How to Use a Welding Torch

Torch welding can be a productive and creative way to use your time wisely and make something that you can be proud of. A lot of ordinary people take up torch welding as a hobby to build everything from brackets, gates, fences, and frames to entire motorbikes and cars from scratch.

But a lot of beginners wonder how to use a welding torch effectively?

There are some safety tips and standard work procedures that you should always follow when first starting out with torch welding. Not only will these tips prevent an accident, they will also improve the quality of projects that you create.

Torch Welding Basics

Torch welding has been around for a long time. It was widely used in farming and rural communities before electricity was available.

Torch welding outfits generate heat energy by burning a combination of acetylene gas and oxygen. Torch welding equipment is quite effective and it can produce flame temperatures that go up to 3200° C or 5,620° F.

The torch welding machine is quite versatile and can be used for a wide variety of projects from the smallest gadget to the largest structure. It requires a single piece of equipment that can create its own portable heat source. Torch welding apparatus can be used to heat, cut weld, and braze different kinds of metals. It is powerful enough to even work with steel.

Torch Welding Apparatus

A basic torch outfit is made up of two high-pressure cylinders with different gases. One cylinder contains oxygen and the other is for acetylene. Both cylinders are connected to the torch through two corresponding pressure control regulators. A dual-hose supplies oxygen and acetylene from the regulators.

Different types of tips can be connected to the torch nozzle to get the desired result. The handle can be fitted with a cutting head, welding tip, or heating attachment to cut, weld, or mold metal as required.

If you are using the torch to cut metal, you will need an additional cutting tip that attaches to the end of the cutting head. This additional tip helps control the thickness of the flame which makes it easier to cut even thicker metals.

In most cases, oxygen and acetylene based torch welding equipment reach the same working temperature of 5,620 degrees. Some people wrongly assume that a bigger tank means higher temperatures while a smaller gas tank will build lower temperatures. This is not true. The size of your gas cylinders will not have any impact on the flame’s temperature. It only affects how long the flame will last.

It is recommended to get your cylinders filled with the appropriate gas before beginning work on a project. This will save you the trouble of running out of gas while working. Gas can be refilled at most welding supply stores.

Preparation for Torch Welding

Safety should be your primary concern whenever you work on a welding project. Make sure that you put on protective clothing including long-sleeve gloves, long pants and shirts, welding shoes, and ample coverage for eyes and face.

Torch welding generates a very high flame. You are also going to get a lot of spatter when you cut metal. Make sure that you work in open space and there are no flammable materials or chemicals around that could start a fire.

Before lighting up the torch, check for the following.

  • Make sure that the adjustment screws for regulator pressure are backed out all the way
  • Ensure that the torch valves are fully closed
  • Keep your distance from the front of the regulator
  • Open the oxygen and acetylene cylinder valves slowly
  • Carefully adjust the regulator p/screws to tip the pressure settings
  • Check the torch valves by opening and closing them separately and fine-tune the pressure settings on the regulators
  • If you are cutting metal, depress the cutting lever and adjust the pressure before lighting the flame

Starting the Torch

Follow these steps to light up the torch.

  • Purge both the oxygen and acetylene gas lines separately
  • Turn the fuel gas valve on, no more than 1/2 turn
  • Tilt the lighter a bit to trap some fuel in the spark cup and light up the torch slowly with the striker
  • Increase the flow of acetylene into the torch until the flame appears to leave the end of the tip and there is no smoke coming from the flame
  • Decrease the pressure until the flame goes back into the tip of the gun
  • Open the oxygen valve and make adjustments until you get to a neutral flame
  • Depress the oxygen lever and make any necessary adjustments to the flame

Torch Outfit Applications

You can use torch welding for a variety of purposes including cutting, welding, and heating of metal.

Metal Cutting

Cutting is the most widely used process in torch welding. You need to attach a cutting head to the torch handle and connect a cutting tip at the end.

The attachment and tip burn a combination of acetylene gas enriched by oxygen, to generate critically high temperatures. When the oxygen lever is depressed, it delivers a stream of oxygen to the flame that can cut through most types of metals.

Benefits of Gas Cutting

  • This method of torch metal cutting is quite portable
  • It creates a long flame that can cut thick material with a variety of cutting tips
  • It doesn’t require a lot of skill and even beginners can master it quickly

Disadvantages of Gas Cutting

  • An oxygen-acetylene gas mixture is only good for cutting iron-based steels
  • If you don’t use the correct cutting tip, the higher temperature can distort thin metals

Metal Heating

Torch equipment is also commonly used for heating metal. The specific heating tip commonly used for this purpose doesn’t usually come with basic torch outfits, but you can buy it separately.

The heating tip attaches directly to the torch handle. This heating tip has multiple holes in the nozzle that allow several flames to exit from the tip. These multiple flames can heat up a larger area of metal surface quickly which makes it easier to bend or straighten out the metal piece.

Advantages of Gas Heating

  • Torch equipment can heat up metal much faster than any other type of gas heating equipment
  • This equipment is light and portable for outdoor work
  • It is easy to learn and doesn’t require much skill

Disadvantage of Gas Heating

  • Heating up metal requires a lot of fuel and it can become expensive

Metal Welding

Although it isn’t the most preferred welding method, torch equipment can be used for welding as well. You can attach a welding tip to the torch handle to get the desired effect.

A controlled flame is used to generate a very high temperature that melts the base metal to its puddle or fluid state. At this stage, the gas welding rod is dipped into the molten puddle. The rod becomes infused with the base metal and they become one piece of metal, creating the weld.

The welding rod must match the base metal’s steel combination for pure fusion and good quality welds.

Advantages of Gas Welding

  • The method is quite portable
  • It can be used in combination with cutting and heating

Disadvantages of Gas Welding

  • This process requires a lot of skill and shouldn’t be used by beginners
  • Torch welding only works on iron-based steels and you won’t normally find other metal rod tips in the market

Related Questions

Can you weld with an acetylene torch?

Acetylene welding torch involves using a mixture of carbon-hydrogen gas and pure oxygen to create a flame that can reach a temperature of more than 3,000°C. This high temperature is hot enough to melt even steel. It creates a puddle of molten metal that can be joined together in a bead to weld metal structures.

Can you weld with a cutting torch?

It is possible to use a single, oxy-acetylene welding machine for both cutting and welding. However, you would need to attach the appropriate cutting or welding attachment to the nozzle to get the right torch.

What is the difference between a cutting torch and a welding torch?

A cutting torch is used to cut metals into smaller pieces while a welding torch is used to meld and connect different pieces of metal together.

In an oxy-fueled cutting torch, there are two oxygen valves while a welding gun uses a single valve. You start cutting the metal at the edge with one torch and then turn the second valve on to cut through the sheet.

What do you turn on first oxygen or acetylene?

Once you have connected both the oxygen and acetylene cylinders, you should turn the acetylene gas cylinder on first to start up a flame. This should be followed by the oxygen valve to adjust the strength of the flame.

When turning the torch off, shut the oxygen gas first, followed by the fuel.

“Do-it-yourself classes” flickr photo by Fort George G. Meade shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license