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Handling a Propane Torch

01/24/2010 2:51 PM

The propane torch is a new tool for me, and the behavior of the flame is so flakey that I'm wondering whether there's something wrong with the tip. It's the bottom-line cheap one with a knob to regulate the amount of gas flow - supposedly.

From what I've found on the internet (and advice I was given) this flakiness is considered normal. The flame flares up or dies down unexpectedly, because gas is sloshing around in the cannister.

So what's the scoop, torch users? Am I just a big slosher? Should I be aiming for some sort of gliding motion when handling this thing? Your advice and/or descriptive terms appropriate to the skilled handling of gas will be appreciated.

Are the more expensive tips any better, for galoots like me?

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#1

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 5:08 PM

I used to use a simple propane torch for sweating copper plumbing fittings, and never noticed a flakey flame and I used to slosh it around alot getting into some of the precarious places plumbing goes. Perhaps you are not using enough gas, I used to open the valve quite a bit and would get a strong whoosh sound from the flame. I adjusted the flame until the center cone of light blue was a 'nice' shape. If you are getting a very yellow sooty flame, check and see if the tip is threaded and you can unscrew it a bit to allow more air through. I have had torches with and without adjustable nozzles, both worked adequately for my purposes.

What are you using torch for?

Drew

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 5:23 PM

Just frying up some metal, at this point

I torched a little pile of fine silver scraps this afternoon to see how it did without any flux. The torch was blowing hot and cold no matter which way I turned the screw.

It sounds from what you're saying maybe I should turn it up more at the beginning and then adjust it down. I'll certainly try it.

I was lighting it while it was standing up on the bench, with a fairly low flame, meaning to turn it up when I had it in position but before I even touched it, it was blowing all over the place, then threatening to go out - very uneven fuel flow in this one.

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#3

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 5:31 PM

I have never heard of a propane torch doing that, unless the bottle was nearly empty. I would think that the valve would be the more likely culprit. I suggest that you take this one back to where you got it from and trade it for another one.

Always, the better the equipment the better your experience with it and the better your results. Of course, if you are only an occasional torch user, the cheapie may be all you really need. The one thing you didn't mention was what you are using the torch for. If you are using it for soldering stained glass you might want a somewhat different flame than if you are sweating together copper pipe joints.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 6:04 PM

Well the tank is a little one, just 400 g, so maybe we used up most of it last week.

The tip is an old one somebody gave me - it wasn't used, just a kit that was laying around in the basement I don't know how long. I just checked, there's no way to adjust anything but the one knob on the side that's gas out.

I got the torch to work silver with. A tip with good control would be nice! in fact necessary, at least more control than that! . But maybe Drew is right, I need to turn it on hot first and then apply control.

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#5

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 6:16 PM

My cheap propane torch is VERY sensitive to the slightest breeze. Most of the time I can't use it outdoors without a lot of trouble.

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#6

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 7:30 PM

I'm not sure that propane burns hot enough for silver work, unless maybe quite delicate. The next step up is MAPP, for which the cylinders and nozzles are similar to those for propane. My sister-in-law does jewelry, using acetylene, but I forget whether it is air-acetylene or oxy-acetylene.

For whatever reason I don't know, the more recent propane torches don't seem to have as much turn-down ratio as older ones, and they are more finicky to keep lit.

For acetylene appliances, you may need to go to a welding supply outlet rather than the average hardware store. Although the central part of the flame may be hotter than you need, with practice you will be able to apply the cooler part of the flame to the work zone.

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#8
In reply to #6

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 7:57 PM

The propane is hot enough, alright, no problem there. It melts the silver in no time.

The trouble with oxy-acetylene, it's considered more hazardous and because of that, it's very difficult to get insurance (and expensive if you do). It's not feasible for a home workshop, not around here anyway. The advantage of acetylene's high temperature is that you can work with platinum - and of course, those torches have excellent control for all sizes of work.

