Which torch do you use?

Greetings all:

The thread about ‘where’s the hottest part of the flame?’ got me
thinking about torches, and all the various torches I’ve used over
the years. Everything from a mouth blowpipe, to oxy-hydrogen and
lasers, and all sorts of odd things in between.

So, now I’m curious: what are people mostly using these days? I know
there are a lot of Hokes, Mecos and B-tank torches out there, but
I’m not sure what all else is floating around. What’re you using?
Is it the same rig you trained with? If not, why? What do you like
about it? Any pet peeves?

I’m mostly curious because I’ve noticed something: once you get out
of school, (and start teaching) you get to know your own particular
setup very well, but it’s easy to lose track of how the rest of the
world is changing, and what new tricks are floating down the stream.
So, I seek new enlightenment.

Brian Meek.

PS I guess I should start off: At school: soldering with oxy/natural
gas via small Victor welding handles, casting with Oxy/Hydrogen via
big welding handle, w/ rosebud. (and some B-tank torches of various
flavors, and a couple of oxy/acet mini-torches.) In studio: Goss
B-tank torch (which has a nicer gasket setup than the prestolites,
IMHO), Oxy/Acet ‘little torch’, One of those air/bottled NG torches
that use the full bottle pressure. (Can’t remember the name at the
moment, but it’s reasonably new on the market.) I bought that one to
experiment. Still not sure what I think of it. Would be nice for
road-show gigs, though.

I was trained on a prestolite acetylene torch, and yes… that is
what I bought for my studio, just because that is what I knew. Used
it for several years, and found it very frustrating for delicate
work. Great at melting things though!

Took a workshop at Monnda Welch’s studio in NC last spring. Monnda
has Little Smith Oxy/Propane and I fell madly in love. Bought one
and now use both in my studio. Mostly the Little Smith, which has a
lovely tiny flame that goes just where I want it and solders
beautifully (when it doesn’t it is me, not the torch!). Sometimes,
though, I find I still want the big prestolite flame, depending on
what I am doing. So I have both ready to go.

The pain for me with the Little Smith is that the propane must be
kept outside, and my gas company says I can’t legally pipe the stuff
into the studio in SC (that is how Monnda has hers set up). So I have
to lug the dad blamed tank in and out every day. Pain in the patooty.

Bought my Little Smith from Rio, and they have been fantastic with
follow up support and advice as I have needed it. Can’t recommend
them enough for that reason - really great support on all their

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio


What're you using? Why? Is it the same rig you trained with? If
not, why? What do you like about it? Any pet peeves? 

I work with Acetylene/Air. At school I used Acetylene/Oxy but when I
left, I worked only in silver, copper, and brass, so settled for a
simple Acetylene/Air torch and have grown to love it over the years.
I like having only one tank to take care of - it’s relatively safe
as gases go - never had any problems with it. No pet peeves. I
learned early on to solder with a large tip so rarely have problems.


Okay, I will buy in.

I do most of my soldering with my Home Depot “BernzOmatic”
rechargeable butane torch. I use it for like jump rings and small
jobs I don’t need a lot of heat.

My next step up in torches is to my Smith’s “Little Torch” using oxy
/ acetylene. I have the four small tips that come with it and the
rosebud. It gives me the heat I need for any jewelry soldering jobs.
I like the control. I was even using it for smelting my silver for
casting using the rose bud tip.

The last torch I sue is a Harbor Freight oxy / acetylene set. I
primarily use the smaller tip for smelting for casting.

I am sure there is nothing new in my selection. I can go to from
just enough heat to plenty of heat to how hot do you want to go?

I will be looking for more suggestions as well.

Ken Moore

Hi Brian,

Do you use the Goss B to melt with? How much metal can it melt?

Do people use the Hoke for melting, or just for soldering? I have
one, but I couldn’t find a rose bud tip anywhere for it. Someone
suggested using it for melting without any tip on it, but that
didn’t sound very wise to me.

At present, I’m sticking with my big Craftsman cutting torch for
melting. Makes short work of anything in the crucible.

Larry Heyda

I am self-taught and started with a Smith Little Torch,
oxy/acetylene. A couple of years ago I was able to use a Silver
Smith, acetylene/ air. I would like to have one for larger pieces
but still rely on the Little Torch for daily use. I’m sure that if I
had learned with another type I would prefer that kind. Too bad there
isn’t a place where we could “try beforewe buy”.

Bobbie Horn

What're you using? Why? Is it the same rig you trained with? If
not, why? What do you like about it? Any pet peeves? 

I learned on a PrestoLite. Then the studio got a Smith (also
Acet/air). I used a Little torch some. In my own studio, I got a
Smith, because I liked the smaller, hotter flame more than the
Prestolight, which I hate because changing the tips is annoyingand
awkward and the flame too soft and bushy. Also, I found a Smith

I took a class at Revere and used a Meco with natural gas/oxy. I
fell in love. Much more versatile-- everything from a tiny, hot
flame to big, soft, bushy one-- we used them in class for fusing by
taking the tip off altogether and using just the pipe. My Smith just
wasn’t great for fusing. So I bought the Meco and use it for almost
everything, with propane.

I also bought a butane hand-held to see what that can do, which is
not a lot, but it is handy for small jobs if I don’t want to waste
the gas turning the Meco on then draining it for some tiny thing.
Students always ask about the hand-helds, so I need to be familiar
with it, but it’s a poor substitute.

Pet peeves? My Meco has an oddity I’ve never tried to address-- I’ve
just lived with it. After I turn on the gas and the oxy, I have to
keep turning up the oxy for a few seconds. The pressure goes down by
itself for a little bit. Faulty regulator? I don’t know, and I
should, I guess, have done something about it when it was new… But
if anyone knows why this happens and how I can fix it, that would be
one less aggravation in my life!


Hi, Brian.

I’m not sure about “new tricks floating down the stream,” but we have
a simple setup here that works well. For three of us in the studio,
we share two torch setups: a Little Torch (I have five tips) with
oxy/propane, and a Smith air-acetylene with only three tips. Simple,
less is more…


I'm not sure what all else is floating around. What're you using?

Geez, Brian, another can of worms… ;<}

My very first torch was my father’s Bernzomatic - made 3 or 4 things
with it, and I have one at home for plumbing.

I made about 25,000 pieces of silver with a prestolite
(air/acetyline) Then I spent about 25,000 hours with a Meco in my
hand - oxygen/natural gas IMO, those two torches can’t be beat for
their purposes. Then I had a Smith Little torch for a long time, till
it wore out and I replaced it with: “The Swiss Torch”, which is, IMO
the best single torch one can buy. Mine is on oxygen/natural gas,
and it will go down to mini-torch flame and up to bigger than the
Meco can do, all with one handle. In addtion to that we also have a
standard oxy/acetyline welding rig for that big kick - even a
cutting torch, which I never use. Victor isn’t probably the best,
but I’ve always had good luck with them for the light duty stuff I
do with it…


Yes, there are lots of torches out there, and like you, I can’t keep
track of all of them.

However, I do have my favorites. Most commercial shops I’ve worked
in over the years have had Hoke torches, powered by natural gas and
oxygen. Now with the quick-change, hypo-type tips made for them, they
make a beautiful sharp flame, from super tiny to huge. Sometimes I’ll
leave the tip off the adapter to get a big flame to solder larger
silver pieces. However, I’ve noticed that Hoke torches are not made
nearly as well as they used to be, and it is nearly impossible to
find good ones available. Our studio at UCSD has these torches on our
workbenches. I also own a Meco Midget torch, all polished brass, and
it is my shop favorite, although I prefer the Hoke’s quick-change
tips. At my Hillcrest studio, I needed to be able to make platinum
and palladium ingots, and natural gas just wasn’t hot enough.
Although half my studio torches (Hokes) run off natural gas/ oxygen,
the other half are run off of propane/oxygen.

For safety reasons, my propane/oxy torches are run off those little
1 lb. camping cylinders and bottled oxygen. I simply take those
little propane cylinders home and refill them from a big 5 ga. tank
at home. With the propane, it is cheap, clean, and very hot. No
problem melting or soldering platinum. I really like this set-up.

In both studios, I also have acetylene Prestolite torches for ingot
pouring and annealing. They are so easy to use, and practical. Oh, I
should also mention “The Terminator” in our UCSD casting room.
Several years ago, we purchased a German-made forced air and propane
casting torch. When it arrived and we unwrapped it, it was 18 in.
long, chrome plated, and looked like a high-tech weapon of some kind!
It was immediately nicknamed “the Terminator”, and is used for all
our centrifical casting. It has a cooler flame than acetylene/oxygen,
and much cleaner.

Lighting the Terminator up always gets everyone’s attention, but it
works just great.

As far as “the Little Torch” is concerned, despite all the
conversation about how great it is, you won’t see one in my shop. Why
is that, you suppose?

Jay Whaley

I'm not sure what all else is floating around. What're you using?

Most all from an alcohol blow pipe; butane, propane, and acetylene
atmospheric; nat gas and compressed air; oxy propane and acetylene.
No H2 or laser yet. An experiment long ago casting bronze with cow
shit… defiantly not recommended :slight_smile:

Present set-up is oxy/acetylene, oxy/prorpane (one at a time) and
acetylene/air. Bernzomatic propane if I really run out of gas, and
the blow pipe. Learn how to solder and just about anything which gets
up to 2000 F with enough BTUs will do the trick.

I have used whatever was there or could be dragged in. Over the
years I have developed a fondness for damned hot high BTU point
torches. Not a good choice for everyone but good for a warm feeling
in my heart and hands. A preferred torch is very personal but almost
anything which gets hot with enough BTUs will work.

It is not rocket science although a LOX and liquid H2 rocket motor
might be fun to play with on cheap sizings.

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing

Greetings all:

Many thanks for the replies, you’ve given me much to ponder.

So far, it seems that yes, there are a number of Meco’s and Hokes
floating about, although I didn’t know about the new Hokes being
sub- par. Thanks for the warning.

There also seem to be a number of people using mini-torches of
various stripes, along with the omnipresent acet/air B-tank torches.

To answer a couple of questions: no, I don’t use the B-tank torch to
melt with. It was one of my first torches, so I’m very comfortable
with it. I tend to use that for almost everything, from smallish
(ring- shank sized) soldering, all the way up to annealing &
soldering on raised vessels. I actually like that big bushy flame,
but then again, I’m used to it. The smaller tips are sharper, and
there are a couple of older (hard to find) small tips for it, along
with a couple of huge tips that are uncommon as well. I’ve got one
that must have a bore of nearly half an inch.

For casting (at home) I use an old “victor” cutting head. Much more
heat-resistant than a rosebud. (I seem to remember that there’s a
difference in the relative size of the oxy/acet input orifices
between rosebuds and cutting heads that makes the cutting heads a
little better for melting as well, but lord only knows where I’m
remembering that from.)

Now for Jay’s question about why he won’t have a mini-torch. My
guess is that it would depend on which version. The Acet/Oxy version
can spit out a lot of soot during startup if you’re not quick to get
it mixed right. So, he might be objecting to the soot and mess. This
is a problem the NG/Oxy version doesn’t have, so I can’t see a reason
to totally ban that one from the shop. So, Jay, enlighten me.

Meanwhile, Thanks for all the replies.
Brian Meek.

my gas company says I can't legally pipe the stuff into the studio
in SC (that is how Monnda has hers set up). 

I certainly don’t know SC firecode but I have run into gas
professionals who were misinformed. I had only cold water once(BRRRRR
that’ll wake you up in the mornin) for 3 weeks because they didn’t
REALLY know code. It doesn’t seem to be sensible that propane cannot
be piped into a home. I wonder if its piping from a small portable
tank that they frown on, or perhaps flexible hose stuck thru a wall.
But hard piping installed by a licensed plumber? I mean what do South
Carolinians with gas stoves do?

I have to lug the dad blamed tank in and out every day 

I’d double check that. Its my understanding from the local fire
marshal (most local codes are based on the national) that the tanks
cannot be indoors, period. In use or storage matters not.

So, now I'm curious: what are people mostly using these days? I
know there are a lot of Hokes, Mecos and B-tank torches out there,
but I'm not sure what all else is floating around. What're you
using? Why? Is it the same rig you trained with? If not, why? What
do you like about it? Any pet peeves? 

I am currently using a Smith Little torch at the bench (so do the
other guys here) and a Meco cutting torch handle with a custom made
casting tube and a rose bud tip for mainly platinum casting. I also
have a Harris Model 16 with a rose bud tip that we use for gold and
silver casting, annealing and ingot pouring. All of them are on LP
barbecue tanks with O2. We use arrestors at the torch on all but the
Smiths, where we use regulator mounted arrestors. I run the gas at 40
lbs and the O2 at 80 lbs for casting platinum. Sounds like the Space
Shuttle launching. Hydrogen would probably be better, but it’s hard
to use (the flame is invisible, especially while wearing goggles but
I’m sure experience would help) and it’s kind of pricey to set up.

For years I used a flat bodied Meco at the bench, it was the torch I
started with. I made my own tips by soldering 18K tubing to the stock
tips, about 1/4 inch long (or wire and drilling them out with #76 to
#68 bits). When the local welding supply place told me they weren’t
going to make parts for the one I was using anymore, I bought all the
extra parts he had, so I’ve got a bunch of spares. Worked great but
by the time the hose got broken in enough to be easy to use, it was
worn out. I tried a Smith Little Torch at a bench test, and just
loved it. The best feature imo is the light weight hose. It feels
weightless and doesn’t interfere with moving the torch around.
Haven’t used the old Meco since. I’ve been recommended the Swiss
Torch by several people I respect recently, so maybe I’ll order one.
None of those folks have steered me wrong yet.


Hi Dave:

lbs and the O2 at 80 lbs for casting platinum. Sounds like the
Space Shuttle launching. Hydrogen would probably be better, but
it's hard to use (the flame is invisible, especially while wearing
goggles but I'm sure experience would help) and it's kind of pricey
to set up. 

I’ve got an H2 casting torch at school. Yeah, it’s fun to get dialed
in. You end up doing it by ear. After 10 years of listening to the
thing roar, I’ve got a pretty good sense of what it’s up to. You’ll
get no help at all by looking at it, even without glasses. If the
tip’s totally clean, it’s just a roaring shimmer in the air. In use,
the tip gets cruddy, so there is some (slight) visible blue and
yellow to see, and the backblast is yellow once the crucibles get
warm, but that’s no help at all in judging relative O2/H2 ratios.
It’s entirely by ear. (If anybody has a better method, I’d love to
hear it.) In its favour though, it does a really good job of clean
casting, and an invisible, howling monster is just the thing to make
the students pay close attention to the casting demo. I don’t let
the students use it (except one or two long-timers). It’s just too
hard to get beginners comfortable with the thing.


I have 3 torches: a Sievert self-blowing air/propane that I’ve had
for over 40 years; a Microflame (I think its similar to the Little
Torch) that uses oxy/propane; and a water torch that generates its
own oxy/hydrogen.

I used the Sievert for everything until I got the Microflame and it
was relegated to annealing duties. The Microflame then took over
until I got sick of the hassle of filling the oxygen bottle - that’s
when I got the water torch, which now gets used for just about
everything. I don’t have to store gas 'cos the water torch just uses
water and electricity to generate it, and the mixture is always
correct - I just switch it on, select a nozzle, and light it. Works
for me. I felt somewhat lost when I sent it away for a long overdue

Regards, Gary Wooding

It doesn't seem to be sensible that propane cannot be piped into a

Rules do not have to be sensible to be correct. It is dangerous
practice trying to determine level of sensibility without knowledge
of the subject. Propane should be reserved for outside use only.
Even a tiny leak can lead to pooling and then BANG!

Leonid Surpin

I normally use a mouth blown propane torch for most small work it is
what we used at collage (maybe its something to do with the Scottish
bagpipe tradition or maybe its just that I am full of hot air) I like
it as it has lotsof control. You can get some extra heat out of it if
you have a good slug of 10 year old malt scotch whisky before you
blow :slight_smile: My other main use torch is a Rothenberger O2/ mappe gas one
which is much like the Swiss torch with seven quick change tips
including a melting tip. For larger jobs I have a Seivert Propane/air
torch with three different size heads fitted on a two stage Victor
style (BOC) regulator. I also have an ancient very large (2 1/2" tip)
Bulldog propane air torch which is big enough to melt house bricks.
When its operating at full flow the prop bottles have a heavy frost
on them and you tend to loose all of the hairs off your arm when you
light the thing.I also have a small micro torch like the Blazer which
I use at demonstrations etc. All but the Blazer have flashback
protection and my soldering position has extraction over it.

Robin Clavis Jewellery
Aberdeen, Scotland

Hi Brian,

I use a Swiss Torch - oxy-propane. I love it. There are various tips
available: Rosebud, hoke style with 3 tips and a micro style with
four tips. I work with gold, bronze, and sterling. This torch gives
me the flexibility to melt gold for ingots, solder large bronze
pieces, and fabricate intricate pieces in gold.

Donna Hiebert Design

... using it for smelting my silver for casting... 

In English usage, the word "smelting"implies a chemical change
(i.e., one smelts copper ore,in order to get metallic copper),whereas
“melt” implies a physical change (i.e., one melts solid copper in
order to get liquid copper).

In French (fondre) and German (schmelzen), these words can be used to
mean both “to melt” and “to smelt.” However, since Orchid is mostly
English, I would request that the distinction between “melt” and
“smelt” be remembered. As an old chemistry major, I am always
startled by phrases such as Ken used (quoted above), since I believe
that few of us do our own smelting, even though almost everyone
melts their metal at one time or another.

Judy Bjorkman
Owego, NY