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Water torches


#1

G’day; May I talk about PURE water? There has been a lot about it
recently in postings about the Water Torch. Firstly neither
distilled nor deionised water is really 100% pure. The official
definition of the process of distillation is: ‘a process whereby a
substance is converted by heat to a vapour and that vapour is
condensed back to a liquid - and in some cases to a solid’. Oh, Very
Academic, but it isn’t as simple as that. Take for instance, beer.
(thanks; don’t mind if I do) That liquid contains a multitude of
other substances, including ethyl alcohol, other acohols, esters,
aldehydes, essential oils, etc, and when one distils it, one doesn’t
get pure alcohol. Not by a long way. Many of the other things
volatilise and are recondensed with the alcohol - yes, including
several percent of water. (Actually, it is extremely difficult to
produce really pure alcohol; almost impossible to get rid of the last
percent of water.) So, when one distils nice clean (?) tap water, all
one does is remove the substances that don’t come over with the steam

  • most minerals. Many of the other things present are volatile; lots
    of organic molecules for instance, though some in very small amounts.
    So how about deionised water? Good stuff, to use in many situations
    and when done properly it is a bad electrical conductor (as Peter Rowe
    told you) In one lab where I worked, the distilled tap water had a
    conductivity of 58 K ohms per cubic centimetre. Deionised tap water
    had a conductivity of 4 Meg ohms. So, for special uses, we destroyed
    the organic material in tap water by boiling with a very powerful
    oxydising agent, before distillation, and using a long fractionating
    column (to be pretty certain) Then we passed it through a deionising
    column and the emerging water had a conductivity of 10 Meg ohms. So
    yes, it was pretty pure - but it wouldn’t stay that pure for long; it
    would quickly dissolve molecules from whatever vessel it was contained
    in. And the atmosphere. From all of which, one may conclude that
    perfectly pure 100% water is damn near impossible! (it is in fact the
    Universal Solvent) However, for most people and their purposes,
    freshly distilled or deionised water is eminently satisfactory, but if
    one really wants, one can get the best of both worlds by deionising
    distilled water - and using it straight away.

Little anecdote: My brother was an engineer on tanker ships, which
took on oil at one port, discharged it at another and took on molasses

  • using the same tanks. How did they clean the tanks? Super hot steam
    from the boilers was passed over sticks of caustic soda on perforated
    shelves in a large drum - and the resultant ‘caustic steam’ as they
    called it - emulsified the oil and cleaned the tanks. Don’t believe
    it? Well, that’s what my brother told me, (Boringly) and he was in
    charge of it. So; this shows that some inorganic substances can
    volatilise with steam. Which is why simple distillation isn’t
    sufficient for purification. But good enough for ‘water torches’.
    And so is deionisation So here endeth the lesson for which you didn’t
    ask. Cheers,-- John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ

#2

…HELP PLS!

Hi Everyone!

I was looking for a new torch set-up for my new in-condo studio, and
I foundout about “water torches,” found a great video by Rio.

I forwarded it to my husband. And without consulting me, he ordered
one for me, but not from Rio, but from an overseas company for a
heck of a lot less $$$.

needless to say, the instructions that came with the unit are pretty
much incomprehensible because they are very poorly translated into
English. There is no way to contact this company due to the language
barrier.

I am completely unsure about how to go about setting up this thing
to even try, as everything I’m finding on line is directed to the
units that cost twogrand and up.

So is there anyone out there that can help? My basic questions are:

  1. The “alcohol” flask" what is it supposed to contain? Online I
    read a very liquid flux, made of Borax and denatured alcohol. The
    instructionsthat came with the unit just say “alcohol.”

  2. The electrolyte solution: the instructions that came with unit
    say to use KOH, and everything online says use NaOH. Which is it?
    (It is also quite scary to watch the real video as they add water to
    the acid, instead of the right way:acid to water.)

  3. The Rio Videos claim that the flame should be green. The horribly
    translated 2 page translation that came with the set up I have says
    that the flame should not be great. Also there are no little tips as
    are shown in the Rio video.

