You’ve undoubtedly been told – possibly many times – that you need to test your torch regularly for gas leaks. I was certainly told, but when I was a baby jeweler I didn’t know what to look for, and so, paradoxically, I didn’t test. Don’t emulate my early bad behavior!
To be fair, I didn’t have to test the first torches I used because those torches were in the classrooms where I took my first faltering steps towards jewelry competency, so someone else was, presumably, testing them for me. Once I took a deep breath and bought my own torch, however, I needed to get my poop in a group and be more proactively self-actualizing about this safety stuff. Nowadays, I generally test my torch when I change gas tanks, which happens ever few months.
Recently, I bought a new torch (for use with the small disposable propane tanks) and the requisite inaugural testing of this new equipment seemed like a golden opportunity to take some pictures for the benefit of… YOU!
- Soapy water (Yes, that’s it. A squirt of dish liquid + about 1/2 cup water.)
- small paint brush or foam brush
- container for soapy water
- torch to be tested + gas bottle
- small adjustable wrench
- thread seal tape (PTFE – commonly called Teflon tape)
Here’s what you do:
1) Assemble your torch, following the manufacturer’s directions. In my case, the instructions with my new Orca torch (aka EZ Torch) commanded me to hand tighten the torch tip
and the tank valve (attaches to the gas bottle), but to use a small adjustable wrench to tighten the connections between the torch head, the hose, and the tank valve. Because I was hoping for a nice leak to show you, I callously and wantonly ignored these instructions and hand tightened ALL the joints. You, however, should tighten the joints with an adjustable wrench as directed (NOT pliers – I see you! Put them down! – Believe me, they will just slip and scratch your torch fittings).
2) Be sure that all the valves are closed (righty tighty…) and attach the tank valve to a tank of gas.
3) Apply a wash of soapy water with the paint brush to the joints.
4) Open the tank valve (lefty loosey…). If your torch is leaking you will know immediately because even if you can’t hear anything, you will see bubbles like these! Egads!
5) Turn the tank valve off immediately (righty tighty…) and vent the line by opening the valve at the torch head, closing it when you can no longer hear gas whooshing out. Finally remove the tank valve from the gas tank.
6) Wipe the leaking joint carefully with a towel to be sure it’s dry, and make sure there are no fibers stuck in the threads. Wrap a single layer of thread seal tape (“Teflon” tape) around the male threads, taking care that you are wrapping in the direction that will cause your wrap to be pulled tighter by the action of screwing the joint together (the opposite direction will cause the tape to bunch up in the threads, and you definitely don’t want that, since that will likely just make it leak more!). Be careful to wrap well back from the opening to avoid tape being pulled into the gas line.
7) Hold the tape on the threads with one hand, and pull the spool of tape hard with the other hand until the tape breaks, leaving a squiggly ragged edge. Carefully wrap the ragged bits around the threads, making sure that none crosses the opening.
8) Reattach the parts and use your wrench to tighten the joint gently. Don’t ream on it, just be serene and tighten it confidently.
9) Retest with the soapy water. Very probably, there will be no more bubbles. Hoorah!
One last bit of advice: When you are finished for the day, ALWAYS turn off the tank valve AND bleed the gas out of the hose. I found out the hard way that if you don’t bleed the gas line, the propane will gradually dissolve the rubber of the hose and form a sort of sticky yellow foam which will eventually bubble unhelpfully out the torch tip, clogging it and requiring that the torch be cleaned professionally before it can be used again. This is particularly prone to happen if, say, you don’t bleed the line and then also don’t go back to your bench for a couple of weeks, thus giving the propane ample time to chew on the inside of the hose.
I know you don’t want to go through this (as I did – twice – apparently I’m a slow learner…), so I’ll take your thanks as a given :).
You’re most welcome!
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