What's the safest gas?

Hi everyone. I rent an apartment and currently use a butane torch but I find myself needing more heat. I don’t want to use propane because it’s heavier then air and can explode. I also don’t want acetylene because i have pets and too much soot. Any clean gases that dissipates quickly?

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You have ruled out the two most common gases. You are left with helium, butane, NG and MAP. You might consider a 1lb. propane “camp stove” cylinder and O2 generator type system…Rob


What you can use will also depend on what your city’s fire ordinances are and what your lease, or condo rules, may allow or prohibit.
As Rob says, your best bet is 1lb propane cylinders and an O2 generator.

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An air acetylene torch (plumbers torch) doesn’t make soot.

And since you are already using a gas (butane) that’s 2.006 times heavier than air, switching to propane (1.55 times heavier than air) won’t be any worse in that regard. --alonzo


Yes, I’ve used one for forty years and I have a basement studio.

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Thank you everyone for your responses! It’s really nice to hear this feedback and tips! I’m deciding to go with camp size propane and oxygen concentrator with a smith little torch! I

I wow I didn’t know that! I’m using the creme brulee torch didn’t now butane was so heavy! Even the 5x refined ones?

Whatever you do, check with your landlord and insurance agent first. Good luck…Rob

I’m in a similar situation and after doing some reading, I’ve decided that for me, butane is the only feasible option. Everything else carries warnings about NEVER storing it indoors, and I don’t have outdoor storage here. Plus we have gas appliances so there are pilot lights. When I’ve needed extra heat I’ve had success with two larger butane torches (one in each hand, makes you feel pretty badass too), and if things truly get beyond what those can handle, there’s a shared studio space local to me that has air/acetylene torches and sells day passes in addition to monthly memberships.


I have had appliances. What are piolrt lights?

Older gas appliances maintained a very small flame called a pilot light. When the main gas valve opened, the pilot light would light the main flame. The pilot light stay lit regardless of what the gas valve is doing, so it could ignite gas from another source such as a leaking gas cylinder…Rob


I use butane inside with small torches and a bigger creme brûlée torch. I have two other torches I use outside. When I’m unable to work outside due to environmental reasons or I’m too lazy to set all that up for one job I use a hot plate when I need extra heat. It works well for me. I like my creme brûlée style but it lacks finesse for some jobs that need more heat. The hot plate fills that gap.

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Yeah, and you can get oxygen concentrators used for very cheap compared to new ones. Years ago I got one off craigslist for $50 and I’ve been using it ever since and it works great! A five-liter per minute works great with a little torch and propane for silver and gold. If you get MAP gas, which is a little hotter than propane, be prepared to have a tiny bit of soot before and after you turn on the oxygen. I use MAP most of the time because I don’t care about the soot. On the other hand, there’s not much difference in the heat developed.

Pilot lights are tiny gas flames that burn continuously. They ignite the main flame whenever the thermostat activates the main flame or when one turns on their oven or their dryer for example. The reason they are dangerous is they can ignite ANY flammable gas that has accumulated in a room. However, all types of open-air electric switches of sufficient power can do the same.

Oxygen concentrators can be left on without any danger because they simply concentrate the oxygen in the room that is already there. A propane cylinder, even a small camp type, if it leaks or you accidentally left the valve open can produce enough gas to cause an explosion in a bedroom size room. The weight of the gas shouldn’t matter because natural convection currents in a room would most likely mix the gas with the ambient oxygen in the room. And if not the boundary layer would be at risk of ignition if an ignition source were at that level.

I’m like you. I don’t take risks! :grin: Even when the risks are very small. I don’t swim in the ocean for example. :yum: The nice thing about oxygen concentrators is they’re usually on wheels so you could roll it to a balcony when not in use, or store it in your bathroom and just keep the ventilation fan on in there. Just make a means for attaching your propane cylinder to it along with your little torch.

After years of using this butane torch without incident, it leaked a few days ago! I use it for soldering and I had just filled it and used it for a quick solder. I think the on/off valve may have developed an intermittent leak. I was sitting about 3 feet away from it and didn’t smell the butane. I went to use it again about a half-hour later and it was empty. The nice thing is, it doesn’t hold enough gas to cause an explosion. I keep the butane can outside to keep that as a nonissue. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I’ve had two serious accidents - if you want to call them that – using the allegedly safe butane chefs torches. They are not made for extended use as one needs to in jewelry making. So the portion of the torch that controls the flow of the gas isn’t that “durable” and is t made for extended “on” times - like to solder a silver ring. On two occasions, with two different torches, (I say 2 because I didn’t know about this issue until after the second one) the gas did not completely turn off and the flame kept burning invisibly down the canister part. I burned part of my wall and I burned myself.
After the second incident I called the company and actually spoke with the owner/distributor and he basically chewed me out, and gave me the information above. He gave me a refund but admonished me to never use these tools for jewelry making again.
(Also, butane seeps out slowly through any stored canister that it is in. So the five cans of 5X that I had bought to use with these torches, were completely empty within six months and I had never even opened them. Kind of frightening… Don’t you think?)

These incidents were significant enough for me to never ever ever use a butane torch again.
I use an air acetylene system now. I know I’m limited as to where I can use it - But I know numerous people that use them in a corner of their house, garage, or basement, without problems at all. As long as there’s sufficient ventilation/exhaust. I test my connections and my hose monthly and in 10 years, I have not had any issues.

It seems that the fear of “gas” that a lot of people have comes from natural gas hook ups, you know, the kind that you see on the news that blows up peoples’ houses.

I would never use natural gas. It scares the hell out of me b/c, as a former volunteer firefighter, I have seen first hand how dangerous it is. The same with propane. No way. Not for me. I’ll stick with acetylene. Keep your B container upright in a secure container with the top portion not directly under where you solder and your face would be, check hoses on a regular schedule. A B canister costs me $50 and lasts about 2 years.
The fire inspector in the town where I have my studio has no problem with me having acetylene inside the building. He said it would be a completely different story if it was propane. No way-not allowed.




I’m sorry you have had such troubles with your torch system. The system that you moved up to (Smith or Prestolite) offer far more torch nozzles to expand what you do. If you have any fears, then it is time to consult others about what they use and how they use it.
I have used the dreaded oxy/ nat gas for decades. I have 2 safety valves on the gas and the tank shut off for the oxy. With a hoke torch and set of smaller tips, you can do really close work. Friends have moved away from nat. gas supply and have switched to oxy/ propane. They get the same result.
The system is hot enough for soldering, but with a change of torch, can be ready for casting.

Lori - I saw your concern about natural gas. I’ve used it for 30 years. I’ve had the connections installed by a licensed pipefitter. I have installed a G-tec concentrator so that I can employ a flash back valve. This is the required installation for downtown NYC jewelers. The G-tec raises the pressure so that the flash back valve works. As you know, street pressure natural gas doesn’t have enough pressure to make such a valve work.

As Judy says, every professional jewelry workshop in NYC is plumbed with natural gas.
Acetylene is left to the welders.

The 5x refined just refers to how hard the manufacturer worked to get the impurities out of the butane it doesn’t impact the nature of the gas

Lori I use an acetylene b tank as well chosen ultimately bc my home insurance would only allow acetylene or the disposable propane tank. I can’t begin to count the number of people some who I would think should be considered “knowledgeable” who were shocked that this was my insurance company’s position. It’s nice to know your fire captain agrees with my insurance company :wink: