Set Up Your Torch
It is critical to fully read and understand these instructions and all literature that accompanies a torch system. All torches are not the same. Be sure you understand specifics for your particular model before proceeding. Call the manufacturer for guidance, or ask the vendor at the supply house to demonstrate the connections for you. If you are still unsure, DO NOT set up the torch yourself. You are responsible for your own safety.
We recommend having an experienced torch user with you for calm moral support and assistance during your first setup. This person need not be a metalsmith – a plumber, welder or auto-body tech skilled in metalwork will be knowledgeable, confident and familiar with many torch connections.
- Editor’s note
OK. You have just brought home your first acetylene tank and are ready to attach your new acetylene/air torch. This is the day you have dreamed of — soldering at home, in your workshop — yet there is that nagging doubt in the back of your head. You’ve heard horror stories of tanks, fires and explosions. Oh, why did you think you would ever be able to have a full jewelry studio at home? The instruction manual is full of hard core information that seems geared toward experienced welders — you don’t even know how to put the thing together, and even if you do figure it out, you fear you will blow up your home and the entire neighborhood.
Stop! Be comforted in the knowledge that thousands of jewelers have had acetylene tanks in their homes, and have safely lived to tell about it and the joys of making jewelry in their own home studio. With common sense and some safety rules, you and your tank can co-exist harmoniously.
Don’t be afraid of the torch and tank. Respect them and care for them, checking for leaks frequently. Never take them for granted and always think ahead when using the torch. Make sure the tank is either chained to the legs of a sturdy table, or in a tank holder, especially if there are children or pets in the house. Keep it in a well-ventilated area. And, never use a suspect torch or hose or work with suspect connections.
Most jewelers use a “B” tank, which is approximately 23 inches tall. Acetylene tanks should be transported from the local welding supply in an upright position –to keep the gas inside stable – and secured so they do not fall over or roll around. It is best to transport them in the open back of a pickup truck — not in an enclosed automobile.
If the tank should fall over in transit, inspect the stem for damage, and then leave the tank upright for several hours before connecting it. If there is a wide difference in temperature between the tank yard at the supplier and the place where you will set up the torch, it’s also a good idea to let the tank “rest” in its new home for several hours or overnight.
Torch Setup Checklist
- Full acetylene tank
- Regulator and knob
- Tank key
- Adjustable wrench or universal wrench
- Fuel hose
- Leak detection fluid
- Torch and torch heads
- Teflon tape
- Instruction manual
- Fireproof surface
- Fire extinguisher
There are many options when choosing fuel gases and torch systems. These directions are tailored to a one-tank, one-hose, ambient air/acetylene torch –one of the most basic systems available.
When purchasing a torch system, you’ll need to choose a fuel gas and determine whether you’ll use ambient air, compressed air or oxygen with your chosen gas. The equipment needed for each fuel combination is specifically manufactured for that fuel, and is not interchangeable from fuel combination to fuel combination. Some gases perform better for different metals. If you choose a combined fuel and oxygen system, you will have two tanks, regulators and supply hoses.
Other fuel combinations include: acetylene/oxygen, propane, propane/oxygen, hydrogen, MAPP gas, and butane.
Check local regulations and manufacturers’ information when deciding on a torch system.
The regulator reduces the pressurized gas in the cylinder to suitable lower working pressures. It should be rated for the same pressure as the cylinder used – you can find the rating on the back of the regulator. The gauges monitor the fuel delivery and supply. Acetylene should never be delivered at more than 15 psi or it may become unstable. Do not let the gauge needle move into the red warning zone of the left gauge.
There are two costs associated with gas tanks – the cost of the canister (tank), and the cost of the gas. Don’t become too attached to a clean, shiny, new empty gas tank if you’ve bought one. You must take the empty tank to a welding supply company, plumbing supplier or gas dealer to be filled. Typically, you trade an empty tank for a full one, and it might be years or never before you get your “own” tank back. An alternative is to rent a tank.
One of the best investments you can make is the purchase of a “universal” wrench. These range in price from $10-$15 and are worth every cent, because they accommodate most hose and tank fittings.
Flashback arrestors can be torch or regulator mounted. They are not the same as check valves. Check valves stop reverse flow of gas, flashback arrestors extinguish a flashback flame. Some arrestors combine these functions. Most jewelers who use a “B” tanks forgo them because the tank pressure is not excessive; most manufacturers strongly recommend them.
Teflon tape, used in plumbing connections, can be used on the tank threads to protect them and allow for easier tightening of the regulator — one to two wraps is sufficient. However, tape should NEVER be used to compensate for faulty threads.
Always verify that tank valve threads are undamaged at the supply house by removing the plastic cap to inspect them. Take a tank key with you to verify that the stem will turn and is undamaged.
With a permanent marker, write “on” and draw an arrow on your tank key pointing counterclockwise to help you remember. It also helps to form a habit of not removing the key from the stem until you have verified that the tank is off.
Be Safe with Gas
Store tanks upright; secure them to a wall or in a tank carrier to avoid potential damage to the valve or tank stem or create a dangerous release of compressed gas if the tank falls.
Always light a torch with a striker. There is a possibility for a torch flame to flow into the fuel reservoir of a cigarette lighter, causing it to explode. Matches will typically be blown out by the pressure of the gas coming out of the torch head.
Always turn off the gas at the tank stem with the tank key after daily use.
Bleed the lines after shutting off the tank stem to release pressure in the hose and on the regulator. Valve pressure should drop to zero on a resting tank.
Always verify connections are sound when changing tanks, torches, hoses or the regulator. Use a leak-detection solution and take the time to be safe.
Sniff the air before soldering. If you smell fuel, open a window and disconnect the torch.
If you have a faulty tank, move it outdoors and call the supplier to pick it up. It’s not wise to transport a leaking tank.