Tool of the Month :
For my birthday this year, I got my second torch, an oxy propane set up. Which is shocking if you would have asked me about owning two torches, let alone one torch, a mere 4 years ago. I was afraid of holding something that would have a flame coming out of the end and having a bottle of gas sitting there so close to it! FORGET IT!
As I started taking jewelry classes and working more seriously at JFF, I started to realize that (1) torches are necessary for most jewelry making and (2) torches aren’t scary as long as you are smart and take safety seriously. I did some research, i.e. talked to Hans, Dallas and my teachers, and picked out the torch that worked best for me. My first torch was the Smith Acetylene-Air torch.
Before getting a torch it is important to decide which torch is best for you. As with most tools, we at JFF suggest to not only think about what you are doing today, but think about getting a torch that will be more versatile as your projects evolve.
The Prince Butane Torch is the most basic torch we have at JFF. It is the same torch used in cooking to caramelize sugar, think crème brule. This torch works well for soldering closed small jump rings made of silver and copper. However, this torch is very limiting as it doesn’t produce a large enough flame to do larger pieces, such as rings, bracelets, etc. The Prince Butane torch is $56.50* and sold without fuel. The butane refills are $5.95*.
The Whale Torch is a propane atmospheric (also known as propane-air) torch. An atmospheric torch uses the surrounding air to draw the necessary oxygen to mix with the gas to produce a hot flame. Therefore, a second tank of oxygen is not necessary. The Whale torch uses valves designed to fit either a disposable propane tank or a small refillable propane tank, lowering the cost of the torch. It works well for general purpose soldering and annealing of silver and copper.
The torch comes with three different sized tips for more defined or larger flames. While the Whale torch is a good option for a beginner, the propane-air mixture offers limitations as far as soldering larger pieces and soldering gold are concerned. The Whale torch is $113.25*, including the 3 tips, handle, hose, and valve for either a disposable or refillable propane tank**.
Acetylene-air torches are also atmospheric torches that produce a hotter flame than the propane-air torches. These torches by design can produce a more controlled, smaller flame for more precise work or a larger, bushy flame for larger vessels. The acetylene-air torches come with a regulator that fits on a B-sized Acetylene tank***. There are two popular acetylene air torches available, the Goss or the Smith.
The Goss torch is commonly used in jewelry making classes for its more economical price. It has a single gauge on the regulator, allowing you to know the fullness of the tank. However, the regulator does not have standard hose fittings, so if a second torch is in your future, you would need to purchase an adaptor for the hook up. The bulbous handle of the torch is made of plastic and has four torch tip sizes available. The Goss torch kit comes with a regulator, hose, the most popular sized torch tip, handle, tank key, and striker*** pricing in at $132*.
The Smith torch has a double gauge regulator with standard fittings and a warranty. The double gauge on the regulator allows you not only to know how full the tank is, but to control the pressure of the acetylene. This allows for the ability to have a hotter flame, greater control for fine flame adjustment and consistent fuel pressure. The Smith torch has a slim nickel plated handle with six available torch tips. This torch comes with a regulator, hose, the smallest torch tip, handle, tank key and striker***. The Smith kit is $204*.
Oxygen-Fuel torches are characterized by having two separate cylinders or tanks. One with oxygen and the other with a fuel, like propane or acetylene. These torches have a much hotter, smaller flame because of the combustion reaction from mixing the oxygen with the fuel. The most common fuel used in jewelry making is propane, the flame is hot enough for gold and even platinum**** and burns clean. However, some people choose to use acetylene, natural gas, or MAPP gas. When choosing an oxy fuel torch there are four torches to choose from depending on your soldering needs.
The Meco Midget Torch is built like a tank. The handle and tips are made out of solid brass and uses regular welding hoses. The Midget torch has three tips available. Although this torch lacks the bells and whistles of other oxy-fuel torches, this torch cannot be beat for its durability. The Meco Midget torch is sold with a handle, three tips and hose connectors***** for $170*.
The Hoke torch is least expensive oxy-fuel torch available. The torch body is made in China of cast steel and is nickel plated. The advantage of the Hoke torch is the tip size range. It not only has three standard size tips, but also has an adaptor kit that allows for the use of Micro tips. These tips quickly change in and out allowing for a much smaller precise flame. The Hoke torch is $47.90*, including the three standard tips and the torch handle*****. The adapter kit is $17.95*.
The Smith Little Torch is our best selling torch. This torch has an aluminum body and is light weight. It is the most ergonomic torch on the market. The Little Torch offers seven different sizes of tips and also has a rosebud tip that allows for casting and soldering larger pieces. The Little Torch is sold with hoses and five tips for $119*. JFF also stocks a complete torch set up including the Little Torch kit, two regulators, oxygen tank, propane tank**, and carrier for $495*.
The last torch is the casting torch. This torch has a larger mixing chamber in the handle, producing a larger flame with a higher volume of BTUs. The casting torch is sold in separate pieces, the handle is $98.45* and tips range in price from $30 to $60*.
*prices may change without warning
**The propane tanks are sold empty, JFF does not fill/refill propane.
***Acetylene tanks are sold separately for $135* initially, refills are available for $21*.
****The most popular torch for Platinum work is a Hydrogen Torch.
*****Hoses, regulators, and oxygen and gas cylinders can be purchased separately.