Torch/Gas Questions

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The following questions pertain to the torch and its gases:  buying, using, safety, types, problems, etc.

Questions and Answers

Question

What oxy/propane torch do you recommend?

“My question is about torch set up etc. I have the Smiths Little Torch Oxy Propane from Rio G. and because I work on rather large pieces of silver I’m producing a lot of fire scale. My studio is in my house, so I’m reluctant to set up acetylene. Is there a larger oxy/propane torch you might suggest? I’m thinking of getting an oxygen machine to eliminate buying those expensive oxygen bottles from the hardware store. Much thanks!”

Answer

I have heard that the oxygen concentrators work really well.  They are pretty expensive though – especially new.  Try to get a used machine.  Sometimes, you can purchase them used from medical supply stores and adapt them for the torch. Try Craigslist, ebay, etc.  They run from $250.00 and up – unless you get lucky and find someone who wants to get rid of one fast.  The psi is important.  You want a minimum of 5 psi otherwise, there isn’t enough oxygen present to create a hot flame.  Here’s a rather slow video on using a concentrator for soldering. Rio Grande actually sells them for $425.00.

 The Smith you have is for disposable tanks, right?  If so, you can probably still use the same torch setup with the concentrator but, I’d also switch to Mapp gas, as it is cleaner. Here’s a kit that Rio sells. I think it is similar to what you would have with the concentrator.  The mapp gas/02 setup is one of the cleanest ways to solder.  The glass working community uses this type of equipment, as do torch enamelists.  You might research some of the glass/enamel sites for more info too. Glass bead/workers use a very hot, large, constant flame.  So, things are a bit different than for the jeweler.

Is it firescale or is it oxidation, that you are experiencing?  Here’s my page on the topic.  If it is oxidation, moving to the mapp gas and getting a larger torch tip could help.  Maybe, it is taking too long to heat your metal. When you fire metal too long it allows for considerable oxidation to develop – especially with sterling and base metals like brass, bronze and copper.  A larger torch tip, like this #7 , the Melting Tip or the Twin Tip (you can solder from both sides at the same time),  should help heat things up faster.  Have you checked out Argentium silver?  Very awesome metal.  It contains Germanium, which is released when the metal is heated.  The Germanium coats the outside of the metal, reducing, drastically, the firescale and oxidation.  It also takes a long time for it to tarnish – although, rates vary depending on what chemicals are present in the environment.  Please see my webpage on sheet metal and wire.

If you are getting a lot of firescale, on the other hand, look into reducing your heat, coating with a protectant or switching to Argentium.  More information on firescale can be found at my Soldering 101 – Oxidation, Flux and Firescale Prevention page. You can try a product like this: FirescoffTM.

Here’s a brief discourse on Scott’s experience with an oxygen concentrator, at Ganoksin.

Please see my page:  Torches (not yet complete – private) for information on THAT subject.
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Question

I have gas flowing from my torch after shutting it off

When I turn off the torch I let the leftover gas escape from the torch/hose, just like on your video. My only concern is that a few hours later when I open the torch without the gas tank on, I hear some gas or air flowing from the torch for 2 or 3 seconds. I am not sure what it is. Not sure if it’s normal. Could it be an indicator of gas leakage? The gas cylinder is turned off and the regulator adjustment screw that lets the gas flow to the torch is also off.”

Answer

So, let’s run through the shutoff steps:  after you shut off your tank, you turned on the torch handle and lit the gas to burn it off?  You allowed the gas to burn out completely –  until the flame died out – waited a second and then turned off the torch handle.  Sometimes, if you don’t allow the gas to completely escape the hose, there will be a bit left in there the next time you turn it on.

Make sure that the tank is completely shut off.  When your gas is drained and the tank is off, the dials on the regulator should be at zero.  Do you see any activity in the  regulators after shutting down? If you open up the torch handle again, are you still hearing gas escaping? IF so, there may be a problem with the shut off portion of the tank or an issue with the regulator.  IF you hear gas in the lines after double checking all shutoffs and draining the torch, you must move the tank outdoors immediately.

