What Torch to Buy

Please see my site disclaimer

The following information is based on my own experiences and research and is for informational use only.  Your reliance on any of this information is at your own risk!  See my site disclaimer.

Nancy LT Hamilton:  Author

Last updated:  8/29/21, 7/31/21,  2/23/17

This page is the result of a question I am often asked so, I thought I’d dedicate a page to this subject.

 What Torch Should I Buy

“Yes I am using a butane Micro torch which is or was recommended on every YouTube video I have watched and they say it works but it has not for me so what type of torch do you recommend?”

My Answer

Deciding what torch to buy can be a lot of work.  The butane, that you own,  will work for many processes like annealing and soldering small items but, are limited in what it can do.  What about trying a larger butane torch like the Iwatani?  I’ve used it in place of my air/acetylene torch.  It takes a little practice to get used to the larger flame but, I find it effective for a variety of soldering operations. It uses butane canisters.

I would make sure that your soldering problems are not related to one of the other soldering-gone-wrong issues before buying a new torch i.e.:  clean metal, close joins, appropriate flux, clean solder, etc.  Check out my web pages on soldering for help there!  Soldering 101, Soldering in a Nutshell, What Torch to Buy, 4 Steps for Successful Soldering, On Pickle, Acid, Crockpots & Baking Soda.

That said, if you are ready to make the investment and commitment to spend some money on a more permanent setup, then here’s some information/questions for you:
  • Torches and their accompanying paraphernalia can be pricey. Decide how much you want to spend.
  • Do you want a gas/oxygen setup or just a gas/air setup?  Any of these common gases (Acetylene, Propane, Butane, Mapp, Natural Gas), when mixed with oxygen will be much hotter than with air alone. With the O2 setup, you need two regulators, 2 hoses, 2 tanks (or an oxygen concentrator), etc.  With just air/gas, you need one of each component.  If you go with just gas/air I recommend acetylene because it is the hottest gas.
  • Do you live in a state, county, city, home, neighborhood, apartment, or condo where you are prohibited from having compressed gasses?  I recommend that your first step is to research what gases if any, you may legally and responsibly have in your home or studio.  Check your county, city, and state regulations.  Also, check with your insurance company. Check with your local fire department too – they are the ones whose lives are at risk if your studio catches fire!
  • Acetylene is a dirtier gas than butane, propane, or mapp.  It puts out a little bit of soot but, I haven’t found it to be a problem.  You need proper ventilation for all soldering tasks.  IR eye protection is recommended – especially with acetylene. Whatever the soldering/welding job protective eyewear and ventilation are necessary.
  •  Oxygen is a strong oxidizer and bonds with all substances. Exposure to concentrated oxygen lowers the ignition temperature of the item and makes it burn much faster and more intensely than it would without the 02.  Oil and grease react violently with concentrated oxygen and can self-ignite. If the 02 is pure and under pressure, it can cause anything to combust slowly (a fire) or rapidly (an explosion). Oxygen itself is not flammable but, it sure likes to encourage combustion!  See item #2 in this list and my site disclaimer on this page.
  • Can you store the tanks in a relatively, temperature-controlled area?  Acetylene should not freeze.
  • Propane is very dangerous in the home or in an attached studio/garage.  Propane tanks are known to leak.  The gas sinks and just the process of turning on a light switch can cause the gas to ignite. If your studio is near your water heater and you develop a leak – kaboom!   Do not store propane in your garage either. Please check with local authorities about regulations in your community.  Refillable #1 containers no longer exist. They have been recalled because they leak.   It is illegal (federally) to refill 1 pound propane canisters and doing so carries a fine of $500,000 and up to 5 years in prison.  I know that they sell doohickeys to refill the one-pound tanks from larger tanks but, that means nothing other than:  don’t buy one and don’t refill the 1# canisters.
  • An oxygen concentrator may work for you with a small, 1# propane cylinder.  Rio Grande sells a reconditioned concentrator for a bit over $400.00.  This is my new setup.  After all my research on gases and their dangers, I decided to get rid of my acetylene/air setup and go with the propane/O2 system.
  • Another safe option is to have a natural gas line run from your main gas line into your studio.  Those that have whole-house propane may be able to do this too.  Check with your local, state, and federal regulations (also your homeowner’s insurance) and with your gas company.

