DIY Basics: Essential Guide To Blow Torches

Use to this heat generating tool to tackle a variety of DIY jobs in the workshop 

A Guide To Blow Torches , Handyman magazine,
Learn how to use a blow torch and take DIY to the next level. Image: iStock

Blowtorches can be categorised according to the type of fuel they use, which affects how much heat they can generate. The three main types commonly used for DIY are powered by butane, propane or MAP-Pro gas.

Even though only licensed tradies can legally solder mains plumbing, this is just one of many jobs that a blowtorch is good for.

Blowtorches for DIY range from tiny butane micro torches not much larger than a cigarette lighter, to heavy-duty models that can burn at temperatures of more than 2000ºC.

The brazing techniques that this kind of high-powered tool facilitates can be used to make metal furniture, sculptures and even jewellery.

But even a basic blowtorch can be used to solder copper pipe into a frame for unique shelving, or to plumb an outdoor shower that is connected to a garden hose.

In addition to soldering, blowtorches can be used with a purpose-designed attachment for incinerating weeds. Attaching a spreader nozzle that disperses the heat generated by the flame makes jobs such as stripping paint a breeze.

Another common use is to direct the flame onto a seized nut, causing it to expand relative to the bolt and loosening it enough to be turned.

Blowtorches are also useful for craft projects ranging from glass blowing to decorative powdercoating. They even have culinary applications, as a butane-fuelled torch is needed for caramelising the top of a crème brûlée. 

Types of torches

BUTANE is the same fuel as used in cigarette lighters, and it is often used in gas-powered soldering irons and small blowtorches, such as those used in the kitchen. These torches usually have an internal tank that is refilled from an aerosol can. 

PROPANE comes in disposable or refillable cylinders that are attached to a burner head. A propane flame burns slightly hotter than butane, and its compressibility and stability make it suitable for general-purpose use such as soldering and paint stripping.

MAP-PRO torches no longer use the mix of methylacetylene-propadiene (MAP) and propane for which they were named. The current formula has similar properties to the original gas, and burns at 2020ºC for brazing and other high-temperature jobs. 

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Guide To Blow Torches

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