I am very confused. I know there has to be others out there that
have had experience with these units - at is is based on quite old
technology.

The whole point about this is that it is far far safer to have this
set up in my condo or in a studio. I am having a very hard time
finding any place that will except a jeweler in their studios due to
the need for explosive gases (acetylene, propane, etc.) You really
have to understand that people that do not do this kind of work
don’t understand how these things work and all they focus on is the
dangerousness aspect and what they have heard about all the
accidents and explosions that have occurred that involve gas of any
kind. Thanks in advance to anyone they can offer any input.

Lori


#3

Hi Lori,

I’ve used a water torch for about 14 years and wouldn’t be without
it.

Here’s how mine is set up:

Using a clean polythene container, measure out the required amount
of distilled water for your device, then pour in the electrolyte
crystals. Stir slowly until dissolved; don’t splash. The temperature
will rise a bit, that’s normal.

Carefully pour the mixture into your device as per the meagre
instructions you have.

The “alcohol flask” is probably what my device calls the “gas
booster”. The purpose of the gas booster is to change the flame
temperature because Oxy/Hydrogen is a bit too hot for most work.

Various chemicals can be put in the gas booster; the most common is
MEK (Methyl Ethyl Ketone), which is what I use in mine.

Fill the alcohol flask with MEK (or whatever - you must use
something, even if its just distilled water, in which case the flame
temp is not reduced at all). Don’t overfill - the level rises in use.

Connect the torch.

Power the machine on and watch the indicators on your machine; one
should indicate that the power is on, and another indicates that gas
is being generated. If the torch is off then the gasgen indicator
should turn off. It should switch on if you turn the torch on. If you
use a small torch tip, the machine will be able to generate gas
faster than you can burn it, in which case the gasgen should pulse
accordingly. If the gasgen remains on when the torch is off then
there is a leak somewhere.

I hope this helps.


#4

I can answer #2 based on general chemistry - it shouldn’t matter.
the electrolyte assists in the conductivity of the fluid to allow
electricity to flow with less resistance. NaOH is a stronger base
than KOH, but they are similar…

green flame? only if it’s got metal (copper) dissolved in it


#5

From the orchid archives.

First Methyl Ethyl Ketone is not necessary in a water torch- Methyl
Alcohol is safer. Secondly,.The flame shouldn’t be orange it sounds
like you are low on electrolyte/flux. So, following your
manufacturer’s info, do some basic maintenance- if it’s been more
than 6 months since you added flux to the chamber-it’s definitely
overdue. Also if its a hydroflux welder, check for the brass
handpiece filters decomposition- replace as needed- same for the
filter in the hose line. and if the solder is burning up there can be
a number of reasons from directing the flame onto it to not preparing
the join correctly to learning to use a flux tha clarifies at about
1400 degrees to indicate that you are approaching the temp for the
solder flow (and silver to melt!)…

The alcohol is used to temper the temperature from 3300C to
2200-1900C By reducing the temperature you increase -boost- the BTU
(or calories).

In other words you get more power at a lower temperature.

I never used any kind of flux (in the booster) but feel free to do
so.

KOH (kaliumhydroxide) or better known as potassium hydroxide is a
very strong corrosive chemical component in the same way as NaOH
(natrium hydroxide) is.

The last one is a bit cheaper then KOH but both can be used. Both
chemicals create a lot of heat when added to water (exothermal
reaction) in a very short time.

Add chemical slowly to water, not and NEVER water to chemicals, use
safety equipment (gloves, goggles, pyrex container etc)

The flame is nearly invisable without the use of the alcohol
booster.

Compared with the hydrogen torche I use, the flame is more blueish
but certainly not green.

This is howmuch I know about it.

I know for sure that you can find more detailed articles around this
subject in the Ganoksin archives.

Best regards


#6

Lemel Man,

I have been looking for someone with experience with water torch. I
saw one demonstrated and the flame seemed pretty high powered, more
like an oxidizing flame one would use for high heat work. I kept
thinking it would blow any solder chips clear across the room, but I
don’t know because I didn’t actually get to try it out. Is there a
way to adjust the flame temp to soften the flame more like a
traditional torch?