It shouldn’t take a huge effort to shut off the tank, just a nice firm twist with the tank key. You don’t want to overdo, not too macho, as you can damage the stem. 

IF you have taken all of the above steps and it hasn’t stopped leaking,  I would take your regulator and torch into a shop that specializes in compressed gasses and regulators.  OF course, don’t forget to shut off the gas and move the tank outside,  before you remove the regulator and torch.  You don’t have to panic if it’s leaking, it won’t suddenly blow up but, you don’t want the gas building up in a closed area and you don’t want any sparks or flame near it.  I had a leaking tank on the (open) porch of my studio for two days until the company finally picked it up.

Did you see my web page on Acetylene?  If you scroll down the page a bit, you’ll see the image below.  Make sure you checked the stem (where is says soap test here in the image) for gas leaks too!  If you are at all unsure, or you are still having gas in the lines after shutoff,  please do not leave the tank indoors (I need to say this many times as gas leaks are not good)!  If you do find a stem leak, return the tank to the supplier.  Don’t carry the tank in an enclosed vehicle and keep fire and sparks away from the tank (I’m not repeating myself too much, am I?)

valve-stem

***Note:  one viewer noted that they had a smoke/carbon monoxide tester plugged in and it went off when they had a leak. I’ve also read elsewhere that the carbon monoxide testers can pick up an acetylene leak. This is not true.  I tested this by aiming my open torch, gas pouring out, unlit, at my carbon monoxide alarm and NOTHING happened.   I found a detector designed for many different gasses, including acetylene but, it’s pretty expensive, $265.00 US.  

Update:  This just happened to me:  I shut off my tank and drained the gas line.  I noticed that the gas dial went from 0 (where is supposed to be after shutoff) to registering full.  That means that the tank was not shutting down.  This is A BIG PROBLEM.  If there was an emergency, I wouldn’t be able to close off my gas supply.  So, I immediately removed the tank – with the regulator, hose and torch attached – to the outside.  I then called the gas company, had them remove my equipment and take the offending tank away.  They brought a replacement tank with them.  First time in my life that this has happened.  It was fine for days and it was a new tank too so, I am left bewildered.

Don’t forget to soap test the stem of the tank BEFORE bringing the tank into the house!

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What Torch Should I Buy That is Somewhere Between a Butane and a Full Setup?

Question

“I am wanting something more than a
Butane Torch, but less than a Little Smith or Acetylene.

I just found out about the Copperhead Torch but there is little information
on it.  After researching for days it occurred to me to ask you if you know
of it and, if so, what do you think about it.

I basically work with copper sheet and copper wire.  I have been doing wire
wrapping and want to branch out to metalsmithing more and include more
advanced work in soldering other than making balls on the ends of the wire
and closing jump rings.  It’s time.”

Answer

The copperhead looks like a good torch. I guess you can purchase the torch that uses disposable tanks or with the larger, refillable propane tank – like the ones used with gas barbecues.  If you purchase the one for disposable tanks, I recommend using Mapp gas as it burns hotter and cleaner than propane.

I read a lot of positive reviews on this torch.  It’s very inexpensive and sounds like it would suit your current needs.

Here’s a PDF on the Copperhead that I found while I was researching it: Eurotool Copperhead Torch.

I found this review of the torch at Wild Prairie Silver.
The cheapest that I saw this was at TDSOnlinestore on Etsy carries this setup for 109.99. Shipping looks like its around 10.00.  They have one left in stock. Back to Table of Contents

What Torches Are Good For Soldering Silver And Gold?

Question
“I want to solder at home since now, I can legally do that!
Are butane torches good for soldering silver and gold?  I just want to make jewelry at home and to solder my heart out! I miss it so! I was looking at this torch http://www.homedepot.com/p/Bernzomatic-Butane-Micro-Flame-Torch-and-Accessory-Kit-328630/100585921#product_description but i can’t see anywhere that says if it burns at the right temperature for soldering. Could you give me any recommendations?”
Answer

Please check out these webpages of mine:  Torches, What Torch to BuyQ&A: Torch/Gas QuestionsSoldering (this page has links to 10 other, related webpages, of mine, and there are also links to my applicable videos)Q&A Soldering, Q&A Setting up a Jewelry Studio.  Here’s a link to my YouTube channel on soldering.

