What Torch to Buy

Please see my site disclaimer

This page is due for an overhaul!  I’ll be working on it, on and off for a while (as of 7/31/22).  Pretty much the same information is on my Acetylene gas page and my Torches page.  I’m going to change the format, of this page, and what it focuses on  – which will be showing different torch systems, average costs, and resources for that type of soldering system.  I’ll cover acetylene torch systems, propane, butane, hydrogen, etc.  Could take me a while!

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

Note:  There are affiliate links on this and (probably) most of the pages on my website.  If you haven’t noticed, this site is AD and POPUP FREE!  The affiliate links help to support this site, allowing me to avoid having a zillion of those annoying marketing tools littering the pages.   If you purchase through my affiliate links, I receive a very small referral fee.  I am not privy to any of your personal information – not even your name.  Amazon and PepeTools assign me a code that basically says:  Nancy generated this sale – that’s it.  So, thank you for supporting this site by purchasing through my links.  I hope it helps you on your jewelry-making journey!  Nancy  (Many times I link to other sites without receiving remuneration from them.  This is because I feel this information is essential and want to share it with you.  Most vendors do not offer any sort of assistance to content creators – a pretty crappy system, in my opinion!)

Nancy LT Hamilton:  Author

Last updated: 7/31/22, 7/30/22, 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, is 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.

If you are ready to make the investment and commit to spending some money on a more permanent setup, then here’s some information/questions for you

  • Torches and their accompanying paraphernalia can be pricey but, they should last a very long time. 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.
  • Consider alternative torch setups like using an oxygen concentrator/propane or a hydrogen torch or natural gas.  Stuller and Rio carry concentrator setups.  Stuller sells a kit at a bit over $800.00 US (plus shipping) as does Rio. The kits include the Smith Little Torch, a disposable tank regulator, and everything you need to set up the system.  They are pricy but, burn very hot and don’t involve the use of compressed gases.  Over $2,000.00 US.  Rio has a YouTube video on the torch.  I also have a video on using my oxygen concentrator on YouTube.
  • Natural Gas – Another safer 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. From what I have read, you may need to increase the pressure with some kind of doohickey (a pressure booster) and may need oxygen too – depending on what you are doing. Speak with a licensed plumber.
  • 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!
  • Can you store the tanks in a relatively, temperature-controlled area?  Acetylene should not freeze.  Propane shouldn’t be stored in a closed area.  Familiarize yourself with the properties of the gas you choose.  Propane 101 is a good site to learn about propane.  Amerigas also has some information on propane storage.  My page on Acetylene has a ton of information on many gases.
  • Acetylene – Acetylene is a dirtier gas than butane, propane, or Mapp Pro.  It puts out a little bit of soot but, I haven’t found it to be a problem except when torch enameling.  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 warning:  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.
  • 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 – unless it’s detached. Please check with local authorities about regulations in your community.
  • Refillable #1 containers have been recalled because they leak – see update*. Update: 7/30/22:  I contacted Flame King and they said:  “The recall was a few years ago so anything currently being sold will be well out of that make period. “   You can get them on Amazon as well as on Flame King’s site.  Also, Flame King has a Refill Training page with 7 videos.
  •  The law – 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 on Amazon and elsewhere but, it is dangerous and illegal to do so – unless the tank has been specifically designed to be refilled.
  • Protect yourself – Purchase a propane gas detector and mount it near the floor – if you are using propane!  Here’s mine at work! 

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.

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.

The same is pretty much true for propane systems.

Acetylene and propane torch systems are not interchangeable!

Don’t use acetylene with a propane system and don’t use a propane system with acetylene!  You might get away with using an acetylene regulator with propane but, that’s about it.  You can’t use acetylene with a propane regulator, hoses, or torch!  Acetylene is a pretty volatile gas and specialty equipment has been designed to keep it from exploding.

Each torch has a different numbering system.

