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Which torch do you use?

"I mean what do South Carolinians with gas stoves do?’ - the way it
was explained to me was that the problem is the pressure. The gas
that is piped into my house for heat is low pressure; the gas in the
portable propane tank for my torch is high pressure. It is the high
pressure gas I was told I could not run into the house. And here it
is not plumbers who run the piping, but the gas companies. So since
they had piped the house with the propane we use for heat, I had
"ass"umed that they could just tie me into that. Hah! They said that
was low pressure and would not run my torch correctly. So then I
asked about setting up a permanent pipe that would let the small tank
be outside and connect to the pipe, and my torch would connect to the
pipe on the inside. No, they said can’t do that in SC.

“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.” Probably
true, but as I solder in my studio, it would be rather difficult to
actually USE the tank if it isn’t in reach of the torch! Absolutely
no idea how anyone else handles this… it has me a bit flummoxed,
to say the least. I did check with my insurance agent, and he said
just bring it in and out. So that is what I do. Good for the muscles
I suppose.

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio
http://www.bethwicker.com


http://bethwicker.ganoksin.com/blogs/

Interesting thread.

Back in the 60’s when I took my first class in making jewelery, the
high school class room was equipped with torches (unknown brand)
that used natural gas and an air compressor. When the handpiece was
squeezed, compressed air was released to create the hot flame. When
the handpiece was released, the air was cut off leaving only the
gentle flame. Pretty simple for young students. Clean burning.

When I began soldering at home, I used a butane plumber’s torch.
Awkward… and I melted a few things in the process. About 15 years
ago, I got a Hoke natural gas torch and a bottle of compressed
oxygen. Still torching away.

Judy in Kansas, who is looking forward to meeting a fellow Orchidian
at a holiday show later this week in Colorado Springs!

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 have used a Hoke torch for 30 years, with both natural gas and
propane. It is what I was trained on but I’ve use the Little Torch
and still prefer the Hoke. I really like how versatile it is, you can
solder large objects or change the tip and solder something very fine
and delicate. I know they sell after-market tips for tiny flames on
the Hoke, but I make my own. I just solder a little brass tube over
the orifice of a smaller torch tip, about 8mm long, and it works
great when you need a tiny little flame for delicate soldering. Most
of the people in the shop have Hoke’s as well but we do have three
people who use the Little Torch. The little torch people will come to
me once in awhile with something that they just can’t unsolder or
separate. I can always do it with the Hoke because I can make a
bigger, softer flame that will heat the whole object up to a point
where all of the solder that we need to flow will. So if I had to
choose between them I would pick the Hoke for that reason.

My pet peeves have been that there are torches on the market that
look like the Hoke but aren’t, you’re really better off buying an
actual Hoke.

It’s too small for casting, we use a big Harris torch with a rosebud
tip for that.

Mark

Hello Orchid,

I use a Smith Little torch with oxy/natural gas and G-Tec pressure
booster. Serves all my needs - especially after the addition of a
multi orifice annealing/ melting tip. I feel no need to own or use
anything else. This is not even close to what I used in classroom
situations but decided upon after much research on my own.

Cyndy

Brian,

My main problem with “The Little Torch” is it’s tiny tips. The one I
used had the TINIEST tips I have ever seen. None of the tips were
really adequate for most soldering, unless you were doing
micro-repairs like chain repair. I also hated the idea that you had
to use a wrench to change tips, which just takes too long, and is too
cumbersome for me. You are right about the acetylene/oxy model, it is
sooty on the start up, but OK when you add in the oxygen.

I do believe, from the postings on Orchid, as well as the attitudes
from many of my students over the years, that adequate torch heat is
often the problem with poor soldering technique. SO many beginning
metalsmiths are just afraid to use the amount of heat really required
to do the job effectively. Many people are just petrified of
compressed gas, and the fear of explosions. I tell them to get over
it. Turn up the heat, use a larger tip, and practice. Silver
soldering
particularly requires some serious heat. Silver is one of the
absolute best heat conducting metals in the world, and unless you
throw a good amount of serious heat at it, you are not going to get
solder to flow or an ingot to get poured.

Jay Whaley

I, like I’m sure many here do, have several torches. I first learned
with an air/acetylene and that’s what I really do prefer. Before
graduating to a “real” torch at home, I got a butane. Better than
nothing. Didn’t take long, though, to get frustrated with that &
also realize I needed to do this “for real” and I got the a/a setup
at home too. When I moved to Germany shortly after, they looked at me
like I was crazy when I asked at the gas place for such a setup.
They wanted me to have propane/oxy, and for numerous reasons I did
NOT! Instead I got a propane/air setup and, well, it was again better
than nothing. At school we had piped in propane/oxy and although it
was fine for most things, I couldn’t get the flame I wanted for my
filigree. It was better than the propane/air I had at home at the
time, so for three years between the two I did fine. As soon as we
moved back to the US, though, I sought out the gas place and got a
new air/acetylene setup as soon as I could. Yay! Until I did that, I
had the good ol’ butane again though! I’ve moved a few more times,
learned a few new techniques, but my main soldering torch is still
the air/acetylene. I still have a couple butane ones that rarely get
used, and I also have small from-the-hardware-store propane and mapp
tanks with torch heads on them for torch firing enamels.
Technically, I also have part of a propane/oxy setup (torch head &
hose, with empty oxy tank) but it came with a used bench I bought and
I’ve never used it.