Thank you for any insight you might offer.

Donna W
Huntsville, AL


#7

I’ve used water torches since they first came out in the 80s.

I love the water torch for what it does well. It’s best at highly
concentrated heat in very small places. It’s ideal for tiny chain
repair and tipping and gold or platinum soldering. It does not work
well at all on larger silver or copper pieces.

The green flame is from using solutions with flux for the “gas
booster”.

Krohn makes one. Green flame every time. I used to make my own by
just mixing denatured alcohol and acetone. I’d vary the amounts based
on the temp of flame I wanted. I still do sometimes. Never is there
any green color on the flame without the flux. I find it easier to
just buy the bottles of the fluxed flame solution from Krohn. It has
methanol, acetone, and boric acid in the solution.

It’s a great tool to have but no substitute for a good torch.

They can be made at home if you are clever. I know someone who made
his own. Though he’s a pretty smart guy who paid better attention in
school than I did, it’s not rocket science. You can find instructions
on the internet.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer


#8

Hi Donna,

First off, there is no way to adjust the flame like on a usual torch

  • the ratio of Oxy to Hyd is fixed by the way it is generated. The
    only way of adjusting the flame temperature is by changing the
    contents of the gas booster.

In practise, this is a non-problem. Although the flame is small and
intense, it doesn’t “blow” any harder than a normal torch. It
certainly doesn’t dislodge solder chips any more than my air/propane
torch (which I seldom use any more). I even use it for annealing -
but it does require care to avoid melting.

One very great advantage in having a fixed flame is that you just
switch on and light it - once you’ve decided on the torch tip there
is no adjustment to be made at all. This is extremely useful when
doing lots of separate soldering jobs.

I really missed it when it was sent away for maintenance.


#9
 First off, there is no way to adjust the flame like on a usual
torch - the ratio of Oxy to Hyd is fixed by the way it is
generated. The only way of adjusting the flame temperature is by
changing the contents of the gas booster.

That is not completely correct.

The temperature can be regulated by changing the mixture of hydrogen
and alcohol within a determined window.

Some torches are provided with a knob to regulate (+/-) the amount
of gas.


#10

I loved using a water torch while I was working out of a co-op
studio. I’d buy one to set up in my home studio if it wasn’t so darn
expensive! I also really liked the fact that it’s so easy to
operate, like lemel man said, all you have to do is change the torch
tip. Maintenance is low also and you don’t have the same safety
concerns that you have with using a propane/acelytate & oxy tank.


#11

Thank you for the info and clarification. I might look into this as
a future addition to my shop.

Best wishes,
Donna W
Huntsville, AL


#12

Thank you Paul, LemelMan, Jo and Pedro for your responses!

Greatly appreciated!!!

Glad someone else brought up the power aspect of this device. I keep
hearing conflicting stories. I’m sorry I asked before checking the
archives. I will remember to do so before eating up bandwidth next
time.

Does anyone use these for central soldering taskse I heard that
there is a double flame attachment (not the two torch model, but a
split shank tip with 2 flames) can be used - if one can be found -
for “larger tasks.” I am very much stuck as I cannot bring ANY type
of gas canisters into my new studio space. I have to use my natural
gas stove to anneal and ball wire. I work primarily in silver and
brass.

Check out the videos for these torches on Rio. the “green flame” is
highly emphasized as what is desired.

I also recently heard that a green flame means a contaminant in one
of the fluids.

BTW - these units are NOT expensive (as someone mentioned) and are
WAAAYYYY overpriced from certain US sources. You can get these for
about $150 delivered OR you can make your own - see the many
instructions online. they are basically a modified car battery.

Currently researching flame arrestor and multiple tip sizes.

Best,
Lori


#13
The temperature can be regulated by changing the mixture of
hydrogen and alcohol within a determined window. 
Some torches are provided with a knob to regulate (+/-) the amount
of gas. 

