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Thread: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

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    Default Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    I’ve been working with propane as an alternative fuel to acetylene ever since we started to make bicycle frames in Ukraine as a charity project over 10 years ago. It was just much easier to get as a fuel. Ever since I have been looking for the best combination of equipment when using propane. For many of my frame building class students propane is a better option as well. It is more readily available at longer business hours with fewer zoning restrictions than acetylene. It is also much cheaper to use with less start up costs. In addition it is somewhat safer. While it is possible to use with acetylene tips, it works better with elbow/mixers and tips designed specifically for propane. I have covered the pros and cons of using either fuel in the subject thread acetylene vs propane. Lets do a review of our options using smaller airline torch handles that are available in the US.

    Smith used to make propane specific mixer/elbow/tips (an all in one unit) for their AW1A torch handle. They were the AW4XX series (for example an AW407). These worked really well and produced a sharp point. However they stopped making them years ago. What they do make now is an AT-61 mixer/elbow (designed to work specifically with propane) with a treaded end that allows different tips of various diameters to be attached. The problem with this arraignment is that their LT and NE series of tips made to screw onto their AT-61 does not produce an ideal flame pattern. It is kind of blunt and rounded and can become more easily detached because the orifice is not countersunk.

    Victor (and compatibles like Gentec and Uniweld) makes a propane specific combination for their J-28 torch handle. They work better than what Smith makes for propane but it isn’t perfect either. The UN-J mixer/elbow and their TEN series of tips (for example the TEN-3) are designed specifically for propane. There is 2 issues with this set up. 1st, Victor stopped making the TEN-1 and smaller tips. Gentec still makes them at a lower quality. Some people including myself like these smaller tips for fillet brazing. 2nd, the TEN-3 and larger tips don’t have as sharp a flame pattern as an equally sized Smith AW407. It works okay (TEN-3 is a good size for doing lugs) but that flame is also a bit more blunt and rounded. I like working with the best possible equipment.

    The Meco Midget (now made for Victor) is a great little light torch handle but its shape is not loved by the majority (although some really like it). It has a rectangle instead of a round handle. This means I have to move my wrist instead of my rotating my fingers to flick a flame off of a joint. TM Technologies now makes tips for the Meco Midget that produce a way more awesome flame using propane than either the Smith or Victor options. What is different about these tips is that the have small orifices around the main orifice. They call this “a ring of fire”. The primary flame tip is sharp and less likely to become detached or blow out. If one doesn’t mind the shape of the torch handle this is the best option. But I and many others do not like its shape as well as a round one.

    A new option may become available soon. Paige Tools makes tips specifically for the jewelry market. Their propane tips are similar to TM’s tips with a bit of shape variation in the secondary holes. They are also designed to fit the Meco Midget handle. In addition they make adaptors for these tips to fit the Smith Little Torch and Hoke torches. In conversations with them they are considering making adaptors so their tips can also fit onto the Smith AT-61 and the Victor UN-J. They would like to expand their market base. For me a round handle with a multi-flame tip (with a longer center flame not to be confused with a rosebud with equal sized flames) would be the best of all options. I modified their adaptor on my lathe so it will work with my AW1A. I was really impressed with this combination of using a Paige tip with the AT-61. If anyone else might want to use their tips with either a Smith or Victor/Gentec/Uniweld 71 torch handles, contact Paige tools so our chances of them making these new adaptors (to fit both the Smith 1/4” - 32 threads and Victor’s 5/16” - 27) can be increased. You can find their email and phone number on their website. They have a range of 5 tip sizes as well as 2 rosebuds. If they were to make these adaptors they would also work, of course, with TM Technologies propane tips (since they both have Identical 1/4” - 28 threads).

    Doug Fattic
    Niles, Michigan

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    No idea what thread these have, probably not compatable with US kit but multi-flame style tips are available in the UK: Multi-Jet Oxy Propane Heating Nozzles.

    William Chitham.

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Quote Originally Posted by William Chitham View Post
    No idea what thread these have, probably not compatable with US kit but multi-flame style tips are available in the UK: Multi-Jet Oxy Propane Heating Nozzles.William Chitham.
    William those tips look exactly like the ones provided by TM Technologies. I'm guessing just the threading for attachment is different. The multi-port tips made by Paige have slits instead as the secondary holes but the flame pattern is similar.

