Hi, I am an intermediate jeweler who has studied under a master
jeweler for about three years. I am in the process of seting up a
home studio and I am having trouble finding instruction on how to
properly set up and use a torch system. Most acetylene supply places
are not hands-on and will be passive about offering advice on what i
should do. The safety handbook says I should be properly trained in
safety procedures before operating a torch system although I have
been using an acetylene and air setup at the school where I was
trained for three years now. It works fine for the kind of stuff I
do (mostly classical-not much soldering). I am finding out new facts
about acetylene every day that I wouldn’t have known to avoid that
frighten me into thinking I am going to cause an explosion (such as
the do not set on its side rule). With my last torch system I had
large flames jutting out the side off the handle every time I
extinguished the flame (not the little adorable ones that are usual
but huge mushrooms). Of course the people who work at acetylene
supply houses will not take a look at this as they mostly deal with
large propane orders or heavy duty undersea welders rather than
acetylene/atmospheric air jewelry crafters. I do not know anyone in
the gas business. What extra equipment do i need to buy?; all I have
now is a torch, no. 1, 2 tips, b tank, flashback arrestor, hose,
single dial regulator… I have been making jewelry and soldering
for a long time, the main issue is SAFETY. I just want to make sure
that I am doing everything right.
Hi, I am an intermediate jeweler who has studied under a master
Hi, I know how you feel and (your post looks familiar) I think you
may have posed this question before and not found the peace of mind
you are looking for. Is it possible that, after taking many classes,
you have made a friend/associate who you can ask to come by and help
you with your set-up?
Doncha just love the macho guys at the welding stores. Not all are
idiots some can be helpful. But it takes time to find those jewels.
So instead, call Smith, assuming you have a Smith torch. They are
I started with a Smith acetylene/air set up just like yours. For
safety I added a vent fan to suck stuff away from my face when I
solder. I purchased a B tank stand to keep the thing upright. At the
welding store I got a bubble solution and I check my connections
every time I switch tanks and sometimes inbetween. The jewel-guy at
the welding store said their bubble solution is less corrosive then
the kids blowing bubble solution.
As to your large flames you are correct that is not okay. Call
Smith, talk to them, they can problem solve it for you.
Know acetylene is lighter then air so does not pool like propane. I
periodically will open my studio door and windows just to refresh my
air…I double and triple check my system is off: ie at the handle,
the regulator and the T valve backed out b4 I leave for the nite. I
also think you should be very careful with the hoses. They need to
be replaced every once in a while. I was once a rock climber and it
was hammered into us NEVER to step on our ropes. I’ve never had that
admonition on my hoses, but it seems just as important.
Another rule of safety I learned from my wild and crazy rock
climbing days. Almost all fatal or serious accidents had been
preceded by some near misses. I was trained to pay attention to the
near misses. And once they happened to analyze the situation and
change my procedures to avoid the problem. This works.
And finally to warm your day, a story from several years ago…When
I first bought my torch I too asked the guys at the welding store
for advice. They showed me the photos of blown up cars from
transporting gas tanks in a trunk & handed me a general safety
pamphlet which I dutifully read and highlighted. It said to only
"hand-tighten" all fittings as using tools on them gives you too much
leverage and could damage the brass fittings. So I hand tightened my
fittings and off I went to solder.
With the torch in my left hand and the tank at my left hip I was
happily soldering when I removed my torch and held it out to my left
side. I lit my tank on fire as it was leaking a prodigious amount of
gas. I dropped the torch, screamed for my beloved daughter in the
next room (why?!) who came running, and finally turned the tank off.
We laugh to this day how I tried to blow myself up and take her with
I was so shocked and scared I took the whole set up outside and left
it. It took me several days to figure out what had happened, how to
prevent it, and get my nerve back up. I got the bubble solution,
retightened everything with a pipe wrench, tested with my bubbles,
put the tank on the right side, away from my torch hand, and tried
Once lit, out from the torch and the little air holes by my hand
poured a HUGE number of earwigs (Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!) all over me.
Totally freaked me out. The little buggers had made a home in my
torch while it was outside. Again the torch hit the floor, but I
turned it off first. I stomped on them and started it all up again.
Since that inauspicious start I’ve never had any more troubles with
the torch, or any more near misses.
My feeling is that the Smith Acetylene/Air system is a very safe
set- up. Just pay attention to what you do know, ask other owners of
the system specific questions, talk to the Smith folks.
To Shut down Close the torch valve first, ( fire goes out) then shut
off the cylinder, then back off the regulator.
After following these steps bleed the hose by opening the torch
valve. No big fire out the side of the torch. The prestolite or other
air fuel torches are very simple to use and have no flame balancing
adjustments-- they do not produce an oxidizing flame.
I can sympathize with the wit’s end torch problems, I went from my
7-8 pound victor journeyman torch setup to my smith little torch,
talk about your basic rude awakening! I was ready to bungee strap my
arm to the work bench to keep from swinging my torch all over the
place because it was sooooooooo light!
Anyway, sounds like you had a leak in the last torch system you had
set up. Happens all the time, no big deal, find the leak, cut and/or
splice the hose (if the leak is in the hose), on the little torch I
went to the welding supply looking for a repair kit, they laughed
and handed me some electrical zip ties. If the leak is in the torch
itself or the regulators chances are something is loose, tighten up
your fittings to start with and go from there.
If you have a few extra minutes I would recommend familiarizing
yourself with some of the inventory and equipment at your local
welding supply, and then establishing a relationship with the guys,
there are lots of useful things in there, and then when you do have
to go in they are less likely to treat you like an idiot.
