When you’re trying to make use of a cutting torch for the first time, you need to make sure you have all your ducks in a row. That means having a thorough understanding of how exactly a blow torch, or cutting torch, works.
While a cutting torch is a pretty simple tool to wrap your head around, you might find that actually utilizing this tool is a little more difficult than you might have anticipated.
Cutting torches have complicated settings that need to be regularly checked and adjusted to ensure they are running correctly.
There are lots of different factors that will influence the settings you need to adjust on your cutting torch – these include the kinds of materials that you’re interacting with, the thickness of said materials you’re trying to cut, the type of metal you might be dealing with – there are tons of things that you need to keep in mind if you want to get those straight, smooth cuts.
Let’s break down how you can master your cutting torch settings and never lack confidence when facing down an instruction manual or inquisitive neighbor ever again.
Types of Cutting Torches
There are generally two types of cutting torches that people get their hands on. These are low-pressure cutting torches and high-pressure cutting torches. High-pressure torches tend to produce a bigger flame that’s a bit harder to control the precise size of.
However, these are ideal for beginners because they are pretty easy to light and control in general. This makes them suitable for the rough cutting of most kinds of materials and other simple jobs.
Low-pressure cutting torches are typically used by experts and those craftsmen with years of experience, and as such, it’s recommended that newer users stay away from them for the most part.
This is because the smaller flame is ideal for more precise cutting jobs that newer users might find difficult to handle in the first place. In fact, for most cutting jobs, it’s unlikely that a low-pressure cutting torch would be preferred to a high-pressure one.
This is simply because if you’re dealing with a situation that calls for a cutting torch in the first place, it’s unlikely that you’re looking for an exact cut.
Setting Up Your Cutting Torch for the First Time
When you’re dealing with any kind of cutting torch for the first time, torch setup can be an intimidating experience – we understand that. After all, you’re about to use a tool that burns its fuel at thousands of degrees and does so with an open flame that will be pretty close to your body when in use.
This is enough information to make anybody pause. However, you don’t have to be nervous as long as you follow the proper steps to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Firstly, you will want to ensure that the cylinders, tanks, or containers holding your fuel are upright and in a stable position. If a cylinder containing fuel for a cutting torch were to suddenly fall over, be ruptured, or suffer any other kind of physical accident, the effects it could have on the person yielding said torch would be quite bad.
Check your cutting torch’s fuel cylinders for any sign of a protective cover or slip or piece of fabric that might be used to prevent fuel from leaking out due to user error. You’ll want to remove this protective cover before you get started, as otherwise, you won’t be able to access the fuel for your torch.
These protective covers also keep debris and dust out – if you’re worried about your torch having been exposed to dirt or debris or something similar, it’s pretty easy to clean your torch out for yourself. Simply open and close the valves on your fuel cylinder about a quarter of the way each time. This should forcefully blow out any trapped debris, allowing you to operate your torch without fear.
Connect regulators to your fuel cylinders' valves and ensure they’re tightly screwed in. The last thing you want is any sort of leak or loose connection, as this can have dire effects on your work and life if things go badly. If you have difficulty tightening the regulators with your hands, don’t be afraid to use a wrench. You want things to be secure, after all.
Finally, you’ll want to fully open your torch valve until the pressure being released by your cutting torch is somewhere between 40 and 60 PSI. Then, you’ll want to check for leaks. You can cover your regulators and valve openings in a soap solution that will bubble if there is any escaping air, fuel, or gas.
If there is a leak, you can go over your equipment piece by piece to identify it. However, never use a cutting torch with a leak. This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised by the tenacity of a determined DIYer.
If there aren’t any leaks you can detect and every gauge is telling you to go ahead and get your work done, follow your manufacturer’s instructions to light the torch up. While most cutting torch lighting instructions are similar, you’ll want to go with the specifics outlined by the company that made your product. This isn’t a type of tools where you want to mix and match instructions.
Follow These Safety Precautions for Optimal Performance
No matter what kinds of cutting torches you’re dealing with, you should always strive to follow these basic precautions. Not only will they prevent you from messing up important work that might reflect on you, but they will also work to keep you safe from many different accidents you could suffer.
A big one is always to ensure your tanks are upright. When transporting certain kinds of fuel tanks, such as acetylene tanks, these tanks must stay upright throughout their travel duration because when they are allowed to lie horizontally, this can cause a buildup of acetone.
This buildup can lead to the tanks becoming hazardous objects that might propel themselves across the room, striking someone or worse. If you do end up transporting tanks of acetylene gas horizontally, then you should ensure that you give the tanks plenty of time to settle while upright. This will allow any built-up acetone that is present to dissipate harmlessly.
Another safety precaution you should start getting used to when dealing with cutting torches is inspecting your equipment before every use. During inspections, you should look for any signs of wear and tear that could spell trouble for the job you’re about to undertake. That means checking for dents in fuel tanks, signs of rust or flaking on fuel valves, chipped equipment, and fuel leaks.
If you have any debris or dirt on you, it’s recommended that you do not use pure oxygen to blow it off your person. Sprayed oxygen can be absorbed by the clothing you wear, making you much more flammable than you already are. If there’s one thing you don’t want to be when handling a cutting torch, it’s flammable. If you see debris on your person, don’t mess around with tanks and valves to blow it off of you – simply wipe it off.
It’s also recommended that you wear eye protection with a filter rating between two and five. This will help ensure you don’t suffer any permanent eye damage from using your cutting torch.
While a typical acetylene torch (and indeed, most cutting torches) doesn’t have a bright enough light to severely damage your eyes, mindless gazing at what is still a very powerful light source is enough to do some damage over time. By wearing the right kind of eye protection, you can successfully eliminate any of the eye damage you might have suffered otherwise.
Besides eye protection, you should always ensure you’re using the proper gear when interacting with a cutting torch of any type. Gloves are a good idea, as sometimes cutting torches can heat up over time in areas you might not expect to get hot. Avoid an unwelcome surprise by wearing thick work gloves that are heat-resistant.
Long sleeves and pants are also recommended, as you don’t want to startle yourself when a stray spark hits your bare skin. While cutting torches don’t produce a flame temperature as powerful as a gas welding torch, they can still do significant damage to a person. Why take the chance of something going wrong when you could just wear long clothing?
Will Knowing All This Make Me Better With My Cutting Torch?
At the end of the day, the only thing that will make your cutting torch experience better is knowing how to use them properly. That comes with experience and the proper education.
Reading your owner’s manual never sounds like a fun task, but if it means the difference between safety and an accident in the workplace, it’s worth taking the time to pore over a few pages before using your cutting torch.
After all, these torches are incredible tools that will make your work much easier. However, that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. If you’re struggling to understand exactly how the settings on your torch work, make sure you call someone who can explain things to you before you try to work it all by yourself.
While we’ve given you some of the basics on how to work with cutting torch settings, that doesn’t mean you now know everything. That kind of confidence can only come with time, so good luck with your next few cutting-torch experiences as you master a new tool!