    It is obvious to me that multi-port tips for propane is the wave of the future as more people become aware of their advantages. They just work in a superior way to the old single hole tips when using propane. I don't think the old American welding supply manufacturers have given any thought to making improvements once they were bought out by bigger companies. The Welder's Warehouse company William identified as a source of multi-port propane tips in the UK also provides information in their 'knowledge" section on why propane is gaining popularity over acetylene.

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    re: multi-flame style tips are available in the UK
    a report from someone (Stephen Hilton) who has tried them
    ...for fillet brazing I found they were of no use, giving out too wide a heating zone causing the braze line to spread out too quickly...
    see:
    Oxy-Propane Brazing – UPDATE 2 | Novice Framebuilder
    Chris Kaminski

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    I completely disagree with Stephen Hilton's assessment that using a multi-tiped propane flame does not work for fillet brazing. To make sure of this, I just did a nearly perfect practice fillet braze using the new Paige tip size 3 and finished it with the Meco #2. Both of them are multi-port tips. Because the Paige and Meco tips use their own sizing references these tips are actually about the same size. Of course I have been building frames for over 40 years and know how to make adjustments in my flame control. His problem may have been caused by choosing too large a tip or inexperience on knowing how to control the temperature of the brass flowing into the joint because he is used to something else.

    The one area where I feel acetylene is clearly superior is when doing fillet brazing. It produces a hotter fine point which makes controlling fillet brazing easier to do. However I have no trouble using propane for fillet brazing (one could not tell the difference in the end result). In fact the small propane multi-tips work better for brass fillet brazing than a small single hole tip because they are less likely to blow out when they are close to the joint and the blow back from the gas flow puts out the flame.

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Thanks Doug!
    There is always a possibility that it is not Stephen, but the difference in tips design...?
    Your tests and recommendation makes it easier to choose whether to try Paige or the ones from Welders Warehouse?
    Just waiting for Paige to advise posting to UK.
    Chris Kaminski

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Quote Originally Posted by bambuko View Post
    Thanks Doug!
    There is always a possibility that it is not Stephen, but the difference in tips design...?
    Your tests and recommendation makes it easier to choose whether to try Paige or the ones from Welders Warehouse?
    Just waiting for Paige to advise posting to UK.
    It is possible that the multi-orifice tips sold by Welding Warehouse are different then its American cousins and that is why he had trouble fillet brazing with it. However my bet is that he used too big of a tip. The reason I think so is that it is harder for me to have perfect control with larger tips when I haven't been fillet brazing for awhile. When I do it more often, I like to increase the tip size. Also many of my frame building class students have taken some other class before I teach them and even those have a bit of a lag time in recognizing what to do with the result that their fillet expands more then they would prefer. A smaller tip minimizes brass flow while they are pondering how to move their hands. I am also guessing he didn't experiment with tip sizes before making his judgment. In any case I just wanted to let people know that smaller multi-orifice tips work fine for fillet brazing.

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    I was going to order M-2 and M-3 tips to try, but Richard tells me that I'd probably be better off with bigger ones, so I am getting M-4 and M-5.
    What was the size you have used in your tests Doug, please?

    BTW I have also ordered two tips from Welders Warehouse to compare and whilst I am not really qualified to comment (self taught amateur with plenty of bad habits and far too little practice) I will report how I got on with them.
    Chris Kaminski

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Quote Originally Posted by bambuko View Post
    I was going to order M-2 and M-3 tips to try, but Richard tells me that I'd probably be better off with bigger ones, so I am getting M-4 and M-5. What was the size you have used in your tests Doug, please?
    Chris, the only tip I have right now from Paige is their M-3 (I also ordered the M-4 and M-5 for testing). The main orifice on that tip is almost the same size as a Meco OX-2. However the mini holes surrounding the main hole of the 2 tips are different. The M-3 has 6 fine slots creating 6 little flattened flames while the OX-2 has a whole bunch of tiny holes so each hole produces a smaller flame but more of them. They almost look like a complete circle of flame around the much longer center flame. I only did a small amount of testing them together (one fillet joint) but they seemed to put out about the same amount of heat. This is the size I like to use for fillet brazing but I could also go up a size if I had to. That size would also work well for putting on braze-ons but I prefer bigger sizes for most other frame brazing operations.

