Rev. 2001-12-30, 2003-07-08, 2004-01-01, -10-09, 2005-12-19, 2009-05-29

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Glass artists use a variety of torches. A furnace worker may use one or two, but if the artist or studio does beadwork or uses lampworking to make detailed inserts, several additional torches may be available.

A propane torch attached directly to a can of propane as is often used for plumbing soldering is awkward to use, particularly because such torches are not to be used past horizontal and as they approach that point they may sputter or otherwise have problems as liquid propane gets in the gas stream. Therefore, most studio torches are run off hoses. If the studio is plumbed for gas, the hoses may snap fit into drops from a central source. The gas may be propane or natural gas.

At the low end these are usually trigger start propane braising torches (the pistol shape on a hose from Sears is nice) used for lighting equipment and melting edges on punty marks before annealing. These torches can also be used to accent striking color. Some studios use an oxy-gas or acetylene torch (much hotter) for melting work and have spaces piped for gas.

LIGHTING SAFETY - I strongly recommend that torches be lighted from a standing pilot or from the furnace or glory hole. Specifically, I would like to warn against keeping small butane lighters around for lighting torches. I watched as one left laying on a large marver erupted in a ball of flame in the face of a worker when the outwash of a super torch overheated it. Fortunately, this man got away with a slight loss of facial hair and a reddening of the face, but it could have been much worse. We are often not aware of how hot we get when working glass and one going off in a pocket could be a disaster as clothes ignite.


SUPER TORCH - Torch in use on a pieceThis is the most commonly seen torch in a furnace studio and the most spectacular seen in videos. In the cheap form it is a weed burner head on a pipe. In its fancier form with chrome head and handled with a trigger that allows a small flame to burn all the time, leaping to an adjustable huge flame when needed it may cost up to $200.. It is normally hung up on a stand so the pilot flame can burn safely. The torch can put out 250,000-500,000 Btu, as much as a furnace burner, and is used to heat the base of a piece and reheat a punty head to keep the glass from cracking during a long work.
Burnzomatic TS6000 trigger start pistol torch on a hoseTRIGGER START - Having a torch that can be picked up and lighted instantly is often convenient. Sears once sold a light weight trigger start pistol shaped torch on a hose that seems to have disappeared. BernzOmatic makes several trigger start torches that fit disposable tanks, so an adaptor hose is needed, which the company also sells. Checking their site, I find they have a poor picture of a torch, TS6000 that appears to be like the Sears torch. [2004-10-09 apparently now gone also - NOPE    MR. FIRTH, THE TS6000MK IS STILL AVAILABLE UNDER THAT MODEL NUMBER. THEY ARE NOT AVAILABLE AT MANY RETAILERS, BUT YOU CAN PURCHASE IT DIRECT AT 1-800-654-9011. SINCERELY, KEN GLARDON 2004-11-13]
Grainger Item No. 6Z009  Mfg. Model No. TS-6000MK  Manufacturer BERNZOMATIC Description Self Igniting Gun for High Temperature,  Pistol Grip with Propane Cylinder Your Price $46.49 [MF bit much, may be a better price around. 2006 now up to $65-70 ] 
HOT HEAD - This is an oversized torch head to fit a propane or MAPP disposable tank that is sold for beginning bead working. It has a good sized flame and can be mounted on a hose. One artist hasHot Head torch on home made mount mounted it directly to a 20 pound bottle using the copper pipe to support the head above the bottle. $30 + shipping from Alpine. I bought one of these and am most impressed. I have used it for braising 1/2" steel tubing and will use it for pulling cane. Shown on mount I made. Gets hot when on, if hand held must be held behind the connection at left. Intended for mounting on a MAPP or propane bottle.  Noisy.
Major-Minor torch-surface mix typesSURFACE MIX - All of the torches above are internal mix - that is the gas and air are mixed before reaching the end of the head - either fuel and oxygen mixing in an inner chamber or fuel dragging air as in the image of the Hot Head.  Most torches used by lamp workers are surface mix (right) - the fuel and oxygen are carried through a multitude of tiny tubes - 9, 17, or 29 which bring them out on the face of the torch to ignite and burn there rather than in the turbulence of a burner chamber.  The surface mix is quieter and offers a fuller range of flame sizes than a internal mix.  Because of all the little tubes, it costs more. As shown below, a surface mix torch head mounted long pipe handles is used on the blowing floor.  One combination torch mounts a small Minor torch on top of a large Major torch (right); separate oxy and propane valves permit changes in size and intensity of flame.  Some Majors have 4 valves to control an smaller inner and larger outer flame. 2005-12-19

GAS/OXYGEN TORCH - Most lamp workers use a torch that uses propane and oxygen although natural gas, and MAPP gas are also used. Propane/compressed air torches also exist. More on these torches, like the Major and Minor, will be found at lampworking sites.  Lampworkers and neon tube benders use a variety of bench mounted torches, some with several heads, the most accepted of which have fine controls and run off propane and oxygen. When a furnace worker has one, it is usually used to make the bits that end up in paperweights or paperweight style blown pieces. (More info at Arrow Springs)  but when I visited Seattle studios in 2003, a number were using large square head surface mix torches as heaters on big pieces.

WELDING TORCH - Oxygen-Acetylene torches are used in shops that have other uses for the torch, but the flame is very hot and does things to glass that are not nice. Acetylene is a gas that is explosive in all mixtures with air from under 10% to over 90% and must be handled with caution and ventilation.  There exists a picture of Josh Simpson using an oxy-acetylene heater head on one of his huge glass worlds.

MAPP - " (In case you are wondering what MAPP® gas is, it is a specially-designed gas composed of liquefied stabilized methyl acetylene propadiene compound. It is quite a mouthful and you’ll agree it is much easier to say "MAPP.")" from Bernzomatic site.


The montage below shows torches parked and in use at the WheatonArts/Creative Glass Center demo site. The central flame is a 'super torch' parked with a large idle flame while the man and woman work the heated neck.  The same torch is in use in the lower right corner while the left hand flame is an oxy-propane surface mix torch for much more local heat, being used to make a hole in the glass with an awl. 2009-05-29  Site visit images


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