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Thinking about Oxy-Propane


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I just got a custom job that should be putting a bit more cash into the smithing budget, and I'm thinking about how best to spend it. One thing I often consider is, "What can I add to my setup that will do the most to expand my shop's capacity?" This time, I'm seriously thinking about adding a torch. I don't anticipate using it for welding (very happy with the wire welding so far) or very often for cutting (the horizontal and vertical bandsaws, the chop saw, and the various handheld saws handle pretty much everything I'm doing these days). What really interests me is the possibility of localized heating outside of the forge for riveting, bending, and the like. Since my shop is one half of an attached garage, I'm cautious about having acetylene about the place. So, oxy-propane looks like a good option.

Since I'm a serious amateur rather than a full-time production smith, I'm not inclined to go whole-hog on expensive professional-grade gear. It looks like I can get a Hobart (Victor-style) medium-duty, propane-rated torch set from Northern Tool for about $200, and a propane-rated rosebud would be another $53. I've already got propane tanks, so I think I'd just need to get an oxygen cylinder from AirGas. If I find myself using it a LOT, I'll consider adding a gas saver (although Frosty did say something a few years back about using a battery charger as a spark starter).

Any thoughts?

(Thanks in advance for any advice.)

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I couldn't imagine myself without a torch setup. I have had one since the early '70s and use it often. Mine is an A/O setup with large tanks and I have 40 feet of hose so I don't have to move them. I use it mostly for cutting stuff the plasma cutter won't handle and for brazing up stuff.

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I have an Allstates oxy propane rig that since the patents expired is being sold by Harris as one of their oxy fuel torches. Rather than a fuel saver it has a thumb on/off valve so you adjust the torch one time. From then on thumb the valve on, strike a spark and the torch is ready to work, finished, thumb it off and lay it down. You have to be careful not to bump the adjustment valves but you get used to it.

Operating costs run about 2% of an equivalent OA rig in spite of using oxy much faster. The one thing it doesn't do worth spit is weld but I have electric welders.

I do NOT recommend conversion torches, it's been my experience they are serious oxy hogs and don't have the performance to reflect it. I use mine primarily for localized heat and cutting with some brazing occasionally. 

The big warning is to make sure everything is rated for propane and will NEVER be used for another flammable gas again. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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I would shy away from HF (Chinese) products involving combustible/fuel gasses. Spend a little more, get quality regulators made for the task. I agree with your reluctance in bringing acetylene tanks into your residence if you can. You will find a torch can be a vital piece of equipment when needed for the tasks you described.

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1 hour ago, Steve Sells said:

And gas welding, Its like a cross between braze and TIG without the expensive gear

I’ve read in a number of places that oxy-propane isn’t great for gas welding, but that’s beyond my own experience. 

22 minutes ago, Frosty said:

Allstates oxy propane rig that since the patents expired is being sold by Harris as one of their oxy fuel torches.

Interesting; I will look into this. 

(Side note: autocorrect doesn’t like “oxy-propane”.  So far, it’s given me “icy-propane” and “foxy-propane”.)

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Try "Harris oxy fuel" or go to the Harris torch site and use their search. You have to search on the site to find oxy prop and maybe not any more.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Will do. You don’t happen to have a photo, do you?

(Ten minutes later)

Never mind the photo; I looked through the Harris website, and it looks like the only model of torch handle that they still make with the thumb valve (and integral pilot light, which is very cool) is not rated for propane. Just acetylene and hydrogen, which I am definitely NOT bringing into the house.  

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This one?:huh:

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

The Model 18-5 automatic torch handle features an exclusive gas control system to reduce operating costs and to improve safety and convenience. The thumb operated on/off gas control and adjustable pilot light eliminate relighting and flame readjustment each time the torch is used. The 18-5 on/off feature can be used for cutting, welding and brazing with all fuel gases. The pilot light feature is only recommended for oxy-acetylene welding and brazing.

*

Mine doesn't have a pilot and just because something isn't "recommended" doesn't mean it won't work. 

Used to be they sold (for a pretty penny) an electric igniter that I was able to fake with a trickle charger grounded to the table and a wire on the tip so I wasn't dragging the tip on the table to light.

Yeah, they haven't listed torches specifically for propane as anything but commercial applications "automatic" (old term, track burners) or dedicated cutting torches with the really long tips. Scrapper's torches.

Alternate fuel torches burn all sorts of fuels with the appropriate regs, hoses and sources. Gasoline and even fuel oil is big for torch fuel in remote parts of the world. Gas and diesel are everywhere.

