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