That’s really interesting; it’s certainly a more versatile setup
than mine. Who makes it/them?


#14

If the problem you have is no tanks you can get a natural gas booster
to boost the pressure off of your in house has line. Then get an
oxygen generator. Initial investment is expensive but almost no
maintenence and no buying tanks or replenishing chemicals. Plus you
can use it like a normal torch even do casting. I have a gas tec tb30
and there are videos of them cutting 1 inch thick steel with a
cutting head.

Just a thought
Richard wiegel


#15

I would like to address some concerns with the hydrogen torches.

First I would like to offer assistance in setting up your new
machine properly. Please call 1.800.545.6566 ask for Phillip in the
technical support department.

This technology has been around for quite some time, but the
technology has improved considerably over time as well. The reason
we have chosen to carry the hydrogen water torches that we do is
because of their reliability.

  1. The “alcohol” flask" what is it supposed to contain? These require
    the flux mix along with Methyl alcohol. Do not us borax in this
    chamber.

2 The electrolyte solution:

You can use either KOH or NaOH 90% purity. Two slightly different
chemicals. Both are mixed slightly differently so you may want to
check which you have before mixing.

  1. The Rio Videos claim that the flame should be green. The reason
    the flame is green is because as the water is split into hydrogen
    and oxygen and pumped through the machine the pressurized gas flows
    over the flux mix and picks up a little of this into the flame
    giving it a greenish color.

The green flame does a couple things. It makes it easier to see the
flame and also helps keep the area I am soldering cleaner by adding
a little flux during the soldering operation.

There are many benefits to having a hydrogen torch system.

  1. They are safer because you don’t have stored tanks of fuel and
    oxygen. The machine generates gives the right fuel mix on demand.

  2. Less expensive to operate. Once the chemicals are mixed up, you
    top it off with distilled water. As the flux mix is used, you will
    need to top it off as needed.

  3. You only need to change the electrolyte chemicals once per year.

  4. You never run out of propane, oxygen or acetylene at the most
    inconvenient time, say in the middle of the of a project or late at
    nite.

  5. These units have built in safety check valves and are very great
    for use in small studios and even homes or apartments.

Please be safe any time you are soldering.

Phillip Scott
Graduate Gemologist
Technical Support Specialist
Rio Grande, A Berkshire Hathaway Company
1.800.545.6566


#16

Thank you Paul, LemelMan, Jo and Pedro for your responses!

Greatly appreciated!!!

Glad someone else brought up the power aspect of this device. I keep
hearing conflicting stories. I’m sorry I asked before checking the
archives. I will remember to do so before eating up bandwidth next
time.

Does anyone use these for central soldering tasks?? I heard that
there is a double flame attachment (not the two torch model, but a
split shank tip with 2 flames) can be used - if one can be found -
for “larger tasks.” I am very much stuck as I cannot bring ANY type
of gas canisters into my new studio space. I have to use my natural
gas stove to anneal and ball wire. I work primarily in silver and
brass.

Check out the videos for these torches on Rio. the “green flame” is
highly emphasized as what is desired.

I also recently heard that a green flame means a contaminant in one
of the fluids.

BTW - these units are NOT expensive (as someone mentioned) and are
WAAAYYYY overpriced from certain US sources. You can get these for
about $150 delivered OR you can make your own - see the many
instructions online. they are basically a modified car battery.

Currently researching flame arrestor and multiple tip sizes.

Best,
Lori


#17

Lori- If you have a natural gas stove you have natural gas in your
home.

Why not use that?

Tim plumbed our entire studio off of our natural gas line. It works
dandy.

All you need is a flash back valve and a simple shut off valve to be
safe and you can use an oxygen generator for your oxy if you can’t
have bottles.

You have to use black pipe and special pipe dope for gas. It’s
pretty easy.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer
timothywgreen.com


#18

First the green flame is from the flux additive some people use in
their torch solutions set-up It is not necessary at all particularly
if you want or prefer to use your own fluxx(es) with different
operation or metals as I do I rarely set it up with their additives
(the ones sold by vendors for use with the Okai hyro-flux welder). I
use my own sodium hydroxide (lye) and ordinary denatured alcohol in
the relative chambers on the machine with as much of the fibrous
material as is necessary to insure a dry mixture when it’s lit You
will learn what i the correct amount for the ambient temperature and
humidity in your particular work space.

