A torch is possibly a jewelers’ most important tool. Unlike some of the other important tools, like a saw or bench pin, torches are not cheap. A torch is a tool you are going to use for a long time. Due to the cost of a torch and how long you will use it a lot of thought and research should be done before purchasing one. Yes, there are several torches that can be bought for under a $100 but they tend to cheap and not versatile.
When I bought my first torch I decided to purchase a Smith Little Torch that uses Disposable Propane and Oxygen tanks. This was a tough choice for me because in the past I had always used an acetylene/atmospheric air system torch where I took classes. The acetylene/atmospheric air systems tend to be the industry standard in most studios and schools. After using the Smith Little Torch for a year I can say I understand all the pros and cons of it pretty well. My overall evaluation of this torch is for my current situation it is the ideal torch for me.
Basic Set Up of the Torch
The torch is set up with four main parts: a torch body, 8-foot hoses, single-valve non-gauged regulators and tanks. The torch body’s grip has two knobs and a tip for the flame to come out of. Each knob individually controls how much gas from either tank makes it to the tip. The tips can be changed if a different size flame is needed.
The two colored hoses, red for propane and green for oxygen, travel to the regulator. Houses are screwed into the regulators with a tight seal. Then the regulators are screwed into the tanks. To release the gas in the tanks all you have to turn the knob on each regulator individually to open, but not all the way unless the tanks are low. The two tanks are small, disposable and can be bought at any hardware store.
The major pro of this torch is the size. It is small and can fit in a restricted studio space comfortably. It is also easy to store and can be put away easily because the tanks are small. Compared to larger torch systems with huge tanks or big tips this is a major plus. The whole assembly is easy to carry around if you need to move to a different studio.
Because it uses disposable tanks you don’t have to transport the tanks if you are moving across the country, which can be hazardous. Lastly finding someone that sells and fills large acetylene tanks can be difficult. While the disposable tanks are sold at almost any hardware store. The size of the tanks adds a safety feature because they are no larger then the ones used for a camping stove and if something did go wrong would do less damage.
The hand piece is also lightweight which can be good for long solders. If the oxygen propane mixture is good it produces a clean strong flame. This flame that can reach temperatures that work fine with silver, copper, nickel and gold.
The overall cost of the torch is more then a $120 cheaper then an acetylene/atmospheric system. Even cheaper versions can be found if you shop around on Ebay or find a used one. If you want to upgrade it later with a gauged regulator and bigger tanks that is easy to do. Additional tips are about $10 cheaper then for an acetylene/atmospheric system.
With the above pros it is hard to believe there is anything wrong with this torch. My major issue with this torch is the fact that getting the oxygen to propane ratio right can be a bit tricky. Even after using this torch for over a year it can still take me a few minutes to get the mixture to come out just right from the tanks.
Another problem is there is no way to tell if the tanks are empty until they are empty. The propane tank will feel lighter when it is empty but the oxygen tank does not. In addition the oxygen tank tends run out before the propane tank. The tanks running out without warning is really annoying if you live in a small town were the good hardware store is not open on Sundays and Mondays. This is also annoying if you are in the middle of a piece and have to stop.
The flame from the tip tends to more vertical then with an acetylene/atmospheric system. This takes some time to get used to and makes it easier to damage a jewelry piece if your not moving the flame around enough. Because the flame is so vertical I am always tempted to hold it far from the piece, which is not a good idea either.
Lastly the color of the hoses is a bit odd. Why does the red hose go to the blue propane tank and the green hose goes to red oxygen tank. This is very odd to me and I know there is an answer and if someone wants to tell me what it is I will appreciate it.
If I lived in a house with a nice basement or workshop and didn’t have the possibility of moving several times in the next few years I would not get this torch. This torch is ideal for people with limited space, have to move often and need something that is easy to put away. In the future when I am more settled I will go back to an acetylene/atmospheric system but for now I am going to use this torch. As I said earlier this is the ideal torch for me during this phase of my life when I live in a small apartment, move around a lot and don’t have a lot of extra space.
Posted by Silver Drops Designs Blog
Hosted by Silver Drops Designs