How to Use Oxy-Acetylene Torches

Written by trish jackson
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How to Use Oxy-Acetylene Torches
Oxy-acetylene torches are used to cut through thick metal plate. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Proper safety procedures are imperative when using an oxyacetylene torch. Oxy-acetylene torches use a mixture of oxygen and acetylene gases to cut thick metal plate. Welders use them for specialised welding and brazing multiple different types of metals, including copper tubing. Users often find oxyacetylene torches a convenient heat source for bending metals or loosening nuts, among other uses.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Cylinder of oxygen
  • Cylinder of acetylene
  • Pressure regulators and hoses for each cylinder
  • Welding torch with welding heads
  • Cutting torch with cutting nozzles
  • Welding goggles
  • Welding gloves
  • Friction lighter

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  1. 1

    Put on welding gloves and protective, darkened welding goggles. Ensure that the cylinders are secured in upright positions and cannot fall over, using chains or a cylinder cart. The cylinders must always be kept upright.

  2. 2

    "Crack" the cylinder valves by opening each valve in turn, by just a fraction, then closing them again, allowing any accumulated dust or gas to escape. Make certain the gas does not blow into your face or onto your clothes and never do this near an open flame.

  3. 3

    Attach the oxygen hose to the oxygen regulator and the oxygen torch. Connect the acetylene hose to the acetylene regulator and the acetylene torch.

  4. 4

    Attach the oxygen regulator to the oxygen cylinder and the acetylene regulator to the acetylene cylinder, using an adaptor if necessary. The acetylene adaptor has a left-hand thread so it cannot be confused with the oxygen regulator. Tighten them securely with a wrench. Make sure there are no leaks. Leave the wrench in place on the acetylene cylinder in case you want to close it in an emergency. Very slowly open the cylinders not more than one-and-a-half turns.

  5. 5

    Set the pressure for the regulator tip. Open the acetylene valve a little and light the gas with a friction lighter, being sure to hold it away from your body. There should appear to be a gap between the end of the tip and the visible flame. Screw the diaphragm valve on the regulator clockwise, slowly, until the gap is about 1/4 inch between the tip and the flame. Different manufacturers may recommend other procedures, so check your equipment's manual.

  6. 6

    Close the valve on the torch very slowly until the flame is visible at the tip, with no apparent gap, then open it again very slightly, so the flame appears to be just off the tip and there is no black smoke around the edges. This is a neutral flame.

  7. 7

    Open the oxygen valve slowly and adjust the valve to produce a neutral flame. Check your manual for the recommended pressure, which may vary according to the material to be cut.

  8. 8

    Be sure the material to be cut is away from any combustible matter. Hold the torch in one hand and steady it with the other to position the cutting nozzle so it is perpendicular to the cutting surface. Run the flame over the line you want to cut to be sure you can access it easily. Center the nozzle over the edge of the steel plate, with the inner flame not quite touching the metal. When the metal glows red, press the oxygen valve lever slowly. Ignore the sparks and move the torch slowly and steadily over the line you have marked, to cut the metal.

  9. 9

    Oxy-acetylene torches can also be used for welding, but the process is different for each type of metal being welded and requires some experience.

Tips and warnings

  • If the torch makes a popping noise or "backfires," you may relight it once. This is often caused by touching the nozzle against the work.
  • If the flame goes out and makes a hissing or squealing noise, turn it off immediately. This is known as a "flashback" and is more serious than backfiring. Allow the torch to cool, allow oxygen only to flow through it and remove any soot before relighting. If the torch continues to flashback, turn it off and refer to the dealer for analysis or repair.
  • When turning off the torch, always turn off the acetylene valve first.

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