    Tip size preferences varies among builders. More experienced builders commonly prefer bigger flames to get the job done more quickly with less heat affected zone. However it usually works better for those on the shorter end of the learning curve to use smaller tips so they have more time to figure out what is going and react before they make a hot mess. I am under the impression that for most frame brazing situations the Paige M-4 and M-5 would be the right choice. I typically use the Meco OX-3 and OX-4 when I am using the Midget torch.

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Thank you Doug!

    Welders Warehouse tips have arrived today and the thread on them is neither UNF or BSP or BSF, but M6 x 0.75 (Metric Fine).
    Welders Warehouse (after I called them) told me that they also have necks/adapters to suit lightweight torch mixers, but do not sell them on internet because of the problems with people trying to use them on incompatible (wrong thread) parts...



    They also sell the whole package of lightweight torch.
    It seems a good value if you haven't got the torch, but I have one, so will be turning adapters to suit.
    I will probably spend more time fuffing around with making these than it is worth, so if you have more money than time - just buy the whole package:
    The Welders Warehouse - Lightweight Heating and Brazing Torch for Oxygen + Propane
    It's only 69 (and it comes with three tips included).

    I am still waiting for Paige to let me know the shipping costs before I can place an order.
    These of course are UNF, so I will be making another set of adapters...
    Chris Kaminski

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Chris, the tip in your picture looks a bit different than the Meco tips. Your secondary holes are fewer and a little bigger and farther away from the center hole. Of course the Paige tips have 6 very thin slits instead of holes. Now I am super curious if there is any significant performance difference. Richard at Paige certainly thinks there is. Obviously people have figured out that a propane tip works better with a small circle of flame around the center flame.

    The question I have from America is, does Welders Warehouse make adaptors for our American threads? I've encouraged Paige to make adaptors and they sounded positive but it isn't a done deal yet.

    I want to emphasize again the advantage of a multi-port tip for fillet brazing when using propane. Just so the general public understands, propane is a bit cooler flame than acetylene. I compensate by using a bigger tip/flame. For example if I was using a Victor #0 with acetylene I would use a Victor #2 (actually a TEN-2) with propane. When doing fillet brazing with propane I like a small Victor TEN-1 tip (which Victor no longer makes so I have to substitute a lower quality Gentec). The problem is that if I get the flame close to the joint at close to a 90 angle the gas pressure bouncing back blows out the flame. With a similar size multi-port tip it just doesn't do that. It is a much more stable flame.

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Modified neck next to standard swaged tip:



    and as fitted to my lightweight torch:



    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
    Chris, the tip in your picture looks a bit different than the Meco tips. Your secondary holes are fewer and a little bigger and farther away from the center hole...
    Yes, I have noticed this difference as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
    ...Now I am super curious if there is any significant performance difference...
    You are not the only one.
    So far the tips from UK are a lot better than standard swaged tips, at least as far as lighting up and adjusting the flame is concerned.
    They just work, whereas standard tips need nursing until you can use them, plus if you work too close pressure can blow the flame off.
    These new tips seem much more stable

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
    ...The question I have from America is, does Welders Warehouse make adaptors for our American threads? ...
    Well... the tips seem to be offered as a replacements to their line of oxy propane torches, rather than standalone product for use with other torches.
    When I asked them what was the thread, they didn't know and said they would have to email the factory to find out (never mind I have sorted it out myself).
    They are supposed to call me back when they get reply "from the factory", I will ask them about other threads, but I wouldn't hold my breath...
    Chris Kaminski

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Thanks Chris for posting this information about a UK source for a multi-port tip for propane. I'll be curious if some supplier over there eventually comes out with lighter hoses for the UK market too. I know TM technologies ships their light hoses to the UK but they have the problem of adapting American A fittings to UK fittings. Light hoses benefits beginners more than the experienced. While I can use heavy rubber hoses just fine I like light hoses much better.

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Do all the multi port tips share the same oxygen pressure/volume requirement as the Meco that limits the use of some O2 concentrators?

    Russ Kanz

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Quote Originally Posted by Rkanz View Post
    Do all the multi port tips share the same oxygen pressure/volume requirement as the Meco that limits the use of some O2 concentrators? Russ Kanz
    Russ, I don't know yet if the Paige tips bigger than their M-3 uses more or less oxygen than the Meco tips. I ordered bigger ones and they will arrive next week. Just by looking at the tiny slits in the Paige tips I would guess less. What I do know is that My DeVilbiss concentrator can run a Meco OX-3 but not the bigger Ox-4 or 5 at full power.

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Another source? for multi-jet/multi-flame brazing nozzles:
    torchtips
    Chris Kaminski

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
    ... I'll be curious if some supplier over there eventually comes out with lighter hoses for the UK market too...
    Well... I have never given up and I think I might be able to solve the problem.
    There are oxygen and propane hoses, produced (in Europe) to EN 1327, with ID of 3.2mm.
    They are used in vast quantities with Oxy-turbo setup (mickey mouse things using disposable bottles).
    I am not suggesting that Oxy-turbo is any good for our purposes, but there is nothing wrong with these hoses.

    oxygen hose
    propane hose

    They are actually manufactured just across the border from Ukraine, so it might be useful to you as well?

    Here in UK WeldingDirect is making hose sets using this stuff, exactly to your requirements:

    Micro Hoses Set
    (although at the moment they appear to be out of stock)
    Chris Kaminski

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Quote Originally Posted by Rkanz View Post
    Do all the multi port tips share the same oxygen pressure/volume requirement as the Meco that limits the use of some O2 concentrators? Russ Kanz
    After getting Paige’s bigger tips (M-4 and M-5), I did a little comparison with the OX series of tips sold by TM Technologies. Just as a refresher both both of these companies make their tips to fit the Meco Midget torch. I modified an adaptor Paige makes (the MMH so their tips will fit Hoke torch handles) to fit my Smith AW1A torch handle with a AT-61 mixer/elbow designed to work with propane and similar fuels like natural gas. The shape of the secondary flames around the center flame are quite different between the 2 makers. The 6 very thin slits on the Paige tips produce longer flattish flames then the many round short stubby flames surrounding the Meco OX tips.

    This test was to check and see if my oxygen concentrators have enough oomph to run the bigger multi-port tips. The biggest Paige tip (the M-5) has a center orifice of around 042”. That is roughly equal to the middle size of the Meco OX-3. The OX-4 measured about .053” and the OX-5 approximately .063” (I say approximately because I measured somewhat casually as I was only wanting to get a rough estimate of their sizes). I have 2 different manufacturers of oxygen concentrators, a Devilbiss and an Invacare. The Devilbiss has a higher oxygen output and the Invacare runs quieter. For this experiment I hooked up my torch to the Invacare.

    My Invacare Oxygen concentrator could easily power all the Paige tips no matter how open I adjusted the flame. It even put out enough oxygen for their smaller MA-1 rosebud tip at normal pressures. It appeared to me those tips used less oxygen for a similar sized hole than the tips sold by TM Technologies (the M-5 compared to the OX-3). My concentrator could also run the OX-4 and OX-5 tips at normal settings but could not produce enough oxygen when the propane was turned way up. I don’t think there are many circumstances in making a frame in which it is necessary to turn the flame up that large.

    What I don’t know yet is how many more BTUs are produced in a multi-port tip compared to a single tip. In other words it is pointless to compare center hole diameters as a way of choosing what tip to use. Obviously the multi-port tips are putting out more heat for the same size single center hole.

    In conclusion I found that my 5 lpm concentrators could put out enough oxygen to make a frame with any of the multi-port tips. However that doesn’t mean they put out enough to keep a pro happy when they wish to use a big flame to get in and out fast.

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Thanks for sharing the tip test. Encouraging to know these tips will work with a concentrator. I emailed Piage letting them know it would be nice to have tips for my J28. They replied quickly and indicated they are working on tips to fit the J28.

    Russ Kanz

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    Default Re: Finding the best torch handle and tips to work with propane

    Well I splashed out on a set of tips and a neck from Welder's Warehouse and needless to say, it doesn't fit my Wescol lightweight handle so I'm planning to do a cut and shut job with one of my existing tips. The question is, which one: the UK type or the Uniweld? I only have the one tip for the Uniweld so modding that would make it a lot more useful (once I sort out some decent hoses for it) but the fact that they come as a unit for this torch suggests that the mixer may be specifically tailored to the tip - this one is a #17-3 and the mixer holes look a bit small compared to those in the multijet mixer; the mixer on my old UK style torch seems to have more & bigger holes than either of the others. Is it possible/likely that the Uniweld mixer will "choke" the multijet tips, especially the larger sizes?
    Oxy-Prop-Mixers-&-Tips.jpg
    William Chitham.

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