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?”
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 they can do. 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.
- 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, 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.
- 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.
- Do you live in an apartment or a condo where it is prohibited from having compressed gasses?
- Many insurance companies may not cover oxygen use in your home. 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! Check with your insurance company first.
- Can you store the tanks in a relatively, temperature controlled area? Acetylene should not freeze.
What will you be using the torch for?
Are you torch enameling or lampworking? If so, the 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 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.
***I know NOTHING about lampworking. I took a three day class about 10 years ago so, I am not an authority. But, I do use the Hot Head (below) for torch enameling. Just wanted to present a few ideas.
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’ 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! You can use many canisters of O2 before you use up your propane or Mapp gas. (See this page, on my site, for info on Mapp/Propylene gases.)
What I’m hoping to do is to remove the disposable tank adapters on the Little Torch and use the torch setup that I already have for my propane/O2 setup. I’m sure that there is no problem with doing this but, I’m waiting to hear back from Smith to be 100% sure.
Carlisle Torch at Glasscraft Inc.
For lampworking you’ll want a propane/oxygen setup or a natural gas/oxygen. This provides a clean gas and the heat needed for this type of work.
The Bravo Torch looks like a shiny new Cadillac. The reviews are great and the price is high – $975.00 at 8/201.
The Minor and the Mega Bench Burners from $169 – $211 at Sundance Glass.
Acetylene and other gas torches – besides the butane – can have different size torch tips. This gives you a greater range in what you can solder: fine tips for detail work, large tips for refining or working on large pieces and a bunch of different tips in between.
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 Torch at Amazon. This is not a complete setup.
- The Goss torch is what I have. I have a Silver Smith and a Smith Little Torch (geez – a bit excessive) too 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 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.
- The Meco Midget Torch Setup link is here. Otto Frei carries it for propane/O2 and acetylene/O2. Full kits, including empty gas tanks run between $590 – $598.00 – depending on the gas.
- Smith makes great torches. They make the Silver Smith and the Smith 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.
Smith Silver Smith (w/o tank) at Amazon
Blazer Butane MicroTorch at Mirco-Tools
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.
Most homes already have natural gas lines installed for a stove, washer/dryer, and other uses. It is a clean and inexpensive gas.
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 a clean gas for soldering. The propane/02 setup is used for soldering platinum and making lampworking because the gas burns cleanly.
If you go with propane/02, the tank has to be stored outside. See the label on my propane tank below:
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.
Small Torches – with disposable propane/mapp gas tanks
“Hot Enough for You? – What kind of torch do you need?” Sounds right up your alley.
- torch tips
- check valves (you can also get combination check valves/flashback arrestors.)
- torch head
- tank wrench or key
- an adjustable wrench or a combination tank wrench which is an all-in-one tank wrench and 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 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
- Fire extinguisher – make sure that it 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.
There is a newish type of oxygen supply which doesn’t require large tanks and frequent refills – in fact, there are now tanks at all. This machine is, basically, a rebuilt medical oxygen generator. It can be used with propane or acetylene. Price at Rio Grande (as of 8/2014 is $425.00).
If you don’t go with a generator, your other choice is oxygen in tanks.
- How to Set Up a Torch – have a torch, need to set it up? Here’s how.
- Soldering 101, part one and Soldering 101, part two
- All About Solder – You need to understand what you are working with!
- Flat Square Edges on Metal – Important techniques for creating square edges like on ring shanks, tubing, settings, etc. – pretty much any two pieces that you want to solder together!
- Getting Ready to Solder – Important steps before you solder.
- Identify Wire Solder – Mark your solder before confusion reigns!
- Jewelry Studio Safety – Extremely important information that every jeweler should know! Don’t risk your life or your health! Know the dangers of metal dust? If not, don’t sand anything – yet!
- Creating Consistently Sized Spheres – how do you make perfectly round spheres? You might need to know!
- How to Anneal Silver Sheet – an important skill to have otherwise, you can damage your metal and work twice as hard!
- Annealing Wire – Want broken wire? How about melted wire? Need your wire soft and bendable? These tips will help you to avoid these problems and work with ease!
- DIY Fume Extractor for the Studio or Shop – One of the BIG ONES for studio safety. Learn to make your own!
- How to Make a Bezel and Set a Cabochon Part One – Want to solder thin material too thick? Want to set a stone or two? Learn how to create and solder bezels.
- How to Make a Bezel and Set a Cabochon Part Two – Ditto from above.
Soldering Jewelry: How to solder settings, bails and wire. – We solder dissimilar shapes and sizes of metal together, all the time. Want to stop melting your settings or bails? Can you solder wire without melting it?
Soldering Jewelry – Sweat, Flush, or Applique Soldering – How to solder two pieces of metal on top of each other. Learn tricks for a successful joining of dissimilar sizes and how to apply solder.
My YouTube Soldering Playlist – A list of all my soldering videos on YouTube.
Related Web Pages
- About Solder – Learn all about the material you use.
- Acetylene, Torch, Tanks, Safety – A huge page with so much more than info on Acetylene! Learn all about torches, soldering and how to protect yourself!
- Charts – Soldering related charts. Includes things like annealing temps, compressed gas valve sizes, what temperature does your gas burn at, what are the melting points of your metal. Also, there are wire gauge charts, millimeter to fractions and inches charts, drill bits to wire gauge charts. Lots of information!
- Cleaning Metal – nice to know if you plan on soldering anything!
- On Pickle, Acid, Crock Pots and Baking Soda – How to remove the schmutz left from soldering, how to make your own pickle, how to use pickle and how to neutralize pickle. Tons of info!
- Oxidation, Flux, and Fire scale – Why does oxidation occur? Why do you keep getting fire scale, how do you get rid of it? Learn the whys of what is happening when you solder and the solutions.
- The 4 Steps for Successful Soldering – The 4 steps will help you to achieve soldering success!
- Identifying Wire Solder – How to mark your solder so that you always know what type it is.
- Jewelry Tools – Harbor Freight – Cheap tools for the studio!
- Miter Cutting Vise and Jig: Having a hard time squaring up the ends of your ring shanks? Check out this tool!
- Q&A: Firescale/Firestain – See what others have had problems with and find the solutions!
- Q&A: Annealing – How long to hold your annealing temps. Kiln annealing.
- Q&A: Wire Questions. Balling up wire, tapering wire, work hardening wire, straightening wire and more!
- Recipes: They aren’t just for cookin’ anymore!
- Pickle Recipe – make your own pickle
- Prip’s Flux Recipe – make your own flux
- Removing Broken Drill Bits From Your Metal -snapped your drill bit and can’t get it out? Here’s how to remove broken drill bits.
- Removing Copper Flashing i.e.: How to remove the copper coating you might get from pickling. Also, how to remove copper from brass or bronze that comes to the metal’s surface after soldering.
- Wire and Sheet Metal
- What Torch to Buy: Trying to figure out what you need to make fire in your studio? Check out this information before you buy!
- Soldering Questions – One of the most asked after subject matter. Many of my web pages have been inspired by soldering issues and questions.
- Torch/Gas Questions – Portable vs. regular torches, problems with torch, butane torches, water torches, setting up a torch safely, buying torches.