolite # 4 tip
is even bigger/ broader!).

Most of the Smith tips have flames that are much smaller than the
smallest Prestolite tip #2a (or something like that…)

The Smith (oxy/ propane) gets much hotter than the Prestolite
(acetylene/ ambient air).

Just a few thoughts,
Best wishes to everyone,
Julie


#13

I have used a prestolite for my home studio for 30+ years. On the
job I have used Hokes and smith Little Torch. I recently decided to
get a Little Torch for home as well. My Prestolite has been a good
tool, have had the regulator repaired, and the #3 tip needs
replacing. I’ll still use it for bigger silver and such. Found a
website called cyberweld. Great price and free shipping to boot I
saved over $150. Which enabled me to get some accessories I wanted as
well. No affiliation, just a great deal. I think their prices were
pretty good on all their products

Candy in Central Oregon


#14

So there you go, Paul. Ask ten goldsmiths a question and get ten
different answers. Welcome to the fold!

The bottom line is, you gotta get heat to the piece. There are many,
many different choices available. Like I said, I’ve not used the
Prest-O-Lite torch, so I can’t say how it works for jewelry, but Rick
has, and he says go for it, it’s big-time versatile. Can’t argue that
for a second, he knows what he’s doing. The Swiss torch is a nice
piece, as are the Hoke and Meco. If your rich like Karl, go for the
German Micro Torch. I’m a tight wad and tend to stay within my
comfort zone.

Your first torch will probably not be your last, so don’t spend a
lot of time and energy worrying about which torch to get. Spend your
efforts on learning how to use it.

Any pro will tell you, it’s not which torch or gas you use, it’s
what you do with it that counts. Just take a look at some of the work
of the old masters who used alcohol lamps and blow tubes.

Bowing ever-so-slightly deeper to Mr. Linger, who has a very keen
eye for fine tools but could make some awesome stuff with an alcohol
lamp and a couple of sharpened nails if he needed to.

Dave


#15
I've been using a prest-o-lite since the 70's. Not the same one
mind you. 

I’ve said it before, too… IMO the Prestolite torch is the very best
torch a beginner could have for a reasonable price, and a real fine
torch to use until there’s a reason to get something else, like the
need for oxygen. Good old workhorse of a torch…Just about as
perfect for silver work as a torch can be, too.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#16

Amen, John! And I’ve heard from the younger sect the “Mantra” of
"the little torch" ad nauseum. It works only as far as it’s BTU’s can
reach. I use a “prest-o-lite” for a lot of my work, go to the "Hoke
when it’s needed and the hit my “micro-torch” For the hard to reach
small stuff.

Paul


#17
IMO the Prestolite torch is the very best torch a beginner could
have for a reasonable price, and a real fine torch to use until
there's a reason to get something elseIn the interest of balance,
and just because I have a different opinion 

I learned on Prestolite, and it works, but then the studio got
SilverSmith torches as well. So much better! (IMO) The flame is more
concentrated, easier to put where you want it. And a big plus,
especially for the novice, the tips are much easier to change. I
hate the coupling on the Prestolite! It also seems to have much less
tendency to go POP when turned off-- that always startles
beginners. There are a few folks at the art center where I teach who
prefer the Prestolites, but most will wait, if necessary, for the
Smiths to be available.

Noel


#18

Hi,

I use my Smith Little torch with oxy/Natural gas and am very happy I
went that route as it is very safe to use inside my studio and my
skillls have increased exponentially. I also use a G-Tec unit and the
whole outfit has more than paid itself off. I decided I wanted to be
in this for the long haul and skimping on the most important
equipment seemed like a bad idea.

All prior classroom experience had been with a big air/acetylene
torch but after roughly a year researching the options this is what I
decided on. It was awkward at first due to it’s much smaller size and
fine tuning the flame was another learning curve. All worth it
though. I work in silver, gold and copper (jewelry) and I find the
torch/fuel combo is unlimited in it’s capacity.

Good luck, I understand the confusion of so many options.

Cyndy


#19
I learned on Prestolite, and it works, but then the studio got
SilverSmith torches as well. So much better! (IMO) 

Yeah, Noel they look nice - I’ve never used one cos I went oxygen
many years back. It’s about 50% more at I. Shor, though. ($211 vs
$155). They are essentially the same torch with some different
features - moderate size, good handles and balance, gas/air, many
tips. Either one could make buckets full of jewelry for reasonable
cost…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com