Interested in learning to use a torch to weld, braze or solder? Start with these questions fielded by Rio Grande's Tech Team from jewelry makers new to torch-soldering. If you don't find the answers you need here, please give our Tech Team a call; we'll be happy to talk to you about your soldering goals.
Q: What torch do I need for soldering jump rings?
A: If jump rings are all you're doing, we recommend the Blazer Micro-Torch as the easiest to operate. If you prefer to avoid working with open flame, we recommend the Hot Spot®.
Q: What torch do I need if I'm soldering more than jump rings?
A: If you are serious about soldering, will not be working with small, fine tasks, and are willing to learn your way around a tank and regulator, we highly recommend the Smith® SilverSmith™ torch system. It is easy to learn, straightforward operation of tanks and regulator and will handle just about any larger applications. If you are a motivated and savvy beginner or an intermediate jeweler who will be doing small, fine work, jewelry repairs or platinum work, we highly recommend the Smith® Little Torch™ oxygen/propane system. It handles fine tasks, works cleaner, is easy to learn, and offers a lightweight handle that helps ensure ease of use.
Q: What type of fuel should I use?
A: This depends on the torch selected. We recommend oxygen/propane over oxygen/acetylene because the flame is cleaner and you can do platinum.
Q: Do I need oxygen with a torch system?
A: Depends on the torch. Some require oxygen, some don't.
Q: What torch do I need if I want to cast as well as solder.
A: We recommend a Smith® Versa-Torch™ as a good choice to cover both applications.
Q: What’s the safest torch to use indoors?
A: When used correctly all torches can be used safely indoors. The key element here is ensuring proper ventilation.
Q: What’s the difference between the fuel gases?
A: • Natural gas is easily accessible because it is delivered through existing gas lines. It is clean, economical and supports most jewelry-making tasks without the risk and maintenance associated with bottled gas forms.
• Acetylene gas is very accessible and reasonably priced. Its hot-burning, concentrated flame supports multiple applications, including cutting, welding, brazing and casting. It is not a good choice for all metals because it has a carbon by-product that can contaminate metals, such as platinum. Lighter than air, acetylene tends to dissipate through the air in the event of a leak.
• Propane gas is easily accessible, reasonably priced and clean-burning at a relatively low cylinder pressure. Propane is ideal for general applications such as brazing, soldering, melting and casting. The heat is dispersed throughout the flame. Heavier than air, propane tends to settle in low areas in the event of a leak.
• Hydrogen gas is a very clean, high-pressure gas that is excellent for melting and casting platinum. Hydrogen is more expensive to use than other gases, is not as readily available in all areas, and requires careful handling and storage.
Q: What’s the difference between an air system and an oxygen system?
A: An oxygen system has a tank of compressed oxygen that supplies the oxygen necessary to regulate the size and intensity of the flame. The fuel and oxygen are combined in varying amounts to achieve different types of flames. For example, a reducing flame (which is nice for annealing) has very little oxygen in it. A neutral flame has a mix close to 50/50 fuel and oxygen, making it good for soldering. An oxidizing flame, with little fuel in it, is good for platinum welding. An air system uses ambient air and mixes it with the fuel gas in the handle. This allows less control of the type of flame you can produce because the handle automatically adjusts for more or less fuel and mixes enough air to produce a neutral flame at all times. Because the flame is automatically adjusted, it is a little easier to operate.
Q: Where do I get my fuel and oxygen?
A: Once you have your tanks (available on our website or in our catalog), you can purchase both fuel and oxygen at local welding supply stores; you can also purchase propane anywhere they sell propane for grills.
Q: Can I change from disposable cylinders to permanent ones later?
A: Yes, but you will need to get new regulators for your tanks.
Q: Do I need flashback arrestors?
A: Yes, flashback arrestors are highly recommended, here’s why: Flashback arrestors are built with in-line check-valves that prevent a hose fire from reaching the regulators or tank and causing an explosion. Dual-duty arrestors also cut off gas flow when back pressure drops to 0.5psi—an added safety feature essential for you and your co-workers.
Q: Why can’t I use a flashback arrestor on my air/acetylene torch?
A: Because you don’t need one; the handle itself is a flashback arrestor. Additionally, since the air/acetylene system is a single-fuel system, there is no secondary compressed gas to force the flame back to the tank.
Q: How do I read a regulator?
A: See the instructions that come with the regulator you choose.
Q: How do I set up a torch for the first time?
A: See the instructions that are included with the torch you select. We also have several vidoes available on our website about setting up Smith torches.
Q: How do I safely shut down a torch after use?
A: See the instructions that are included with the torch you select.
Q: Can I use my natural gas line instead of a cylinder?
A: You can use natural gas, but it's likely you won't have sufficient gas pressure and will need equipment to boost the pressure. This would really need direct input with a professional about your gas supply and your soldering needs.
Q: What tools do I need for a soldering station?
A: Depending on your budget and what tasks you need to accomplish, there is a wide range of tools you could use. On our website and in our catalog, we offer several kits ideal for equipping a soldering station. Give our Jewelry Tech Team a call to discuss your individual needs.
Q: Can I switch the fuel on my Little Torch™ from acetylene to propane or vice versa?
A: Sure, no problem; however, you will need a new regulator appropriate for the new gas, and we recommend new hoses, too, just as a precaution.
Q: How about using my propane regulator with acetylene gas?
A: No; not only are the fittings different, but the regulators are made differently and are therefore not interchangeable.
Q: I want to start soldering and am going to teach myself, what do I need?
A: First, we recommend the excellent educational material that will help you get started. Often, it’s a good idea to read some material or watch a soldering basics video first before ordering. That way you can see the process and what is needed and how to use it before ordering. Afterwards you can call back in and we can go through the website or catalog together and put together an order. Or, for the more experienced customer we will build a basic kit or recommend the basic soldering kit. Rio Grande also offers great soldering classes throughout the year!