This post was originally in Love My Art Jewelry where I am a contributor, and I write about the torches I use in my metalsmith studio.
I thought I would write about torches that I use in jewelry fabrication, and share with you why I have two of them and what I use them for in my studio, along with some other tools I like.
I have been using the Gentec Portable Mixed Gas Torch for years. It uses 1 lb bottles of propane and oxygen that you can get at any hardware store. The regulators screw onto the top of the canisters, and after checking for any leaks with soapy water and a sponge, I am ready to roll.
The Gentec comes with a number 4 torch tip. That is the tip that I use for pretty much everything. I do have a number 6 tip, which gives me a bushier flame; but, I don't use that very often now that I have a Blazer micro-torch, which is fueled with Butane. I primarily use the Gentec for making stirrup pins, and the Blazer for any soldering or annealing that I have to do.
Frankly, for soldering, I use the Blazer because the fuel is so much cheaper and lasts longer. Bottled oxygen is expensive at about 8 bucks a bottle. The butane seems to last a lot longer and is cheaper for me in the long run.
With these two torches, I can pretty much make anything that I can imagine. While at artBLISS, I had 3 mixed gas torches, and 3 Butane torches for the participants to use in class. Two of the mixed gas torches were Gentecs, but the other one was a Little Smith. Jeanette Ryan let me borrow her Little Smith, which is a more expensive version of the Gentec that I use.
I did notice some differences between the two that I thought I would mention.
I like the torch handle better on the Gentec. The Little Smith's handle has a hard plastic covering that I was not fond of at all. It slides around, which is in contrast to the all metal handle of the Gentec. However, the Little Smith's fuel and oxygen knobs seem to work smoother then the Gentec, and it was much easier to light, as well as add oxygen to the flame.
For a beginner, the Little Smith was easier to use then my Gentec's were, since the most trepidation from using a torch to begin with is in the lighting of it. So that was super to know and understand from a workshop point of view.
Another thing that I had the chance to use was an automatic lighter for the torch. I use a Flint lighter in my home studio. I am used to it, so it never occurred to me that beginning torch users would find that stressful when learning. Again, Jeanette had an automatic lighter that was amazingly easy to use, and when using it, your hands are out of the flame range when lighting it. If I facilitate a workshop again, I will make sure to have a Little Smith torch as well as the automatic lighter. Jeanette's generosity was a complete blessing, because I didn't even think about the fears of the mixed gas torch lighting being a huge thing to overcome as a beginner. I really think the workshops were helped tremendously by these two additions to the equipment we had in class.
I have recently acquired an annealing pan that rotates and that has been one of the best additions to my studio in recent memory. It's especially helpful for annealing the larger pieces of thin gauge metal that I am fold forming for a new direction in my work. I have some annealing medium that looks like cat litter that I use, but I can also put a flat soldering board on top of it, and it works super for soldering a bigger piece that needs to be rotated.
artBLISS was...amazing. I had never been to an art retreat before, and from that standpoint, I get why they are so popular. It was so much fun being around women that understand why I love to make jewelry so much..why I feel the need to create. From an 'instructor' point of view, it was life changing for me. I don't think of myself as a teacher at all. And I was pretty open about that fact in the workshop. My job, as I see it, is to help provide a safe and fun environment for sharing what we all bring to the space. My hope was that I would learn as much from everyone as they would learn from me. I feel like we all did just that.
Here is a link list regarding the tools I mention in this post. The links are provided for your reference. I don't receive anything for these specific recommendations..I just like them and use them.
I hope this helps if you are on the fence about adding torch work to your studio...