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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Please tell us a little bit about torches today.  I'm a little bit confused about them.  I didn't realize that there were different fuels for them either.  So what is best to buy when just starting out?  


Wisker, I use a Nortel Minor Burner, above is a picture of mine.   You are correct, there are many different types of torches and they can use a few different types of fuel.   It is important to research torches and the type of fuel you plan on using, before purchasing!   If you are not sure if you want to really get into lampworking, it is advised to get a Hot Head, they are the cheapest, so you wouldn't be out a lot of money (just make sure that if using a Hot Head-it should be secured to your work area for safety).  Some torches listed below can get very expensive!

Here are some torches available for lampworking, with a little flame information (NOTE: I'm not an expert on torches so I may have gotten names incorrect but this is a good list to get started with):

Nortel Minor Burner-small pinpoint flame, fairly small flame
Nortel Mid Range Plus 
Nortel Major
Nortel Mega Minor-small pinpoint flame, carrot shaped
Red Max
Hot head-some lampworkers start on this torch
Whale Firebird-small pinpoint flame, cannot get pinpoint flame, wide carrot shape
Lynx
Cheetah
Phantom
Carlisle Mini CC-small pinpoint flame, carrot shaped 
Gtt Cricket-small pinpoint flame, hot needle flame can get very tight 
Knight Bullet-small pinpoint flame, small carrot shape
Knight Little Dragon-small pinpoint flame, small carrot shape
Bethlehem Barracuda-small pinpoint flame, good needle flame 
Bethlehem Bead Burner
Piranha-small pinpoint flame, good needle flame 
Bethlehem Minnow-small pinpoint flame, carrot shaped
Betta-small pinpoint flame, good needle flame
Bobcat

Fuels used by these torches are, mapp gas (only the Hot head uses this fuel and it can be bought at local builder supply stores), propane, natural gas, oxygen.   Other than the hot head, they all use oxygen and either propane or natural gas.  Some people tap into the natural gas that they have plumbed into their home or studio.  Other people use propane tanks.  For oxygen,  people either use an oxygen tank (which they have to periodically fill, this is also the case for propane tanks) or an oxygen concentrator which makes oxygen on demand (but the concentrator may not  have enough out put for some of the larger torches above).  Safety is always important when using any torch fuel.  Make sure you use the correct hoses to connect to your torch, too!  Most lampwork and stained glass suppliers carry these hoses.  Also be sure to connect a backflow preventor on your hoses and correct oxygen and propane regulators to connect to your system.  And buy  a good spark lighter to light your torch.   I will take pictures of my own set up and post them in an upcoming posting on my blog.

I advise anyone thinking about starting lampworking, look into the benefits and disadvantages of a few different torches before deciding on one to buy.  The larger torches need more fuel to make them run.  So you should decide if you want to use an oxygen concentrator as a fuel source to run your torch.  If you do want to use an oxy con (lampwork lingo for oxygen concentrator), make sure the torch you are looking at can be powered by one!  It is also great to take a lampworking class so that you can try out different types of torches (if the studio has more than one type of torch available to demo).  But hey, I am self taught and I just did my research and bought a torch I thought I would be able to use for quite some time, without ever even seeing or trying one being used.  

Also some torches do not get hot enough to use with boro glass.  In that case you can only use soft glass.  My Nortel Minor Burner is only made for soft glass.  But torches that can handle boro glass can also be used to melt soft glass too.  It is up to the artist to decide what they want to create, and what kind of glass they want to use.


The video above is showing a Nortel Midrange Plus torch.  It was made by TimiaGlass.


The next video above is showing how to use a Japanese torch.   It was recorded by hidebead.


This video above shows a few different torches.











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