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What is a Cutting Torch?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2016
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A cutting torch is a metalworking torch which is specifically designed to be used to cut metal. Cutting torches are used on steel and carbon steel, and are generally not safe for other types of metal alloys. A cutting torch provides one option for cutting through metal, ranging from small pieces on a jeweler's bench to large pieces involved in the construction of a building. A number of safety precautions are required when working with a cutting torch, because these devices can be extremely dangerous.

Cutting torches use a flow of gas to heat the metal, followed by a burst of pressurized oxygen which reacts with the hot metal, oxidizing it. The line of oxidation creates a cut which is typically lined with slag which must be chipped away to create a finished edge. Cutting torches can be used for tasks like shaping steel, cutting beams, cutting out holes in steel, and so forth.

Working with a gas-fuel torch requires properly operating tanks, regulators, and tubing. Everything must be in good condition to ensure that the working environment will be safe, and to avoid dangerous situations such as fuel leaks or spontaneous ignition of the gases being used. In addition, proper face protection must be worn, along with heavy garments and shoes so that sparks will not burn the operator.

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It is also important to work in a safe environment when using a cutting torch. Flammable materials must be stored out of the area so that they do not ignite while the torch is used, and the workspace needs to be kept clean and well organized so that the operator knows where everything is. Operators also have to be on the lookout for slag and pieces of metal so that they can avoid stepping on them, as the hot metal can burn right through a pair of boot soles. Fire extinguishers appropriate for the setting must also be readily accessible.

A number of companies sell cutting torches and accessories. Such supplies are usually purchased by people who have undergone some training to learn to work with such tools safely. Such training can often be obtained through community colleges, trade schools, and art schools which familiarize students with welding processes, including the safe use of a cutting torch. New students buying their first equipment can get tips and advice from instructors, although most schools encourage students to use school equipment and get comfortable with it before they purchase their own.

Emergency responders also learn to work with cutting torches, as they may need to cut through metal in the course of their work.

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