I’m looking into purchasing the Lil Water Torch:  no compressed gas, absolutely clean burning, safe for apartments, condos, cars and relatively inexpensive (at least this brand – $499.00). Of course, you may not want to spend that much.  I have tons of info to help you make a choice. Back to Table of Contents

What Can You Solder With A Butane Torch?

Question
“Do you think I can solder jump rings and small things like that with the butane?”

Answer

You can solder a lot of small things with Butane as well as annealing metal.  Thicker metal and many pieces of metal will be much more problematic and will need a torch that produces higher heat. Back to Table of Contents

Can The Water/Hydrogen Torch Work For Jewelers?

Question

“I’m wondering if you ever tried this hydrogen torch.   Do you think it would be usable for working with argentium?  Or do you think the tips look too small?”

Answer

I did a lot of research on hydrogen torches.  Please check out this page: Torches  (the link will take you directly to that section of the page) I also have a page:  What Torch to Buy.

Smith-Little-Torch-Tips (Smith Little Torch)   I don’t think the tips are too small.  Have you seen the size of the tips on the Smith Little Torch?  They are crazy tiny.  Tiny but VERY hot.

IF the torch can solder silver, it will solder Argentium.
When you check out my torch page, be sure to see the email that I sent to JDC Products.  I’m more interested in their system than Rio’s. Back to Table of Contents

I Don’t Know How To Set Up A Torch Safely.  Also, I Dropped My Tank And Am Afraid I Damaged it.

Question

“How do you safely set up a torch. I have a huge fear of it.  Also, I have it (the torch setup) up but when I was moving it, one day, the oxygen tank fell over and now I am again afraid I may have damaged it. I know I can take it over to the gas company and have it checked out to make sure nothing inside the hose or the regulator is damaged, but I truly would love to find someone to come to my studio and set it up with me for the sake of safety.”

Answer

You are not alone in being terrified of your torch!  There is reason to be cautious!!!  But, you need to feel comfortable to be able to move past terrified and inactivity and into respectful and having it work for you.  I applaud you for checking your caution.

In the meantime, please check out these pages, they may help you to understand how the torch works and not be terrified of it:  Acetylene Gas.  I just finished updating this page (for the past three days).  I even covered your dropped tank scenario.  I called Airgas and had a chat with them about dropped tanks. 
 
I think you can do this.  Just go step by step.  Take your time.  You are NOT going to blow yourself up!  There are a lot of safety features built into your system!  The most important one is you. Having confidence in your abilities will help you to succeed. Back to Table of Contents

What Type Of Torch System Do You Recommend: A Non-oxy Acetylene System Or An Acetylene Torch With One Gas Feed?

Question

“I am a sculptor and use some silver and copper here and there but now I’m progressing into j-making, or rather trying j-making.

From watching your video on torch setup, I noticed you’re using an acetylene torch with one gas feed—no oxygen hose. I presume it’s a non-oxy setup.  I’ve been reviewing different torch systems and, up to now, I was fairly certain on choosing an oxy-propane system like the Smith little torch.

However, recently I’ve viewed a few videos on non-oxy acetylene systems. They seem to have a super temperature range along with tiny to huge flames for small to large projects. It sounds good to me. The Smith little torch may not have the range I will want in the future as I grow (hopefully) into larger stuff. So, is that what you like best—a single gas (acetylene) setup?  

I’ve talked to several jeweler making acquaintances about this topic. Most seem to like the oxy-propane stuff. They have more experience than I do but they’ve been doing jewelry for only a few years. Their one criticism about acetylene is that it’s ‘dirty’. I’m not sure what that means but ok.”