Lisa
Designs by Lisa Gallagher
www.lisagallagher.com

When I learned smithing in Taiwan in the early 70’s the only torch
available was a nicely made torch head (with no name) that had two
inputs; one from the gasoline fume generator and the other for air
from a large foot bellows topped with a piece of inner-tube from a
truck tire. Got pretty good at soldering with it and could even cast
small loads.

Later, I got a ‘Little Torch’ and ran it with acetylene and 02.
These days I have another ‘Little Torch’ but use propane and 02 to do
about 80% of my work. Also have an old Universal acetylene/air
torch…not unlike the Smith that I use for large items and casting
or supplementing my studio kiln when enameling.

At the school, we use only Smith torches with acetylene. One of the
hardest things to get the students to understand is…choose the
proper torch tip for the job. No sense trying to solder a large item
with a 00 tip!!!

Cheers from Don in SOFL.

Brian, Neil and others,

On the issue of piping propane into a building:

  1. Around these parts an approved storage tank must be outside, 2.
    Gas may be piped to the outside wall of the building, carrying
    propane from the tank at about 5 or 6 psi pressure, 3. A pressure
    regulator MUST be used outside the wall, reducing the pressure to
    about 1/4 or 1/3 psi before entering the building and supplying the
    various appliances.

These are safety based regulations, work is done by licensed gas
people and inspected under pressure by the building inspectors. The
very low pressure inside the building requires fairly large diameter
pipes to function properly, but they can be sealed rather easily to
prevent leakage.

Dr. Mac

HI Jay:

Ahhh… the light dawns.

Yeah, you’re right, it does have teensy little tips. I hadn’t thought
about it that way: I have the prestolite for anything bigger than
what the mini will handle, so it didn’t even occur to me to think
about what its max size was. Although the two larger tips (4 & 5) get
plenty big for ring & brooch sized things, and I really do enjoy that
2 burner forked tip. Don’t get to play with it much, but every so
often it really is a lifesaver. Now that I think on it, the technique
for using the two bigger tips to heat larger things takes a bit of
getting used to: set a large reducing flame, and stand way back.
Just dust the heat in until the item gets almost up to temp, then
zoom in and work the target area. The blasted thing is hot, and the
heat is very concentrated, so you have to watch out.

You don’t need to use a wrench to change the tips though. I’ve been
finger-tightening them for years with no problems. (If you want a
serious problem with them: how do you clean soot out of a miniature
ruby orifice? Most people I know just get new tips when the three
teeny ruby nozzled ones get sooted up. )

Now that I think of it, I’ve got a neat rig on my acetylene & oxy
bottles that I should share: quick disconnects. I’ve got an
acetylene B tank, and a slightly larger O2 bottle, with regs on them.
Then widgets that are combinations of quick disconnects and flashback
arrestors on the output sides of the regs. So my prestolite has a
quick connector on the hose, as does the mini, and the casting
torch. Rather than messing about with a wrench when I wish to change
torches, I just pull the collar, swap the connectors, and I’m back
in business in a few seconds. Incredibly useful. Most gas houses
should have them.

The funny part is that my regs were part of an oxy-lance setup
originally. BIG old 2-stage regulators. I think the O2 is one of
the largest that Airco ever made. Great control down low though.
Gotta love those old 2-stagers. The fun starts when I connect the
mini-torch. Picture a pair of monster regulators…with these teeny
little hoses coming off of them. Works great, but looks ridiculous.

Regards,
Brian.

Jay,

As I said in an earlier post, I use the Little Torch most of the
time. As you say, it does have ‘tiny’ tips but the full range of tips
goes from #2 through #7 plus you can get a ‘rose-bud’ tip with 6
orafices with which you can actually melt up to an ounce of silver
(never tried more than that). The #5 (or #7) is plenty adequate to do
either gold or silver; I routinely do pieces around 22x30 (for
example) and sometimes larger. The tips need not be wrenched. Simply
finger tightening is adequate and can be done in seconds. When using
the acetylene/oxy model, simply crack the oxy side just a tad and
then add the acty. There will be no soot.

All in all, it is a very versatile torch for one who has a higher
level of soldering skills. I would not recommend it for those
starting out because, as you say, students tend to shy away from a
larger flame. But, I like it because I can quickly go from larger
items to the smallest in the blink of an eye.

Guess its just what we get used to. Cheers from Don in SOFL.

Propane should be reserved for outside use only. 

You would be correct if we’re talking strictly about BBQ tanks. 14
million homes in the US have piped in propane. I was questioning
whether the gas company person was referring to propane itself being
piped in as a general principal(just HOW can they stay in business if
they can’t deliver the propane to the appliance?) or piping(or hose)
in from a portable tank(A small tank being easily upset, hose being
subject to easy damage).

Since in home propane is a pretty standard thing I would look to
installation requirements as the basis for their ‘no’.

I use the Smith acetylene torch with multiple tips and a Smith Tiny
Torch. I also have a Hoke. I use the Hoke and Tiny Torch with oxy/
propane. I also have a glass torch on the propane/oxy set up.

Susan
www.ThorntonStudioJewelry.com

Around these parts an approved storage tank must be outside, 2. Gas
may be piped to the outside wall of the building, carrying propane
from the tank at about 5 or 6 psi pressure, 3. A pressure regulator
MUST be used outside the wall, reducing the pressure to about 1/4
or 1/3 psi before entering the building and supplying the various
appliances. 

Sounds similar to here, with the problem being that the low pressure
that is already piped into my house is too low to run the torch. The
portable propane tanks are high pressure (so I am told!), and that
is needed for the torch.

So I still do not understand how anyone in SC is supposed to legally
use a propane/oxy torch - if you can’t pipe it inside or have it
inside what exactly are they proposing that you do with it???

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio
http://www.bethwicker.com


http://bethwicker.ganoksin.com/blogs/

Ahhh… the light dawns.

Yeah, you’re right, it does have teensy little tips.

I just know that students/newbies are gleaning clues from this. I’d
say little torches are good for little stuff - big’s good for big,
obviously. The Mini torches don’t just have little tips, they also
have little hoses. Doesn’t matter if you put an elephant tip on it,
it will only get so much gas. Not good, not bad, just the nature of
the beast.

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com

Hi Beth,

Sounds similar to here, with the problem being that the low
pressure that is already piped into my house is too low to run the
torch. The portable propane tanks are high pressure (so I am
told!), and that is needed for the torch. 

There are machines available that can be attached to a low pressure
gas line & boost the pressure to that needed for the torches. I’ve
not seen one but I believe the hose going to the torch is attached
directly to the unit. G-TEC (safe-t-gas.com) makes such a unit for
natural gas, perhaps they can be of some assistance in answering the
question of use with propane.

Dave

So I still do not understand how anyone in SC is supposed to
legally use a propane/oxy torch - if you can't pipe it inside or
have it inside what exactly are they proposing that you do with
it??? 

I didn’t want to say this, because it’s not meaningful for many on
this thread, although it’s true. The operative word here is “house”,
as in residence. When you open up a real business in a real location
all of those issues just go “poof”. There are all sorts of things
that you can’t legally have in a house that you CAN have in a
business - shipments of certain chemicals, gas deliveries, freight
deliveries - all sorts of things. When you set up a torch in a
house, if you want to be legal, that is, you face many problems with
zoning and fire codes, because it’s supposed to be a residence, not
a business. Again, it’s just the nature of the beast…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com

I have a swiss torch and use oxygen and propane. My studio is in a
daylight basement. The oxygen tank is chained to the wall and the
propane tank is sitting outside the horizontally sliding window
(which the casement of window is about 18" up from floor) and have
the hose come in through the window. I have added a piece of foam
pipe insulation (slit along one side) and this slips over the edge of
the sliding window allowing a mostly airtight seal. When I want to
turn on the propane, I lean out the window. You can get a longer hose
if necessary to set this up. I always completely bleed the lines at
the end of the day of both the propane and the oxygen.

Margaret

I’m probably one of the odd ones here, but I use a propane/air
torch…hardware type torch with a hose and brush flame (I think). My
particular one is Swedish that I brought back from Norway and
converted to an American propane connection. With my filigree work,
I need the broader, softer flame which is less hot, in order to heat
a larger area a little slower as to not melt the wire and to do
several solder joints at once.

Seems to me that Beth has hit the nail on the head:

So I still do not understand how anyone in SC is supposed to
legally use a propane/oxy torch - if you can't pipe it inside or
have it inside what exactly are they proposing that you do with it? 

Reading between the lines, it would appear that there is no way to
use propane within building code and insurance company requirements
in many locations.

The point is of interest to me because I would like to go to the
Swiss torch system; but it would appear that one must give up a
great deal of flexibility using oxy/acetylene. Only one tip is
offered for use with it.

Is anyone out there using acetylene with the Swiss torch? Is it a
satisfactory choice for someone working in silver and gold?

Thanks.
Jim

Reading between the lines, it would appear that there is no way to
use propane within building code and insurance company
requirements in many locations. 

How about simply not using propane, but rather natural gas. You’re
not limited only to places with an external municipal natural gas
supply. You can get bottled natural gas from welding gas suppliers.
Tanks look much like all the other regular tanks, such as for
oxygen, or other compressed gases. I’d expect it to be subject to the
usual rules for compressed gases, or to limits on how municipal gas
supplies are handled, but it shouldn’t be subject to rules specific
to propane, since it’s not propane. But as a fuel in your torch, it
will behave much the same. Perhaps even a little better…

Peter