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Lighting a Gas torch


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Hey everybody, I've got a question.

I was taught to never light a blowtorch with an open flame, always use a striker or sparker. It made sense to me at the time and I never questioned it. 

I just told my assistant not to use a lighter and he asked me why, and I had nothing to tell him other then I was taught not to. So I didn't tell him that, I just rolled my eyes and sent him to go tidy up the scrap pile until he figured it out. 

Now I'm asking you folk, is there any reason not to use an open flame? Or was the fella who taught me crazy? Something I'm more than willing to believe. 

Thanks a lot, 

Adam

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I don't have a good answer other than that was the way I was taught as well. It wouldn't surprise me if part of the reason is more a safety thing. Butane lighters that might have a leak and a sudden poof of flame as the torch lights could very well have a potential for disaster. It might be worse with a plastic lighter as opposed to say a metal Zippo.

I've seen old WWII footage of welders in the aircraft industry using what looks like gas savers, relighting from a small pilot light. I've lit torches off other torches or even the forge on occasion, right or wrong. I'm not keen on lighting torches off hand held lighters though.

 

Now a true gasoline blow torch you pretty much have to light with an open flame.

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Pondering this one.  Butane lighters are fairly new and the notion of not lighting from the flame pre-dates them.  That means we're really talking about matches and zippos.  I can see why the match thing would be a poor idea--dropped matches, blow it out with the gas, fiddling around re-lighting etc.  A zippo-style might be considered bad because you're essentially holding an ounce of lighter fluid in your hand--what happens if you drive oxygen inside from the torch because someone mistakenly turned on the O2 instead of the acetylene first?

Just tossing that out as a potential theory.

Edit--talking about welders which is where I was taught not to use a lighter

Edited by Kozzy
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if it is oxy / fuel and you have oxygen and no fuel you can ignite your lighter if it is a zippo or similar.  Butane lighters can malfunction and vent butane rapidly creating a fire ball.

The pilot light flames have a limited supply of fuel present in the reaction zone.

Weldors should never carry plastic butane lighters in clothing.  Nasty accidents have happened when sparks penetrated clothing to the lighter.

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I suspect it originates from the original blow torches, pressurised liquid fuel type which needed to be preheated prior to ignition. If it was not hot enough when the valve was opened. instead of vapour, liquid would spurt out and splash everywhere, in which case you certainly would not want a flame burning in the vicinity!

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I suspect it originates from the original blow torches, pressurised liquid fuel type which needed to be preheated prior to ignition. If it was not hot enough when the valve was opened. instead of vapour, liquid would spurt out and splash everywhere, in which case you certainly would not want a flame burning in the vicinity!

This makes no sense as you have liquid burning fuel used to preheat the torch assembly. How are you supposed to light the liquid fuel to preheat the torch? Sparks aren't going to work. An open flame is really to only option. In fact I've often seen the preheat flames used to light the torch.

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Wellllllll. When I was taking shop classes a student carrying a lighter or matches would get a swat and get to visit the principal's office. It would've been a fluid lighter like a Zippo, butane lighters weren't available or maybe common enough for me to know about them, Dad used a Zippo.

When I went to welding and fabrication trade schools lighters weren't permitted. Period, no explanation, don't ask. Since owning my own tools and working in what was tantamount to my shop at work I'd occasionally light a torch with my lighter rather than hunt up where I left the striker. Even when careful being that close to a wuff of acet lighting tended to keep my hand baby smooth if sooty. If you want to try it with my oxy propane rig, have burn cream close it fires with both Propane AND oxy adjusted so it's an explosive fuel oxy mix you're shooting into your hand.

Yes, I've lit it with a lighter but really REALLY rather not. And that's just my take on it.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I was told the same thing in school about not using a lighter to start a torch with.  I always figured it came into being when butane lighters hit the seen but if it predates that I would bet frosty is on the right path. matches, Zippos,and butane lighters put the ignition point about 3/4" away from a, more than likely, ungloved hand.

 

Russell

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Try lighting a torch with an open flame in a windy, or breezy conditions. The flint strikers will work, where something like a match won't. And as stated earlier, they keep your fingers farther away from the flame. I think it more of just a practical application, than anything else, they simply work.

 

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Ha, it's funny that all of us were taught the same thing but none of us were taught why. Well, I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one in the dark. 

I came to roughly the same conclusions you guys did, not wanting a lightly roasted hand or to ignite the lighter, but I was hoping to dig up something a little more concrete.

Has anyone ever heard of an accident happening with a lighter? Other than losing a few knuckle hairs I mean. I never had much use for them anyway. 

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This makes no sense as you have liquid burning fuel used to preheat the torch assembly. How are you supposed to light the liquid fuel to preheat the torch? Sparks aren't going to work. An open flame is really to only option. In fact I've often seen the preheat flames used to light the torch.

Because you don't open the valve until the heating charge has expired, then you light it which only requires a spark to the vapour, unless it spurts liquid, then, no spark, turn off, refill charge, and try again.........I was never taught not to light with a flame, so it's new to me, so I'm only offering a suggestion as to why the "rule" may exist.