What will you be using the torch for?

Are you torch-enameling or lampworking?  If so, acetylene is a terrible gas for this type of work as it is very sooty and puts off a lot of carbon.

If you are or want to be a glassworker/enamelist, you’ll want to purchase a propane/oxygen system or, at the very least, a propane/Mapp Pro gas torch like the Hot Head Torch. If you already have an acetylene/air or acetylene/O2 setup, you can always purchase a small, portable setup for torch enameling and have the acetylene for soldering/annealing. Lampworking requires a hands-free setup. So, you’ll want a special torch that mounts to your work area.

The Smith Little Torch 

If you are soldering typical jewelry metals like gold, silver, brass, bronze, copper, and nickel, you have several choices.  I currently use two systems:  an acetylene/air setup and a Smith Little Torch for disposable tanks.  I am going to change to a propane/O2 setup soon because I like the control that I have over the flame with the Little Torch.  It’s also really hot!  A drawback to the portable tank situation is that you go through O2 like a hungry man at a buffet – it gets wolfed down (5 canisters of O2 to propane/Mapp Pro!  You can use many canisters of O2 before you use up your propane or Mapp gas.  I am looking into purchasing an oxygen concentrator. (See this page, on my site, for info on Mapp/Propylene gases.)

Hot-Head-torch

Hot Head Torch

Hot Head Torch and the  Devardi Glass Professional Lampwork Torch Head are great little, inexpensive, mountable torches for torch enameling and lampworking.

For lampworking, you’ll want a propane/oxygen setup or natural gas/oxygen because they are clean gases and supply the heat needed for this type of work.

bravo-1  The Bravo Torch looks like a shiny new Cadillac.  The reviews are great and the price is high.

There are many other lampworking torch heads out there.

Acetylene Torches

Acetylene and other gas torches have differently sized torch tips available.  This variety of sizes allows you a greater range of soldering operations:  fine tips for detail work, medium for regular soldering and annealing, and large tips for refining or soldering/annealing large pieces.

I generally, only use two torch tips:  one for everyday soldering (Goss tip #3) and a larger tip (Goss tip #5) for refining, large pieces, and warming up the pitch for chasing and repousse. I have a very small tip (Goss tip #1) – which I rarely use because it doesn’t like to stay lit.  Any fast movement and the flame goes out. I also have a #2 tip that is hardly ever used.  The #3 tip is probably larger than most people would choose but, I have become very comfortable working with this larger flame.  Plus, I’m lazy and don’t like changing tips unless I absolutely have to.

goss

The Goss Torch set up.

  • The Goss torch is what I have.  I have a Silver Smith and a Smith Little Torch too (geez – a bit excessive) but, for some reason, I keep using the Goss – probably back to that lazy jeweler thing again. This setup uses the “B” acetylene tank. These single regulator torches (for the portable tanks) don’t allow the pressure to exceed 15 PSI.  With a double regulator, one side tells you how much gas is in the tank and the other side shows the pressure.  If you purchase a double regulator, be sure that you never exceed 15 PSI – THE TANK CAN EXPLODE.  See my page on Acetylene.
  • Meco Midget torch can be found at many online jewelry supply stores.
  • Miller Smith makes great torches.  They make the Silver Smith and the Little Torch.  My guess is that these are the most popular torches for jewelers as most jewelers, that I know, own one. This setup uses the “B” acetylene tank.  Smith torches have a built-in flashback arrestor. Check with Smith and your instruction manual before setup and operation.
smith

Silver Smith Torch

Butane Torches

butane-torch

Blazer Butane Torch

Butane torches are inexpensive to purchase and are good for the beginner or someone just “trying out” the craft.  But, they often need refueling which is expensive and a bit annoying. The flame size is limited and the flame temperature is low, similar to propane.  Between the lower heat and flame size, the user is limited in the scope of work they can create.  Larger, more complicated pieces will be difficult or impossible with the butane torch. But, these torches are probably best for apartments or condos and small studio use.

