How a Torch Works

Written by geoffrey weed
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How a Torch Works
(Pearson Scott Foresman, Public Domain)

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What Kind of Torches are There?

In actuality there is more than one kind of torch worth mentioning. There are traditional torches that are simple, portable means of carrying fire and lighting an area, and there are modern torches. Modern torches include products like blowtorches, cutting torches, and welding torches. While modern torches do fit the basic definition of a "torch," they're also relatively modernised pieces of equipment and function very differently when compared to traditional torches.

How Does a Traditional Torch Work?

Traditional torches work in one of two different ways. The most primitive variety of torch is made by simply wrapping a combustible fuel source around the end of a stick or a pole and then dousing it is a slow-burning fuel source such as pitch. The pitch can then be ignited, and the torch can be carried safely because the pitch burns slowly at the end, and the fire will not consume the torch itself. A more complex version of the traditional torch consists of a cupped bowl on the top of the torch. Such torches were usually made of metal. The bowl is filled with pitch or another slow-burning fuel which is the ignited. This sort of torch was most popular as a means of lighting an area with fire for an extended period of time and was more difficult to carry.

How Do Modern Torches Work?

Modern torches, such as blowtorches, all work on a relatively simple concept. They are, effectively, like mini flame-throwers. Modern torches emit an aerosolized, quick-burning fuel such as acetylene or propane from a nozzle that is connected to a pressurised tank of the fuel. A spark at the nozzle end creates a powerful flame that is capable of reaching extremely high levels of heat. There are generally controls near the nozzle of a modern torch which control how much fuel is released, allowing the user to control the size and intensity of the flame that is created by the torch.

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