A #2 tip on the Smith Little Torch is vastly different from a Goss #2!

Only use torch tips that were designed for your torch

I accidentally used a torch tip that was in the Silver Smith Torch tip box at school.  But, the tip was for another torch and had been placed in the Silver Smith box in error (it should either have been discarded or spray painted pink (or something!).  Anyhoo, the tip appeared to fit until I lit the torch.  A huge gout of flame shot out from where the tip screwed in.  It burned right over my hand and left a sooty handprint on the wall.  If David Giulietti (a fellow student and AMAZING engraver and jeweler) hadn’t reacted quickly and shut off the gas, I may have sustained serious injury.  (Especially since I just stood there – frozen in total shock!)  So, the moral of that story is:  Make sure to only use tips that are designed for your torch and have talented and quick-thinking friends nearby!  Haha!  Thanks David!

All that said, I just found Paige Tools’ website and they make tips for Little Torch, Meco Midget, Gentec, etc.  If you are having issues with your tips, you might think of trying theirs.  I have not tried them yet.

There are micro torches and regular (lacking a name in my mental filing cabinet!) torches.

For some jewelers, the torch they choose often depends on what they learned with.  I soldered for 20 years with a large Goss torch tip and recently changed to a micro torch.  In jewelry school, we used Smith Silversmith torches – larger tips with more robust flames.  Recently, because I changed my soldering set up to an oxygen concentrator/propane system, I switched to the Smith Little Torch.  Now, I’m sold on the micro torch for soldering!  Detail work is so much easier and more precise.  I love it!  Wish I had started using it years ago!

Iwatani Butane Torch

Because the tip on the Little Torch is so small, I now do my annealing – especially on larger chunks of metal – with my Iwatani large butane torch.  I really like this big butane and if I’m really lazy, and don’t want to turn on my concentrator and propane, I just use this for soldering.  It gets hot enough to melt a lot of metal!  Be careful!  Hah.

Multiple-Orifice Tip

The Smith Little Torch has a tip for annealing and melting called a rosebud tip or multiple-orifice tip but, there’s a note in my head that says it won’t work well with the O2 concentrator.  I’ll have to find real info to back up my brain feedback!  *Update:  My brain was mostly right!  Rio Grande says that this tip is “not suitable for use with disposable fuel tanks”.  So, not a problem with the concentrator but, a problem with the disposable tank I use.   BTW, Rio Grande sells this for about $38.00 US.  There is a tip for Propane/O2 and Natural gas – item #500022 (Rio doesn’t offer an affiliate program!  So sorry, no links!)  There is also one for Acetylene and Hydrogen gases – item #500031. They say nothing about whether it’s good for Acetylene/O2 or Acetylene/Air or both.  Sorry.

When I was using an acetylene/air Goss torch, I used basically two 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.  The Goss #1 tip was not employed because it didn’t stay lit.   Any fast movement and the flame went out. I rarely used the  #2 tip, although I should have!  The #3 tip is what I always used. It is probably larger than most people would choose but, I  became very comfortable working with the larger flame. Now,  I’m addicted to my Smith Little Torch and its tiny, hot flame.  I usually use a #5 Little Torch Tip.

 

  • 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.
  • A tank to hold your gas – tank type depends on the gas and what size you need.  I have a little on Acetylene gas tank sizes here, on my website.
  • 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)
  • Electronic striker

    How will you light your torch?  You can try either an electronic or a manual striker. Personally, the electronic striker is so much easier!  If you are getting a manual striker, don’t forget extra flints!  Don’t use a lighter!  It’s too close to the flame and if there’s a flareup, you could get burned or the lighter could go up in flames – in your hand! 

  •     I like a little butane “pencil torch” for lighting my micro torch. 
  • 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, and a carefully researched decision,  that is dictated by your needs, local laws,  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 and regulations, and also check with your insurance company before buying!  A visit to your local fire station may also give you some insight. Good luck!

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