Another option is to use a larger butane torch that uses a canister of fuel.  If you live in California, you cannot get the canisters online but, they are available at restaurant supply stores and some Asian markets.  I have the Iwatani torch and use it often for many different soldering jobs.

Iwatani Torch   

Natural Gas

Most homes already have natural gas lines installed for a stove, washer/dryer, and other uses.  It is a clean and inexpensive gas.  It may be possible to have a gas line put into your studio.  When I was in school getting my jeweler’s certificate, we used natural gas.  Here’s a discussion of natural gas on Ganoksin.

Propane

smith-propane Smith Little Torch Propane at Rio Grande

Propane tanks in the home are quite dangerous as the gas is heavier than air and sinks.  That means, if you have a leak, the propane will be concentrated on the same level as your water heater and furnace – ignition sources.

Yet, many people use propane as their fuel for heating, cooking, and refrigeration.  If you already have a propane setup for your home, you might have a professional run a line into your home for soldering.   Learn about your local laws, restrictions, and guidelines for propane use before you decide on purchasing any gas.

Oxygen/Propane is the way to go if you need clean gas for soldering.  The propane/02 setup is used for soldering platinum and lampworking because the gas burns cleanly.

If you go with propane/02, the tank propane and oxygen have to be stored outside.  See the label on my propane tank below:  

propane-tank

Ask a professional to help you set up a soldering system. Usually, you can get help at a professional welding supply or compressed air supplier like Airgas.  Check your local listings.

Small Torches – with disposable propane/mapp gas tanks

 Fireworks Torch

Fireworks Quick-Light Torch

The Fireworks Quick-Light Torch uses only mapp gas and air.  No oxygen is needed. It mixes the gas with the surrounding air.

smith-little-disp

The Smith Little Torch for Disposible Tanks

Smith Little Torch for disposable tanks at Amazon. Ditto with going through the 02 fast.
**Each area has different rules and regulations regarding the disposal of disposable gas tanks.  Check with your local disposal company for further information. I called one of the manufacturers and they said there was no recycling program, at this time.
The Smith Little Torch has many different tips, including one for annealing. These systems use the gas/O2 setup. I don’t believe that you can use the multi-orifice tip with the disposable tanks.
smith-tip

Smith Little Torch Rosebud Tip

When you purchase a “permanent” setup, you will need:  

  • regulator(s) – Oxygen, Acetylene, Propane or Acetylene/O2 set, Propane/O2 set
  • hose(s)
  • torch tips – small, medium, and large (at least).  Be sure to purchase tips for your torch.  Tips are NOT interchangeable!
  • check valves 
  • Torch head.  The Smith Little Torch can be used with several fuels including acetylene, hydrogen, propane, propylene, Mapp, or natural gas.
  • Silver Smith Torch Outfit

    The Smith Silversmith Torch is designed for acetylene/air only it is an almost complete kit.  What’s missing are the flashback arrestors, check valve, and acetylene tank.

  • tank wrench or key
  • an adjustable wrench  Check to make sure that it will work with your tank.
  • gas tank 
  • O2 tank (if going the gas/O2 route)
  • a method for securing the tank(s) to a stable area
  • flashback arrestors (depending on the brand)
  • a method for lighting the torch – either electronic or striker.  Don’t use a lighter or a barbecue lighter.
  • a surface that is fire/flame safe
  • ventilation
  • Fire extinguisher – make sure that it is the right type for the gas that you are using!  Very important!

There are other things too – depending on what type of torch system you purchase.

So, I’ve probably confused you further but, buying a torch is a personal decision that is dictated by your needs, local laws and regulations, and planned use. I recommend a visit with your local air/gas company as a starting place.  Tell them what you want to do and what you can afford and they can offer suggestions or steer you in the right direction.  Don’t forget to check local laws, regulations, and also check with your insurance company before buying!  Good luck!

Related Videos