The other day I had a question about someone wanting to set up to start doing some hard soldering, so that got me thinking about torches. I have a few different torches that I use in my shop, so I figured I’d let you have a bit of a look. One thing when I set up this shop, is I really wanted to get away from bottled Oxygen, just because here in Australia, you have to rent the cylinders for about $300 a year, on top of whatever Oxy you use, in addition to the fact that there is the added danger of having a high pressure bottle of oxygen sitting around. Anyways here we go.
This is the first torch I ever bought, before I knew anything about making jewellery. I went into a little rock shop and this is what he sold me for about $80. I also bought a sand casting kit and some alloy to cast, however the torch was never hot enough to melt the alloy, leading to much frustration in my basement.
So, this is basically the kind of torch you would find at a hardware store- you know the kind that just screw on to a little gas cylinder. The benefit of this is the fact that it has a hose which is pretty essential for soldering.
It hooks up to a propane tank, no oxy required, it just sucks in air and mixes it with the gas. Not a super hot torch, but fine for soldering most stuff. In fact this is the torch I have been using for soldering in my shop for the past year, and will continue to be until I get an oxygen generator, but more on that later. I have managed to use it to melt small amounts of silver, say 30 grams or so.
I reckon, if you are starting out and don’t have a lot of cash to spend, something like this would be a pretty good start. It is simple to operate, safe, and you are not too likely to overheat your metal. Probably the one annoying thing is that the gas comes out at quite a pressure and so has a tendency to blow on the pieces you are trying to solder, moving them around if they are small.
I have no idea the brand of my torch, but check this out, looks similar, but I think would be even better than mine.
Okay, next up, the Turbotorch by Thermadyne, which I think were previously Victor. I Love this torch. I worked for a casting company for a number of years and this was the torch they used to cast thousands of grams of precious metal every day. Funny thing is I don’t think it is at all common in the jewellery industry, it’s most common use is for plumbing.
Again, it runs on a single gas- mine runs on propane/LPG/MAPP, and you can buy a different one that runs only on acetylene. The tip (which is the whole long steel tube ) is interchangeable for different sizes of flames. The one I have on here is the T-6. That’s the one you need for this torch to shine.
My turbo torch is the workhorse of my torches. It’s what I use for annealing metal, melting for ingots or casting. I can melt up to 40 grams of copper in an open crucible- Copper’s melting point is 1080 C and the amount of silver I can melt is more limited by my crucible size. Silver melts at 960 C. The other great thing is there are a lot of these kicking around used, because they have been used for plumbing for quite a while. Even new they won’t break the bank, I paid $195 for a set that included torch, 2 tips, hose and regulator. Here’s what the set I bought looks like.
Okay, last but certainly not least, the Smith Little Torch. Awesome. This is the torch you want if you are serious about making jewellery. Everywhere I have worked, this baby is the standard. It has exchangeable tips from really tiny to quite large. This is an Oxy/gas torch though so you need that bottled oxygen. And what you get by adding that oxygen is a much much hotter flame. Also you have so much more control over the flame because you can adjust how much oxy the torch gets, and therefore the heat of the flame.
I must say, as much as I have been getting by using my old single gas torch, I used one of these again the other day and it was soooo nice. You get to direct the heat exactly where you want it, and it is Hot!
So, here’s my plan to get back to using my little torch without having to do the Oxy cylinder thing. I am going to buy an oxygen generator, which is basically a machine which produces oxygen on demand. No more risks associated with stored oxygen, and no cylinder rental. Sweet. Though they are a bit pricey. I think around $2000. I have more research to do, but I’ll keep you posted what I end up with.