I have a little butane torch that is only good for small stuff, but the controls on it are perfectly good - as I think the propane should be.

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#7

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 7:46 PM

If you want more power and control, go for an Oxy - Map gas torch. You can get one from Lowes fairly inexpensively. I think this is the one I got. Didn't get much chance to use it before I went to Iraq, and it has been in storage ever since.

Drew

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 8:14 PM

I was reading about the Mapp gas today - never heard of it before, but sounds like a good option.

I admit I don't like anything about propane, but for now, that's what I've got to work with. I have to get something going with it in the next week or so and turn out some product. Tomorrow morning I'm going to give your startup approach a try first, and if that doesn't work, try a new cannister and see how it behaves. If both fail, I'll be looking for another tip to try.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 8:27 PM

Definitely need to get it well warmed up before turning it down to a good working flame.

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#11
In reply to #9

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 9:43 PM

I used propane quite a lot during my work cutting up a ship.

For the cutting torch in that application it worked fine.

I did notice later that plumbers typically used Mapp gas, so could well be it is superior, as acetylene is superior to propane, but propane will do the job, and is cheaper.

I called my friend who said Mapp gas was superior because it burned hotter as it had a little butane and acetylene in it.

I think the reason I even had a propane bottle torch at all was for rough work, like crawling under the car and melting water frozen brake drums, and stuff like that.

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#12

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 11:09 PM

I have always had the same effect too.

If I keep the propane tank upright there is no problem.

If I turn it upside down (or on its side with a new canister) it really flares up. That is a nuisance when working in confined spaces trying to solder pipes.

Some of the plumbers I have seen use a larger tank sitting upright on the floor with a hose to the torch. That seems to eliminate the problem.

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#13

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 11:14 PM

I have successfully used propane over the years. I have a BernzOMatic brand (still widely available and popular brand). It is one of the bottom-line models but well made. I also have a torch designed to be used with MAPP.

As someone else said, low fuel could cause the problems you describe (usually why I have flame problems). Also as previously stated, not letting it warm up before using. Other reasons would include:

  • rust in the fuel cylinder (old),
  • bad fuel in the cylinder,
  • trash (dust, dirt or insects) in the nozzle of the tank or in the torch,
  • dirty filter in the torch,

My procedure is to open the control valve fully, light the torch, give it a minute to stabilize. When I can turn the cylinder upside down without affecting the flame I then adjust the flame down to what I need for heat if needed. Much of the time, I use it fully open.

MAPP burns much hotter and requires a different torch than the usual propane torch. A MAPP torch can be used with a propane cylinder but DO NOT use a propane torch with MAPP, you will be asking for a disaster.

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#14

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 11:43 PM

First off, we must have weaker propane in my area. I do some artsy fartsy stuff now and then, but have never been able to get silver hot enough with propane. To solve that I purchased a Smith Little Torch Oxy/Propane kit. It works really well for small amounts of silver. For the Oxygen I purchased a small cylinder at the local welders supply for about $85.00. For the propane I use the 20 pound cylinder that is the same one used for gas grills. The small oxygen cylinder when used with the Little Torch will last a long time before needing a refill.

When I need just propane, I use the same above 20 pound cylinder. I bought an 8 foot propane hose that has an adapter that you can screw the propane torch head on, and the other end fits the propane cylinder. I prefer this setup to the little hand held propane cylinder because sometimes if you need to turn the torch head so it is pointing down, it will spit and sputter, and even sometimes loose the flame. The 20 pound cylinder is sitting on the floor stationary, so that takes care of the sputter problem. I made a stand for the torch head so I can set it down while it is still lit, or just to sit it on to cool after using it.

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#15

Re: handling a propane torch

01/24/2010 11:58 PM

Like most say, light the tourch, let it set for a while before you use it. The best way around the problem is to buy a $30 BernzOmatic. No more problems.

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#16

Re: handling a propane torch

01/25/2010 12:58 AM

it has been my experience with propane torches that, they need to be used in a vertical position. these torches are designed to operate from gas not liquid. when you tip the torch past a certain angle you will get a sputtering flame. this angle depends on the amount of liquid propane in the cylinder. if this does not help remove the nozzle from the torch stem and there will be an orifice plug, if clogged clean it.

hope this helps

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#17

Re: handling a propane torch

01/25/2010 1:31 AM

might be off topic, but just a word of caution,

Here is a lesson learned regarding sweating pipes. This was an incident at UC Davic in California, just not using precautions and good safety practices.

Just want you to be safe.

http://isswprod.lbl.gov/isswprod-viewdocs/lessonslearned/Docs/1030/LL%20MAPP%20Gas.ppt

Good luck, and be safe

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#20
In reply to #17

Re: handling a propane torch

01/25/2010 7:34 AM

MIght be off-topic, but GA until someone moves it there. I use the things all the time, and had no idea this could happen. Thanks for the timely warning (off to pass this on to my wife, who just started using my torch for HER art classes).

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#21
In reply to #20

Re: handling a propane torch

01/25/2010 7:37 AM

Whoops, too late! My apologies. I think we should, collectively, vote this one back "on-topic" (My vote only counts as one)

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#22
In reply to #20

Re: handling a propane torch

01/25/2010 7:42 AM

Given the title of the thread (rather than the content of the OP), it's very much on topic.

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: handling a propane torch

01/25/2010 8:04 AM

True dat, but to get it back into "on-topic" ( and make it possible to grant the poster a GA) it requires at least 4 more votes of "on-topic" (use the rate button on the post to do that. I did, already, but it starts at 5 against, and I'm only ONE for).

Thanks for your support. I think we need to change the author's original designation of it (he said it was off-topic. Thanks for his honesty, but I believe he was TOO honest!).

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#24
In reply to #22

Re: handling a propane torch

01/25/2010 8:05 AM

Oops. Pardon me. Looks like you might have already done that, but I missed it. My bad, and I apologize.

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#32
In reply to #24

Re: handling a propane torch

01/27/2010 4:30 PM

might it take good toilets to produce quantum math???

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#35
In reply to #32

Re: handling a propane torch

01/28/2010 7:57 AM

Absolutely! Without them, the brain gets all backed up, and NOTHING comes out!

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#26
In reply to #17

Re: handling a propane torch

01/25/2010 8:44 AM

Very on topic and a GA, thanks.

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#27
In reply to #17

Re: handling a propane torch

01/25/2010 10:00 AM

Very much OT (on topic). Was it ever determined what caused the crack on the cylinder? Was it a faulty cylinder or just mis-handling by the user?

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#28
In reply to #27

Re: handling a propane torch

01/25/2010 10:14 AM

At first I wasn't going to bother viewing (don't like downloading unknown files), but risked it after reading replies.

I am going to be checking my tanks prior to use from now on, I never would have thought the weld would break, I always thought it was manufactured like a pressure vessel designed to take the kind of abuse that probably developed that crack from a poor weld.

Drew

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#29
In reply to #27

Re: handling a propane torch

01/25/2010 10:30 AM

I think the point of the presentation was that the damage was a result of not disconnecting the cylinder when not in use (safety notice on cylinder). Presumably the whole thing got bundled into a toolbag & the damage was caused by other tools piled on top - or maybe it fell off a shelf. Either way, with the cylinder connected to the burner assy, there could be some nasty stresses on that weld.

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#18

Re: handling a propane torch

01/25/2010 6:34 AM

Hi artsmith,

Your flaring and floppy flame is due to liquid gas passing through the jet which in this case is extremely small as it is a high pressure burner and any liquid which gets into the tube feeding the jet takes some time to dissipate and until it does you cannot control the flame. Also if you are using a burner which is too large for the tanks ability to supply gas the liquid will boil vigorously throwing drops of liquid into the feed tube causing your flaring again..

To avoid this problem do not tip your tank also if it is overly full a good idea is to waste your gas to lower the level let the tank warm up again and try again. If still not satisfactory get a larger tank with a hose to your torch which is much more preferable.

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: handling a propane torch

01/25/2010 7:27 AM

If all fails you may want to try to set up a propane style cooker. I the past I have used a outside propane cooker and have associated holders to put metals in to melt -than pour or store. Don't know if that will work for your application, but it seems your limited for use of other materials. GOOD LUCK!!

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#25

Re: Handling a Propane Torch

01/25/2010 8:41 AM

Well, I tried what Drew first suggested, to bring it up hot first of all. I let it stand and burn for a little on full. Then adjusted down to a medium sized flame.

To do the work intended, I have to hold the cylinder horizontally on one arm, to point the tip down onto the work while keeping my other hand free to handle the work with a titanium pick.

I just gave it two trial runs with this startup, and did not have the floppy flame problem, in spite of having the cannister held sideways. Thank you Drew! and others.

I also read all the fine print on the side of the cannister, and other posters are correct as well, it's recommended to use it with the cannister upright. A hose tip would be necessary for me to do that (maybe I can get one). It seems that the liquid/gas issue is resolved by letting it stabilize before tipping.

Safety advice is much appreciated, as well!

BTW, how temperature sensitive is propane? Is it okay to put it in an unheated area when not in use (well below zero! at this time of year) or should it be at room temperature.

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#33
In reply to #25

Re: Handling a Propane Torch

01/27/2010 6:27 PM

When you are drawing off gas from a propane cylinder it will cool down due to the gas laws. So the pressure is maintained by drawing heat from the air around the cylinder this works best with high liquid level. So if you are drawing a lot of gas from the cylinder and the liquid level is low also your ambient temperature is low it will cause the pressure in the cylinder to fall also [ and with a high pressure burner you would not want it to fall to far],

So it depends on the size of the cylinder the amount of liquid , ambient temperature and the size of burner. So ideally the cylinder is best kept in a warm place. However care should be taken to observe the regulations regarding the maximum size of cylinder that can be used inside the premises for safety reasons.

As for storage no problem in a cold area but you might have to wait for it to warm up before use.

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#34
In reply to #33

Re: Handling a Propane Torch

01/27/2010 10:23 PM

Thanks. They are small, 400 g cannisters. I can store the extra ones in the cold area and keep one at room temperature, or let it come to room temp before using.

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#44
In reply to #25

Re: Handling a Propane Torch

01/30/2010 10:31 PM

Just have to stick this picture in for the record - the position I described for working with a propane torch is WRONG. it is UNSAFE. A hose tip is necessary for the work I need to do safely, as Garth and others pointed out.

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#30

Re: Handling a Propane Torch

01/25/2010 11:37 AM

I do Silver work every day for 30 years I have found if you get a GOOD torch that will use acectylene you will be able to do almost everythang. Unless you are casting large amount of Silver or gold Than you need a acetylene and oxygen.Hope this will help ?

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#31

Re: Handling a Propane Torch

01/25/2010 12:05 PM

I have a cheap little torch setup that can use propane or MAPP gas. It doesn't even have the trigger-style start on it, but one thing is does have is a hose. The torch tip is at the end of approximately 5' of hose, so you can leave the tank in one position while you use the torch. This eliminates that pesky behavior you've seen with your torch. The only time I have a problem is when I over-reach the hose, and pull the tank over, then it does tend to flare up a bit. I would certainly recommend a setup with a hose over the ones fixed to the tank.

Tom

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#36

Re: Handling a Propane Torch

01/28/2010 3:37 PM

Liquid sloshes in a container... gas under pressure does not slosh. I suspect your "flaky" flame is caused by a flaky torch. Get yourself a good quality professional torch from a reliable plumbing equipment vendor. The people there will even light the torch for you and guide you how to adjust the flame.

