A torch is an essential part of the jewelry manufacturing process. Even if you’re just fabricating small jewelry pieces with minimal metal, soldering the metal can benefit both your technique and your finished product.
A torch consists of the following:
- the hand piece
- a rectangular-shaped, two-valved cap with an elongated, curved neck
- the tip, a conical and interchangeable piece for the end of the neck that determines flame size
Larger tip numbers signify a hotter and larger flame.
Often included with the hand piece are red and green hoses that connect the torch with its fuel source.
You need a fuel source to power the flame. Jewelry torches can be powered by a number of different fuels.
Used to power small, handheld torches (think of an over-sized cigar lighter).
A good choice for platinum work. For safety reasons, keep the canisters outside.
Burns “dirtier” than other gases. Not recommended for platinum work, since it will contaminate the metal. Proper ventilation required.
A good choice if you already have natural gas as a heat source.
Not a common fuel source, especially for home use, due to its volatile nature.
Propane, acetylene, and natural gas are often combined with oxygen to produce an even more powerful flame. This means that a canister of gas and a canister of oxygen is needed to power the torch, which is why many torches have two valves and two tubes.
You can purchase propane and acetylene canisters from local hardware stores.
Types of Jewelry Torches
When deciding on a torch to purchase, keep in mind the size and location of your workspace and the size of the pieces you’ll be manufacturing. I’ve compiled a list of popular torches that range from a small, less intense flame to a large, powerful flame. Amazon, Rio Grande, and Otto Frei have great collections of torches for sale on their websites.
A butane torch is a good choice for soldering delicate earrings, jump rings, and small links. It has a flame that burns at 2,500º F (1,371º C) for 35 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size and model. All have a refillable butane canister, and most have an adjustor level to regulate flame size. A butane torch is only recommended for very light solder work on very small items. It’s also a great choice if you have limited workspace or can’t have gas canisters in your workspace.
Two of the most sought-after butane torches are the Blazer GB2001 Self-igniting Butane Micro-Torch and the GT8000 Big Shot Butane Torch, available through Amazon. The GT8000 is larger in size with a larger flame but only burns for 35 minutes. In contrast, the smaller and lighter GB2001 burns with a smaller flame for up to 2 hours.
A Little Torch is the next step up from a butane torch and looks significantly different. The Little Torch is a great starter torch if you want to do more heat work on larger items than a butane torch can handle. It’s versatile enough to solder small items, like jump rings, as well as larger items, like cuff bracelets. Its flame heats up to 6,000º F (3,315º C), hot enough to weld steel up to 1/8″ thick and to melt up to 3 oz of silver.
The best name in Little Torches is Smith, so if you want to delve into soldering, the Smith Little Torch is what you need. It’s a two-gas torch but very versatile. It’s compatible with oxygen and natural gas, acetylene, hydrogen, or propane. (However, propane is recommended).
It comes with 5 different sized tips (#3 through a #7), which regulate the flame size and heat. Use small tips for low flames and larger tips for larger, hotter flames. You need to purchase both gas and oxygen regulators to keep tank pressures stable.
This torch is a great choice if you have a small workspace but still need to work on larger pieces. It’s light and portable, too. Amazon and Rio Grande offer it on their websites.
Smith Silver Handi-Torches
If you want a torch large enough to cast metal, you need the Smith Silver Smith Handi-Torch. With different tips, this is a very versatile instrument. A smaller tip will solder smaller items, while using the largest tip enables you to cast metal. It burns up to 4,770º F (2,632º C).
It’s a single-gas torch, so it only has one valve and hose. Acetylene is the recommended fuel source.
The Smith Silver Smith Handi-Torch comes with one tip, a small #00. However, five others are available: 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. You’ll need the #4 tip to cast metal. A gas regulator is included, as well as a striker to ignite the flame.
Jewelry Torches Popular with Professional Bench Jewelers
The workhorses of jewelry manufacturing are the torches that can do it all, from fine soldering earrings to casting large pieces of metal with extremely hot flames burning at incredibly high temperatures. The two most commonly used torches that can do this are the MECO Midget Torch and the Hoke Torch.
MECO Midget Torch
This is one of the most popular torches among professional bench jewelers. You can use this two-gas torch with oxygen and propane or natural gas.
The torch is available with one tip (00) or three (00, 0, 3).
You’ll find this torch in many jewelry manufacturing workshops. It’s also a two-gas torch and can be used with oxygen and acetylene, natural gas, or propane.
Different tips are available for the torch, based on the gas combination used.
Casting is always done with the largest tip. The Hoke Torch has its gas valves on the side, while the MECO has its valves on top. Many feel this makes the Hoke too cumbersome. However, the Hoke is significantly less expensive than the MECO.
Be sure and purchase flashback arrestors for two-gas torches. The arrestors prevent fire from running through the hose to the canister and causing an explosion.
My Advice for Choosing and Using Jewelry Torches
You can buy a propane canister torch at your local hardware store. Personally, I find them too heavy and awkward to handle, but I have seen people use them with very good results.
I bought my acetylene/atmosphere torch about fifteen years ago. It came with a regulator, hose, handle and five tips. I rent an acetylene bottle from the local welding shop. These setups are still available. I prefer this type of torch because it doesn’t burn as hot as oxy/acetylene and I have better heat control.
Oxy/acetylene and oxy/propane combinations each require two regulators, two hoses, two tanks, and a handle. Some come with an assortment of tips. Of the setups I’ve discussed here, these are the most expensive. You can’t use acetylene in a torch with tips for propane and vice-versa.
With any oxygen-using torch, if you don’t keep the torch moving while soldering it’s very easy to make melted blobs of metal. (Some do have interesting shapes, though). Nevertheless, these are very versatile setups. With the right selection of tips you can do anything from making jewelry to building your own dune buggy.
Recommendations for Jewelry Torches
|Photo||Name||Top Reviews on Amazon|
|Dremel 2200-01 Versa Flam||
"Because it is butane, the torch works great in any position, even upside down. This is one of the best torches I have owned. Lots of uses and the lighting mechanism is very consistent. Great Dremel quality. Now for the modification: If you don't have kids/grandkids around, there is a way to get rid of the child safety mechanism. At the base of the plastic housing, remove 2 - T8 torx screws. Using a fine jeweler's screwdriver, remove the tiny screw near the blue pushbutton. Carefully split open the plastic section near the pushbutton and carefully remove the child safety lock. Replacing the 3 screws, you have a normal non-safety torch. All other functions work normally." read more
|LEXIVON Butane Torch Multi-Function Kit||
"I purchased both this model and the Dremel version of the product. They look identical in the pictures but there are some minor differences. The placement of the igniter wire in this model is designed better, and the bottom portion of the heat shield and ceramic flame burner are not intended to be detached when changing tips or accessories. There is a metal nut that tightens these parts to the base, and the black plastic ring/nut that holds the outer shield on top of this metal nut. At first it was nested inside the black plastic ring/nut so I didn't notice it, but the 2 separate and both are threaded. The case is much better than what you get with the Dremel version, however I wish it was bigger with more room to put items I typically use when soldering." read more
|The Little Torch with 5 Tips In a Box- Acetylene||"This is a great little torch. I used one extensively in my graduate lab work 20 years ago to weld up platinum thermocouples and it looks like it still has the same simple, practical design. I only just now got around to getting one for myself for sheetmetal work. Welding sheetmetal is trickier than welding structural steel, I've found. I'll need a bit more practice to keep from burning holes everywhere, but the torch itself is wonderful -- lightweight, easy to handle, flexible hoses, nicely machined, and as easy to set and adjust as my full-sized Miller O/A torches which I've used for about 15 years on the aforementioned structural shapes. Has standard left- and right-hand 9/16-18 "B" fittings that will just screw onto most any gas regulators sold in the US." read more|
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