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What is a Blowtorch?

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  • Written By: Angie Bates
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2016
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Most often used in welding, a blowtorch is a device that uses combustible gas to make flames hot enough to provide precise cuts in metal or fuse metal pieces together. Also called blowlamps, types of blowtorches range from professional grade to small kitchen torches found in culinary stores. The type of blowtorch used depends on the type of task involved.

Though blowtorches are most often used in welding, plumbers also use them when soldering pipes. Additionally, chefs will use smaller torches in certain recipes, such as crème brule which requires sudden high heats to caramelize its sugary top, or to roast vegetables. Many other people own a blowtorch for tasks like building or fixing cars or mending metal. Some people even use them to light cigars.

Despite how common blowtorches may be, they are dangerous and can cause explosions when not handled correctly. Welding torches reach 5,000-6,000°F (2,760-3,316°C), and the sparks that are caused are actually liquefied pieces of metal. Welders always wear gloves, aprons, and face masks because of the high heat and molten metal.

Usually called oxyacetylene torches, professional torches often use an acetylene-oxygen mix. An oxyacetylene torch can be very unstable and may explode if not handled properly or if handled too roughly. The oxyacetylene is usually dissolved in acetone to help keep it stable, but even then it is still volatile.

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Another type of professional blowtorch uses a methylacetylene-propadiene (MAPP) gas oxygen mix. MAPP gas is more stable that oxyacetylene and can be used underwater, so this type of blowtorch is often used to repair ships. A MAPP gas torch, however, does not burn as hot an oxyacetylene torch.

Lit by a pilot light, a professional grade blowtorch consists of two cylinders, one for the oxygen and one for the fuel, and a metal head with a removable tip, which can be changed depending on the task. Two regulators and two color-coded rubber hoses connect the canisters to the torch. The regulators are adjustable and control the torch's gas pressure.

Small non-professional blowtorches use butane or propane. Propane or butane torches do not have an oxygen cylinder inside them. Instead, they use outside air to burn the gas they contain, much like simple lighters. For this reason, they are cooler than professional torches, but do reach 3,200-3,800°F (1,760-2,093°C). Non-professional blowtorches can be found in hardware stores, and as well as some gourmet food stores.

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TreeMan
Post 4

@Emilski - I would think that using a blowtorch to light a firework would violate the fire code in some areas, but I would also think that using a blowtorch in certain areas would also violate the local fire codes.

A question I would have is because of the intense heat of the fire codes are there age restrictions on purchasing a blow torch and if there are how old do you have to be? Also, are there certain areas where someone cannot use a blowtorch, like say to create a camp fire in a state park?

Emilski
Post 3

Something I have to wonder about when I think of blowtorches is if there are laws concerning how old someone has to be to operate a blowtorch as well as if owning a blowtorch can violate some sort of fire code.

I once saw a kid be ticketed for using a blowtorch to light a firework but I did not know whether or not they were ticketed for violating a fire code due to using the blowtorch or if they used an illegal firework and were caught.

JimmyT
Post 2

@kentuckycat - I absolutely agree with you. I have heard many stories about people using blow torches to light fireworks and they have not ended very well.

I have also heard of people using blowtorches to do things like light cigarettes, as you have said, as well as using them to light stoves and other things that a match or lighter can simply be used for.

A lot of accidents I have heard that have occurred using blowtorches involve either people being burned by getting too close to the flame or they go to light something and release too much of the gas out of the blowtorch and make a massive uncontrolled flame.

kentuckycat
Post 1

People do not realize how hot blowtorches are. One time my uncle was welding something in his garage and my cousin came up and started using a blow torch to light his cigarette. He did not realize how hot the blow torch got and even though he held the blowtorch away from him, he did light the cigarette while it was still in his mouth and his face was burnt, despite being more than a few inches away with the flame going mostly the other direction.

At over three thousand degrees a flame from a blowtorch, which anyone can buy, is very dangerous and should be handled with as much care as possible. It is designed to burn holes through metal and weld metal together so it is a very serious tool for anyone to have.

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