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#37
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Re: Handling a Propane Torch

01/28/2010 6:12 PM

"Liquid sloshes in a container... gas under pressure does not slosh."

Have you never, ever used or even picked up a bottle of butane/propane/Camping Gaz/lighter gas etc.? If not, you should try it sometime. Go to your local hardware or camping shop, pick one up and shake it. Maybe you'll learn something.

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#38
In reply to #37

Re: Handling a Propane Torch

01/28/2010 9:55 PM

Sorry, I agree with Mr. Berlin. "Liquid sloshes in a container... gas under pressure does not slosh."

Have you never, ever used or even picked up a bottle of butane/propane/Camping Gaz/lighter gas etc.? If not, you should try it sometime. Go to your local hardware or camping shop, pick one up and shake it. Maybe you'll learn something.

He will learn that the gas in the cylinders are under enough pressure that they have changed states from a gas to a liquid at room temperature. When they are vented to a lower pressure, they return to a gas. A gas that is not pressurized to the point of liquefaction will not "slosh".

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#39
In reply to #38

Re: Handling a Propane Torch

01/29/2010 2:20 AM

I agree with your point - and the one to which I was replying - that the gas would have to have liquified in order to "slosh". It is, however, wordplay in the context of this thread, as (at least some of) the propane in question would be in the liquid state until the container was almost exhausted.

[FYI - the "off topic" ratings were not from me]

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#40

Re: Handling a Propane Torch

01/29/2010 3:20 AM

Acetylene would not be liquid, but as I recall, propane, butane, and MAPP are stored as liquid (plus gas in the upper portion of the cylinder). If so, this might explain the OTs.

I don't know if there are cylinders made with an internal "float tube" to ensure that only gas goes to the nozzle. If not, there might be opportunity for an invention. One way to do this would be with internal branches up and down, each equipped with a simple snorkel float ball to plug whichever end might be submerged.

If something like this doesn't already exist, then you saw it here first. I don't plan on pursuing this, but maybe I will horn in on other efforts that occur after 10/28/2010. This is so simple that it ought to be state of the trade, rather than patentable.

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#41
In reply to #40

Re: Handling a Propane Torch

01/29/2010 3:38 AM

Yes there Is Tornado, it's call a draw tube cylinder and is used in such as hot air balloon burners and very high BTU output systems, where evaporation rates of gas would freeze the cylinder.

Back to lurking.

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#42
In reply to #40

Re: Handling a Propane Torch

01/29/2010 3:54 AM

More;

Pure acetylene is self-explosive if stored in the free state under a pressure of 29.4 pounds per square inch (psi). A slight shock is likely to cause it to explode.

Warning: Acetylene becomes extremely dangerous if used above 15 pounds pressure.

[edit] Cylinder Design

Acetylene Cylinder (figure 2)

Acetylene can be safely compressed up to 275 psi when dissolved in acetone and stored in specially designed cylinders filled with porous material, such as balsa wood, charcoal, finely shredded asbestos, corn pith, portland cement, or infusorial earth. These porous filler materials aid in the prevention of high-pressure gas pockets forming in the cylinder. Acetone is a liquid chemical that dissolves large portions of acetylene under pressure without changing the nature of the gas. Being a liquid, acetone can be drawn from an acetylene cylinder when it is not upright. You should not store acetylene cylinders on their side, but if they are, you must let the cylinder stand upright for a minimum of 2 hours before using. This allows the acetone to settle to the bottom of the cylinder.

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#43
In reply to #42

Re: Handling a Propane Torch

01/29/2010 4:13 AM

I knew about the acetone part and the porous material, but this is the first time for me to see about dealing with a cylinder that might have been horizontal for a while. Thanks for the info!

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#45

Re: Handling a Propane Torch

04/28/2010 7:33 AM

The flame is behaving in that way because you are holding your torch incorrectly. When you use your torch make sure that you hold it so that the the gas bottle is always beneath the torch and you will be ok.

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