Acetylene gas is produced by mixing a by-product of electric furnace steel production -- calcium carbide -- with water. Acetylene can produce a flame of 4,000 degrees. When mixed with oxygen, the temperature can reach over 6,000 degrees. This makes acetylene, or oxy-acetylene mixtures, very useful for cutting metal. Proper instructions are essential when using any high-temperature cutting or welding equipment. You must strictly adhere to safety protocols when using an acetylene cutting torch. Never use equipment that appears damaged or worn.
Things You'll Need
- Acetylene or oxy-acetylene cutting system
- Torch striker
- Metal cutting or welding face shield
- Flame-retardant clothing
- Welding gloves
- Steel-toe boots
Inspect all of the hoses and tanks for any signs of damage, tears or improper or poorly screwed hose fittings. If you smell gas, or see a leak, call a licensed professional or your local fire department.
Check to be sure all valves are off, including the main tank valve and the torch valve. Ensure that the regulator reads zero pressure and that the pressure adjusting screws are in the off position.
Turn on the acetylene tank slowly -- just a 1/2 or 3/4 turn of the knob. If you're using an oxy-acetylene system, turn on the oxygen first, very slowly, then turn on the acetylene tank. Set the pressure gauge once both tanks are on, by turning the pressure adjustment knobs to the manufacturer's specified setting. Purge the valves by turning them on for a few seconds, long enough to let them clear out.
Open the acetylene torch valve 1/8 or 1/4 turn counterclockwise, then strike your torch on the tip with a torch striker. Continue opening the acetylene valve until no smoke is visible emanating from the flame. The flame should appear to be right on the torch tip, with no space visible between the tip and the flame. If using an oxy-acetylene torch, turn on the torch's oxygen valve until a solid, cone-shaped blue flame is produced.
Press the cutting lever on the torch, and adjust the valve to a short, cone-shaped flame. This will be ideal for cutting metal quickly, because the short flame produces the most heat.
Hold the torch to the metal, wherever you need to make a cut. Slowly move the torch along your cutting line. You will see the torch cut as you move your hand slowly. Depending on the thickness of the metal, you may have to hold the torch in one location for a minute to allow the flame to penetrate the metal.
Tips & