Metal and steel parts are one of the most robust materials and do not break easily. But one of the traditional ways to cut metals is by using an oxy-acetylene torch, also known as a ‘blow torch.’ Unfortunately, this tool can be quite dangerous, so only an expert uses it and takes all the safety measures when using it.
The process is ‘oxy-fuel welding’ or ‘oxy-acetylene welding’ that employs both fuel gas and oxygen to cut steel and metals. The welders mostly use the welding torch, which has a special tip and is connected with a fuel tank. The fuel is usually acetylene, but other fuels can also mix with oxygen.
The fuel mixes with oxygen to enable high-temperature flame that can cut through metal. The other method to cut metal or steel is by using a saw which is not feasible. Instead, using an acetylene torch makes the cutting process quick and easy. The acetylene process is also quite affordable, making it the best choice for people who require cutting steel.
The Different Types of Cutting Fuels
The acetylene torch can achieve a staggering high temperature of 3000 degrees to melt and cut hard surfaces. Apart from acetylene, other gases may include propane, propylene, hydrogen, and liquid petroleum gas.
Acetylene is the first choice for oxy-welding, cutting, and brazing purposes because it can reach the highest possible temperature. The USA made cutting torch offers quality, durability, versatility, efficiency, and clean-cut. The best thing is that the heat is mostly present on the inside of the flame cone. However, acetylene fuel can be expensive, which can force the welders to look for other options.
Propane is the common alternative to acetylene and is used widely for cutting steel. In propane fuel, the flame of the cone is present on the outside rather than on the inside. Therefore, the welders need to preheat and cut the outer cone of propane flame to achieve a suitable high temperature. It is necessary to preheat so that it does not take time.
Apart from propane, propylene is another alternative that is not common as people are not aware of propylene properties. The process involves an injector torch to achieve maximum heat, and heat is present at the outer edges of the cone. The advantage is that the propylene tips do not need rigorous cleaning and it is ideal for preheating.
The Tips that Welder Needs to Follow
The techniques and tips for each cutting torch and method are different. The selection of tip depends on the fuel and essential to reach maximum temperature. The wrong selection of tips can also affect the effectiveness of the cutting torch. For example, an acetylene torch will not be functional with propane fuel and vice versa.
The two styles in cutting the torch are one-piece and two-piece. The one-piece tips are functional for acetylene cutting and are made from copper alloy. The cutting torch with a one-piece tip comes with 4 to 6 holes that can manage light, medium, and high preheats. The one-piece tips work best with acetylene, and propylene but the number of holes necessary for preheating are different.
The two-piece tips use propane fuel which heats and burns slowly rather than acetylene. An injector torch is ideal for propane fuel which some say delivers cleaner and faster cuts than acetylene. The propane fuel also adds more options for heating and bending processes.
The size and accuracy of the cut in the oxy-acetylene process depend on the flow of oxygen. Therefore, a cutting torch with an extra oxygen supply can lead to higher costs and wide and irregular cuts. On the other hand, less amount of oxygen also results in uneven cuts.
The oxy-acetylene cutting requires preheating the steel or metal part and then cutting it when the optimal temperature is reached. The maximum temperature also melts the metal and makes it easy to cut. The oxy-cutting method works very efficiently when cutting steel and is twice as fast as a grinder. The metals containing iron and two inches thick can easily be cut using acetylene in the oxy-cutting process.
The Safety Measure while using Cutting Torch
The oxy-cutting fuels from acetylene to propane are all highly flammable and require strict safety measures and precautions. The acetylene fuel becomes dangerous above 15 psi pressure and becomes unstable to store as it decomposes rapidly. Some of the important tips to consider are
- A concrete base is not effective for cutting purposes as concrete contains water. When the cutting torch at high temperature comes in contact with concrete, then the water will expand. As a result, it will increase the risk of concrete bursting out.
- Extra care and caution are essential when cleaning the tips of cutting the torch. First, one must clean any debris and dirt from the tips.
- Protective and safety gear is mandatory at all times when handling the cutting torch
- The selection of right tip is compulsory, and make sure that the tip matches with the right fuel
- The hoses that contain the fuel should be checked for any leaks. The wrong kind of hose for certain fuel can also damage the hose
- Basements, storm drains, and sinks are not the best place to store fuel and hoses, as it poses a flame hazard.
- The oxy-cutting process is a delicate process that generates high heat, so proper ventilation is mandatory
- Fire extinguishers are necessary and must be located close by in case of any unfortunate incident
- It is better to keep the cylinders containing the gases in an open area, and the storage area should be away from the risk of any spark or heat
- The right position of cylinders is in an upright and straight position
The oxy-acetylene torch is quite versatile, effective, and efficient for cutting steel and metal. One can use different tips to get the desired result, but due to excessive heat, safety precautions are necessary. The cutting torch is industry standard to cut, heat, melt, weld, and braze numerous types of metal and steel parts. The cutting torch is also portable, and various tips are best to achieve a long flame to cut through thick metal.