How to Cut Metal with a Torch (Oxy-Acetylene)

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An oxy-acetyline torch can cut through thick metal.
An oxy-acetyline torch can cut through thick metal. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Oxy-acetylene cutting is a widely used method to cut metal of almost any thickness up to 12 inches. It is used in industrial applications as well as sculpting. If you are do any metal work, it is an essential skill to learn.

Things You'll Need

  • Oxygen and acetylene tanks with regulators
  • Working torch

Choose the size cutting tip you need based on the thickness of the metal you are cutting. In general, a size 0 cutting tip will allow your oxy-acetylene torch to cut metal up to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Depending on the cutting tip size set your oxygen and acetylene pressures in accordance with the manufactures directions. Try using a size 0 tip with specifications of 25 psi oxygen and 5 psi acetylene.

With the oxygen valve closed on the cutting torch, open the acetylene valve slightly. Now use a striker to light the end of the torch, being careful to hold it facing away from you and others. The flame should be orange and giving off a dark smoke. Gradually loosen the acetylene valve to increase the flow until the smoke disappears.

Now using the oxygen valve, gradually increase the flow of oxygen until you see a light blue flame in the center of the fire from the cutting torch. Increase the oxygen until this light blue flame extends only about 1/4th of an inch from the end of the torch. This is called a neutral flame.

You are now ready to cut. Hold the torch just above the edge of the metal you are cutting allowing it to heat up. Once it is to the point where it is glowing, move the torch off the edge about 1/2 inch and immediately trigger the oxygen lever and move back over the edge of the metal.

Gradually angle the torch into the metal being cut at about a 20-degree angle and slowly move across, cutting it. You can tell the torch is cutting all the way through by watching the sparks coming out the bottom.

When you finish, turn off the oxygen and acetylene valves on the tanks and separately bleed the lines running to the torch to release the pressure.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always follow safety rules outlined by the manufacturers.
  • Wear protective equipment such as gloves and tinted safety glasses.

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