Frosty The Lucky.

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The only one specifically listed as oxy-propane (that I saw, anyway) is a cutting torch. 

(On another side note, I just bought a Lincoln 225 AC tombstone welder sight-unseen off FB Marketplace.  Great price, and it’s from a friend I trust.)

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When you get the Tombstone welder, if it's been a shop like a body shop, you may have to take the back off and blow out all that dust. Mine is about 50 years old and the dust collection was something to behold.:) The only problem I have had with mine is the on/off toggle switch started sticking (sometimes in off and other times on). I laid the welder on its back and sprayed WD40 in the switch and it works like new. Those old welders are hard to kill.

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Yep, looks like the Hobart kit for me, especially since I just got a second job (a wallhanger Viking sword for a friend's husband, to be presented as part of the celebration of his successful completion of cancer treatment) that puts it even more within my reach.

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JHCC, forgive me if I missed this somewhere in the thread, but the reason oxy-propane is not suitable for gas welding is that the flame doesn't get hot enough for welding, whereas the oxy-acetylene does get hot enough.  The O/P is fine for cutting and brazing.  I wish I could get an O/P rig and bottle but it's not in the cards at this time.

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In a fashion this was probably already covered but in case it wasn't.   Folks get the feeling they are using excessive oxygen because it requires more tanks of oxygen to burn a tank of propane than it does to burn a tank of acetylene.  There's just a heck of alot more propane than acetylene in bottles of same size.  All welding processes (where parent metal is melted) require a gas envelope around the puddle.  Acetylene provide's it,propane doesn't.  Propane rquir's diferent tips but everything else is normqally interchngable.   The regulator need not be rated specific for propane,many if not most regulators being used say Acetylene on the housing.  That's not to say ANY acetylene regulator will handle propane.  Acetylene is NEVER run above 15 psi and propane is often run higher.  Some acetylene regulators only go to 15 psi and those that go higher,the guage ALWAYS has a red line from 0 psi to 15 psi even if guage is marked for higher psi.  Hose is supposed to be type T but many torches are used daily with type R.  If you buy used or borrow a propane rig with type R hose,look carfully for tiny cracks or dry schaling and don't use if present.  If you are seeing  difference in oxygen use between propane and acetylene cutting I have a suggestion.  Hold tip farthar away from work,heat in propane flame is a tad farthar out in flame but that fraction of inch make's a big difference .  I've never tried a thermometer but you might be able to penpoint hot spot with one.   To find sweet spot,set up a few pieces of same size before begining.   Hold pre-heat flame at same distance you were tought/learned with acetylene and time with stopwatch to point where cut can begin. A helper come's in handy.  Move to a cold piece and repeat,holding tip a different distance until you find shortest time to preheat.  The flame will travel at exactly same inches per minute whether you are using propane or acetylene.  That last statment has triggered debate that resulted in having to pick up the bar tab after work that day.  Any difference in oxy consumption is more than offset by less money spent on gas.  Even if that were not the case,it's worth alot to old guys not having to wrestle big,heavy acetylene bottles because rosebuds and big cutting tips don't play nice with less than the largest acetylene bottles.                                                                                                          I use a torch on average once a week,sometimes for less than 10 minutes but I would be lost without it.  I'm not an artist but occasionally join dissimilar metals which is something I think artists would like. 

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16 hours ago, Frosty said:

Hobart oxy prop torch? 

Frosty The Lucky.

I'm finding a few other models/makers that look to be in my budget as well. (For example, Victor/ESAB makes an affordable set just for cutting and heating, but NOT for welding.) Need to do some more research, especially in light of the new info from Leather Bill.

9 hours ago, Leather Bill said:

Hold pre-heat flame at same distance you were tought/learned with acetylene and time with stopwatch to point where cut can begin.

I've actually never used acetylene either, so while I will have a learning curve, at least it won't be distorted by anything that I need to unlearn.

9 hours ago, Leather Bill said:

Hose is supposed to be type T but many torches are used daily with type R. 

How do we feel about type RM?

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I got a Victor Medalist 250 Propane kit last Xmas. Mainly for extending my cutting range beyond what my little plasma can do. I keep thinking up projects that need 1" plate or bigger.  I had to purchase more cutting tips than comes in the kit to expand the range, but they are not crazy expensive.  I am completely sold on it for rivets, worth the money just for that alone.  I have been using the cutting head for brazing and while it works fine, it is heavy and clunky. The smallest tip turned way down is too much heat for brazing sheet in a nice controlled manner.  Victor makes a propane "welding" style tip for the cutting body, but it is expensive plus there are more tips needed.  If you just want to cut, rivet and braze 1/4" or larger stock then  I would recommend the Medalist 250. 