Answer

I have an air/acetylene torch system.  The reason that I use this is because:

  1. it’s cheaper than an 02/gas system: 1 regulator, 1 hose, 1 tank to buy
  2. I only have to fill one tank – 2x’s a year
  3. oxygen runs out pretty fast
  4. acetylene is hot enough to do everything – including soldering, steel tool making and melting metal for refining and casting.
  5. I have a small oxy/acetylene Smith Little Torch for disposable tanks IF I need something tiny and very, very hot
  6. Oxy/gas setups are very hot.  As a teacher, teaching people on a torch that can burn a hole through your hand in a second, is not a good idea.  I’ve seen more students meltdown work using an oxy/gas setup than with the air/acetylene.
  7. my setup takes up less space as you really should have the gas separated from the 02.  When I was using the 02/gas system, I keep my 02 outside and my gas in.
  8. those little tips on the Little Torch drive me crazy.  If I move my hand too fast, the flame goes out.  I don’t like little flames.  I like my flames big!
  9. I don’t like having to adjust the flame: first the gas and then the 02 (Not So Lazy Jeweler here.  That actually means that I am lazy!)
  10. If I used 02/gas: I’d have to shut down and open up two gas tanks, adjust two regulators and pay for maintenance on two regulators (the Not So Lazy thing at work again!).

I’ve been using my system for over 20 years.  I generally only use one, pretty large tip. I switch to a larger tip when I’m melting metal.  I’m used to it and it works for me.  I use my Smith Little Torch maybe once a year.  Maybe.

Dirty means there’s soot from the burning flame.  Everything I solder get funky from fire scale anyway.  My studio isn’t coated with soot.  It really is minimal and is only detrimental (to me) when torch enameling. I have a Hot Head Torch for torch enameling.  It uses disposable propane tanks or you can get an adapter and use the barbeque size tanks.  I usually use Mapp-pro gas though, as it burns hotter and clean (like the propane) but, I’m enameling small pieces and having a huge, hot flame isn’t that important. A clean flame is much more important.  

Everyone prefers a different setup.  It also depends on what they do, their budget, what they learned on in school and a bunch of other, unfathomable reasons.

The system you describe is great.  Just remember, that unless you have an oxygen generator, you will be carrying those oxygen tanks (and some of them are pretty danged big) into the gas suppliers fairly regularly. Ask people how often they refill their 02 tanks in comparison with their gas.  I’d be interested in hearing what they say as I don’t use mine any more.

Images:  one compares the size of my Goss tip with the Smith Little Torch tip and the other compares the orifices of the same tips.

torch1 Little-Torch-and-Acetylene-torch-comparison (1)

I can’t decide which torch to buy:  A Goss or a Silversmith

9/9/2016

Question

smith  Smith’s Silver Smith Torch Kit at Amazon

(At the time of this posting, torch setup at Amazon was cheaper than Rio Grande.)

I have a basic Acetylene/air set up but have been looking at moving to a smaller tipped torch. I would have to look, but I think the one I have is a Prest-O-Lite and I really dislike the handle on it. I work from home and don’t want propane inside, and am most comfortable with Acetylene/Air. You mentioned on your site that you like the Goss torches. I’ve been eyeing those as well as the Acet/air Silver Smith setup. Do you know what Silver Smith tip compares to the #3 Goss tip you like? Pros or cons to either?

Answer

The Prest-O-Lite looks just like the Goss so, if you don’t like the handle, don’t get a Goss! I like both the Goss and the Silversmith. The Silversmith has the added benefit of having a flashback arrestor in the torch handle. There are many different tips available for it. I don’t know the tip comparison as I donated my Smith Torches to Chimera and it’s not in my studio now, for comparison. Could be a 2 or a 3. My #3 tip is not what I would consider small. It’s a medium flame, I think. If you want smaller tips (of course, you’ll need a large one for annealing and large jobs) I’d go with a 1 or a 2 (Smith). I’ve included Smith’s flame chart so that you can pick your size. The very small ones tend to go out easily – just an FYI! Sounds like I’m voting for the Silver smith!

prestolite-torch   Prest-O-Lite at Gesswein  goss-torch  Goss at Amazon

silversmith-flame-sizes  Silversmith Flame Chart from Rio Grande Jewelry

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