I already had a relationship with my welding supply houses from
many, many, years of being the only female contract welder for miles
around, but I ALWAYS preface my requests by ‘don’t laugh’ which
seems to elicit a humorous ‘what now’ response and they are more
likely to help rather than to tell me to go to the welding supply
down the street.
I would say the first rule is to learn not to panic when you have
leaks like this. Calmly turn off the torch, put it down, and turn
off the regulators. I know this is easier said than done but a very
important safety factor-it’s real hard to turn off those regulators
while hyperventilating and wringing your hands ya know?
The only thing that I can see you needing to invest in IMO is a set
of quality ratchet straps (and something to wrap them around) so you
can stabilize your bottles (fingers and toes may explode if a bottle
falls on them).
I am not 100% sure what you mean by a single dial regulator-I use
equipment off of my old welding truck so it is BIG and heavy duty,
but a quality regulator set wouldn’t hurt your safety factor-check
pawn shops, you can probably find those in the 50-100 dollar range.
Make sure that you never lay an acetylene bottle on it’s side,
oxygen is okay. Not a bad idea to have a fire extinguisher handy.
All that said, I don’t use acetylene, I use propane; welders
consider acetylene a ‘dirty’ gas, but the same safety factors apply.
I would say just having the flashback arrestors puts you ahead of
the safety game! I hope I have helped a tiny bit.
[snip] And finally to warm your day, a story from several years ago.... [snip] With the torch in my left hand and the tank at my left hip I was happily soldering when I removed my torch and held it out to my left side. I lit my tank on fire as it was leaking a prodigious amount of gas. I dropped the torch, screamed for my beloved daughter in the next room (why?!) who came running, and finally turned the tank off. We laugh to this day how I tried to blow myself up and take her with me.
How funny and how very human! I also had a “scary” incident - I was
soldering very late at night (1 a.m. to be exact) and all of a
sudden looked and my left hand was totally engulfed in flames. In
what seemed like slow motion, I turned off the torch handle, turned
off the tank, doused water all over the torch tip (why? it wasn’t
burning anymore!)- then dragged the set up out on my patio - made
sure nothing was leaking. Went to bed slightly shaken. Next day, back
out and checked out the situation. The torch tip was not screwed on
tightly and was allowing extra gas to leak out around the base.
Fortunately I did have a flash arrestor attached right behind the
torch tip, but the experience taught me to frequently check all
connections. And, I’ve been soldering now for over 16 years using
Acetylene/air with no further problems. But keep your torch tips
clean and check your tank with bubble solution to be sure it doesn’t
leak (I test mine generally once a month and for sure every time I
change out my tank.) I’ll bet everybody out there has had a similar
experience. I just don’t think you can pursue this field and not
encounter some problems.
Once lit, out from the torch and the little air holes by my hand poured a HUGE number of earwigs (Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!) all over me. Totally freaked me out.
Not to make light of your mis-adventures - the kind of story even
Hollywood couldn’t make up. Not funny at the time, I’m sure - it’s
hilarious, now, though…
With my last torch system I had large flames jutting out the side off the handle every time I extinguished the flame (not the little adorable ones that are usual but huge mushrooms).
First off, no body leakage flame is adorable, cute or anything else.
It is however cause to stop using the device until repaired or
The items you sited farther down are fine. As you found, you can
transport an acetylene bottle on its side, but you can not use it on
its side, the fluid (acetone) will come out. Not a good thing as it
will turn your torch into a flame thrower.
The single regulator you have sounds like a torch set for Plumbing,
Air Conditioning and Refrigeration usage. You might try there for
and repair or replacement of your torch. The gas
suppliers for the most part just do that, gases. Some will have
equipment but it is the higher temperature stuff. Seek out a local
refrigeration supply house or possibly a plumbing supply for what you
have. They have a multitude of torch bodies like yours and should be
able to help with yours. (My brother does Air Conditioning and
I use a propane torch for most of my soldering, and Oxy/Acetylene
(Smith Little torch) for other work.
Whoops Jesse, If you back off the regulator the hose will not bleed.
The correct sequence should be:
Close the torch head valve. Shut off the cylinder valve, bleed the
hose and then back off the regulator.
Many people do not understand why theymust back off the regulator
when they close down. The reason is if the regulator remained open
(the valve is screwed in), when the cylinder valve is next opened the
full pressure from the tank (can be pretty heavy if its a new tank)
hits the diaphram and could rupture it at worst or cause decrease in
its life at best.
Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry!
The correct sequence should be: Close the torch head valve. Shut off the cylinder valve, bleed the hose and then back off the regulator.
You are right I goofed in writing this
I recently experieced a problem with my Smith (Handi-heet)
acetylene/air torch. When lighting one of the tips, I noticed black
smoke coming from the tip - then I noticed that the entire tip got
hot. Turned off the gas, took it to our local gas supplier. They
told me that the tip was bad. Got a new one. So far, no problem!
(It’s only been a week)
In what seemed like slow motion, I turned off the torch handle.....
Kay…you just reminded me of a very important aspect of using the
Smith acty single gas torch.
This is something I stress to all my students and it did pay off one
afternoon; Never turn the torch head knob open more than one full
turn!!! At one full turn the torch is already at full open and
opening it more will not supply any more gas nor will it change the
flame. Should there be a flash because the tip is not tightened down,
a quick turn of the knob will turn off the gas and extenguish the
flame. If it is open more than one turn, one will have to turn it
multiple times…all they while their hand is on fire.
The second thing I always tell them is; always check the tip when
they first pick up the torch to be sure it is tight. The last person
to use it may have changed it (or tried to change it) and it could be
One afternoon, a student had a flash back from a loose tip. No
panic…just turned the knob one turn and it was out. Case closed.
Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelery!