Oxygen/acetylene torches are the gold standard for jewellery makers, which is reflected in their high price. The flame can get as hot as 3316 degrees Celsius, and can be adjusted from bushy to a pinpoint. Although acetylene does not burn as cleanly as some other fuels such as propane, butane, and MAPP gas, acetylene is more versatile and hotter, making it ideal for larger jewellery pieces.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Oxygen/acetylene torch
- Torch rack
- Bungee cords
- Table leg
Set up your oxygen/acetylene torch in a heat-proof area. Secure the tanks in a rack or in another way that will keep them from tipping over. Try using bungee cords or chains attached to a wall or table leg. Read the instructions for your particular torch system before proceeding, since all torches are different. Check with the manufacturer, or the vendor who sold you the torch, if you have any questions about setting up the gauges, hoses, and connections.
See that there are three valves for each of the gases you are using: the torch valve, the regulator valve, and the tank valve. Close the torch valves and slowly open the valves on both tanks until the gauges are as high as they can go without going into the red. Open the valves on both regulators until the gauges read at the recommended pressure for your specific torch set-up and material you plan to solder.
Open the acetylene torch valve a little and light the torch with a striker. Slowly increase the acetylene until the flame is feathery, then decrease until the flame is no longer ragged. Turn up the oxygen torch valve slowly until you can see a blue cone about a centimetre long inside your flame. Use the part of the flame just past the tip of the blue cone for soldering.
Solder your piece as you would with any other torch. Be careful to keep your torch in constant motion, because an acetylene flame can burn a hole in your work. Be sure to flux well to protect your work from the carbon produced by the acetylene flame. Dr. Yehuda Baskin of the Society of American Silversmiths says, "...Better to err on the side of too much rather than too little flux."
Shut down your torch by turning off the oxygen torch valve, then the fuel torch valve. Close the oxygen cylinder valve, followed by the acetylene cylinder valve. Let the torch cool, and open and close both torch valves to evacuate any leftover gas before putting the torch away.
Tips and warnings
- Use hydrogen instead of acetylene on platinum.
- Have a fire extinguisher accessible whenever you solder.
- Never light your torch with a lighter or other open flame.
- Work in a well-ventilated area.
- Your work, torch, and tools will be hot. Take proper precautions in handling them and setting them down.
- Check local city ordinances and your homeowners insurance to be sure you may have acetylene inside your house.
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