I have a smaller Meco Midget torch I am getting small brazing tips for when I need to braze sheet as it will be more economical than the victor head and tips.  

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7 minutes ago, teenylittlemetalguy said:

I would recommend the Medalist 250. 

The Medalist 250 is the kit I was seriously considering, so thank you very much for the recommendation. 

Two questions:

  1. Which additional cutting tips did you get? 
  2. Did you purchase flashback arrestors?

Thanks much!!

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On 3/4/2021 at 8:18 AM, JHCC said:

How do we feel about type RM?

We feel fine about type RM for use with acetylene but mfgr doesn't reccomend it for alternate fuels.  Same specs as type R plus flame resistant.                                                                            Reasons for using flashback aresstors is long,reasons for not using arrestors is,,,,,,,,there are no reasons not to.                                                                                                                                 By all means consider what TennyLM and others say about cutting tips.  I keep a 00 cutting tip in my torch 90% of the time for 16ga through 1/2.   If I need finest cut possible on something less than 1/4,I change to 000.   Over 1/2 I go with #1.  I have the 0,2,3 but they aren't kept on the cart because I do ok with those three and I don't have skill neccessary for 1" and above.  

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Thanks, LB. The Medalist 250 comes with a #1 tip, which they say is good for up to 1/2”. I’ve heard that propane takes a larger tip than acetylene to cut the same thickness of material; are your numbers for use with propane or acetylene?

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The tip sizes I talked about are propane.  000=1/8,00=1/4,0=3/8&1/2,1=3/4,2=1& 11/2.  As for what people say about propane requiring larger tip than acetylene to cut same thickness metal,that's mostly in perpetuating the notion acetylene flame is hotter than propane and/or consume's moetre oxygen.  Don't waste time comparing and trying to figure it out,the tips are not interchangiable anyhow and each have their own set of size #s.  Half the people that give up on propane after one try used acetylene tips,the other half didn't know correct way to use right equipment and had noone to show them.  What you need to know is (A) the Medalist kit is probably available for either gas.  Propane is more expensive because of T hose and come's with propane tip.  I expect the acetylene version can be found on sale and difference will more than buy T hose and propane tip. (B) Get opinions from those you trust about tip size for what you are doing. As you can see,a #1 wouldn't suit me at all since most my material is less than 1/2".  I would much prefer pushing tip to larger than rated thickness than cutting with oversized tip.  If non of what I say helps or makes sense,here's a tip that make's you smarter than the average and might save money while buying used.  The holes are recessed on propane tips which makes them easy to identify.  Most are two piece but have often been over tightened and swedged parts togeather.    Maximum neutral flame temperature of acetylene in oxygen is about 5720 F.  Maximum neutral flame temperature of propane in oxygen is about 5112 F.  600F differential when soldering and brazing can mean the difference between failure and success but it's difficult if not impossible to discern 600F at cutting temps.  

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I'VE used it for over 20 yrs for cutting the thickest i cut was around 1 1/4 '' i've tried brazing but i didn't like the results and your right that most guys don't know about the tips.Alot of guys i work with are switching because the price of acetylene in Canada has gone nuts last couple of years.

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8 hours ago, Leather Bill said:

the Medalist kit is probably available for either gas.  Propane is more expensive because of T hose and come's with propane tip.  I expect the acetylene version can be found on sale and difference will more than buy T hose and propane tip.

It does come in versions for both. Cyberweld seems to have the best prices for new, with the propane version at ~$245 and the acetylene a bit over $200. As far as I can tell, it’s simpler and cheaper just to get the propane version right off the bat.

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On 3/4/2021 at 10:03 AM, JHCC said:

 

  1. Which additional cutting tips did you get? 
  2. Did you purchase flashback arrestors?

 

Happy to help!

It was honestly a major PITA to figure out which series of tips go with that torch. I called Victor and even they got it wrong. Surprisingly my local welding shop did have a couple sizes of them in stock. 1-3-GPN came with it which I think is for 3/4". I bought 0-3-GPN for 1/2" and 2-3-GPN, which I think was good for 1" I am planning on getting a few more so I can cut up to 4".  locally they are under $18 each, I see china models for $11 on line. I think am going to stick with the higher dollar ones. 

I am sure I will be yelled at by someone here for not getting the flashbacks yet.  But I do plan on getting the ones that mount on the regulator once I figure out what part # I need. 

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