It may simply be as others have alluded, to save getting a flash burn to the hand in close proximity of the torch, not something I've experienced but makes sense,

One wonders therefore why it has never been explained to anyone!

Edit: Pondered on this a tad more and did a little searching, only found a few references to it but all without explanation bar this one,,,,,  http://www.cdxetextbook.com/toolsEquip/workshop/usingWork/setupoxytorch.html  (see 1st item "summary" )

Which would seem to suggest it is less to do with an open flame and more proximity, as a lighted spill would give clearance or a empty lighter would provide a spark,

Edited by Smoggy
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  • 2 weeks later...

I learned to use the torches on the  farm and in my  dad's auto repair shop we used what ever we could find when needed including lighters zippo at the time.  Same in the Army.    Seems like every time I find a sparker it doesn't work, flints are shot or they are filthy.  Today I just got the sparker to work and the torch lit and I had an emergency call when I got back after dark I can't find the sparker.  ;)   I like the gas savers idea but seldom use torches in the shop.  I've used the gill lighter at times.   

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Strikers are made for right handed people.  When held in the left hand the flint is pushed away from the "file" so no spark.  Being left handed I have discarded strikers.  I was not told to only use strikers when I took welding classes.  I typically use a gas saver and start that with a bbq lighter.

I knew a guy who would light his torch with his pipe, while the pipe was held in his mouth.

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What I was told in shop was you don t use a lighter because you don t want it to blow up in your hand.   That is it.  When I was an ironworker we would light with what ever was handy.  We had a lighter or two in our bags plus a striker on our belt.  What ever was the first thing you grabbed you used.  The guys that smoked also used their cigarettes only one would try still in his mouth.

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  • 4 months later...

I'm attending Fleming College in the Welding and Fabrication technician program, we were taught to use the strikers simply because in order to use a lighter it is clutched in your fist with your hand within an inch of the torch tip, strikers can be used to keep your hand away from the torch tip.

Josh

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  • 3 years later...

I guess there are two main reasons,

First pressurised gas sometimes won't light on without sparker, it act just like wind unless you decrease the output pressure.

And second, some operators might turn on oxy instead of fuel and explode the lighter in his hand.

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One of the nice things about running a gas forge is that I can light it with a bbq lighter that’s run out of fuel: the piezo crystal will still produce a spark even when the fuel is exhausted. I suppose one could do the same with a welding torch, but that’s outside my own experience. 

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On 5/31/2019 at 2:46 AM, JHCC said:

I can light it with a bbq lighter that’s run out of fuel:

Oooh, how blacksmitherly frugal of you John. Kudos! :)

It's a real head slapper for me too, I don't know how many times I've looked into the end of an empty one watching it spark and NEVER once thought of using the peizo electric arc alone. I must have 4-5 around the shop left for dead. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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  • 2 years later...

The is no reason not to use an open flame other then getting your fingers burned when you use a lighter or a match.

In fact, ever see a Smith's Gas saver. - It's a valve that you hang the torch on and it shuts off BOTH the OXY and GAS at the same time. They come with a pilot light, It makes a small 1" long or so air/fuel flame and when you lift the torch off the arm BOTH Oxy and Fuel gas go on at the same time and then you pas the torch over rht flame and ,,,POP.,,,,,,,Just like burning table machine torches.

So that should take the pedantic  Hocus Pocus out of lighting and shutting off a torch for once and for all.

And as for me,,,,for the last 50 plus years my weapon of choice is a Surelite tri-flint because I hate getting burned and using a zippo looks too bush league for my taste,,,,, but any port in a storm. Anybody that says they never lite a torch with a welder is a rank amateur. 

The actual fact is there is actually no "Wrong" way to light a properly set up torch (Flash arresters, right tip ect),,,,but I would steer clear of a magnifying glass and a piece of dryer lint, ,,,,,Except in  a dire emergency like getting the job done so you can get to the bar and cash your check.

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  • Mod30 changed the title to Lighting a Gas torch

Welcome aboard WREWgpllc, glad to have you. If you put your general location in the header you'll have a better chance of meeting up with other members living within visiting distance. 

Yeah, gas savers are but only in that location. My Allstate's oxy propane torch has a thumb valve in the handle so it's adjust once and turn it on or off. Like a gas saver without the pilot. I've worn out too many flint strikers for one to be my go to striker. Oh I have a few, always will and extra flints but I really prefer my piezo electric striker. Well used to, an ex associate liked it better than I did. 

Lighting a torch with a bic or other up close lighter isn't reputable except in an emergency. Out of butane BBQ lighters are just piezo electric spark generators and  nobody's going to walk off with a dead lighter. Hmmm?

Frosty The Lucky.

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  I worked with a guy once that used a zippo.  Not for torch lighting but ciggarettes.  We were working inside an old coal car and when he went to break he overfilled it and stuck it in his pocket and it leaked all over his pants.  He struck an arc and his jeans caught on fire!  He said he stuck it in upside down....

  I have lit a torch with an arc strike before.  One really should have the right tool for the job though.

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