As for the twin flame attachment- there is one for a little torch,
like a Gentec or a Smith or that fits other torch models as well but
it is more appropriate for a piece that is to be heat evenly on both
sides of the metal (sweating something together for instance of
fairly heavy gauge materials or annealing metal that is heavy gauge
and in (well countered) enameled pieces. Other than that its a waste
of money specific to that torch. It i for precision work primarily-
it in’t deigned for large flame and if you notice some of the tip old
by vendor are plastic syringe type tip that tend to burn up when you
increase the heat and it reflect back onto your torch-it i a me! BUY
THE METAL Tips or Tip Sets ONLY-keep some of the assorted plastic-y
ones for back-ups. Getting used to your torch involves knowing the
capacity and capability of the tool including the torch and in the
case of the water torch (Okai anyway) the tips available for the
product- and in this case you do have a learning curve that differs
from any solid Oxy/Fuel torch.

You may anneal with the water torch on metals under say 22 gauge-
anything thicker than that takes more time than if you hit it with an
ordinary plumber’s torch for 10 or 15 bucks at a hardware or home
tore! Just coat the work piece well with a product like CUPRONIL,
Pripp’s or a Firecoat of some brand. I like cupronil the best for
layering a protective coating on as it sprays evenly and consistently
and is a great all around liquid flux.

As for overpriced as someone commented- its pricey but I don’t
recommend making your own unless you really know what you are doing
-which means a grasp of how-to before reading any instructions- The
Okai people are NOT easy to get in touch with at all ! ’ I Sent 7
emails in a year and no response to this day… 5 years later. I
tried going through a vendor- still nada ! So if you have questions
ask someone that actually owns one and doesn’t speculate on the unit
or its capabilities! As far as any gas in your studio a butane torch
will anneal most silvers including 80/20 reticulation, mokume gane
alloys that are already rolled into a sheet and lighter gauge golds-
forget platinum: it needs too high a temperature- but otherwise if a
lighter is “allowed” the small Bernz-o-matic model with a base will
work beautifully and doe soldering (hit an run operations) just fine.
in fact they are a great idea in any studio.

If you have any quetions feel free to contact me off lit- i may take
a day to get back to you but I will answer any questions you may have
that aren’t clear or that have not been covered to the point you
understand them…

rer


#19

HI. replying to the suggestion from Richard W. to use the natural
gas line plus an O2 tank in my condo.

This is STRICTLY forbidden by all fire codes and my insurance
company. The building’s contractor was horrified that I even asked
him. (Now he looks at me like I am crazy every time he sees me.) I
could never have this or any type of tank set-up INSIDE a condo.
Even this brick one covered from a 1900’s factory.

The ramifications of doing this would be so far reaching. and the
liability would be quite severe.

Also, when I asked the owner of the studio where I teach (he is an
MIT PhD grad - triple major.) he was shocked and said natural gas
should NEVER be used in such a manner. It is inconsistently mixed
and dirty (I can tell you that without a degree! My stove flames
vary from bright orange to brilliant green on a regular basis).

If it was propane - that is a different story.

Looks like I will have to do my work w/o soldering and then trek to
the studio in Boston once a month and solder everything. UGH. (I
have medical issues - I can’t go much more often.)

The studios here in my new area are all paranoid and will not accept
a jeweler that uses flame into their buildings. I am pretty bummed
out about this.

:frowning:
Sad Lori


#20

You’re telling me you couldn’t use a plumbers propane torch in your
apartment to fix something or a little camp stove. They both use
small propane bottles. I think you’re mistake was asking. Get a
little torch with the small propane and oxygen bottles and never
bring it up to anyone in the building again. I don’t know how you’re
going to get rid of fumes though unless you can keep a window open
some.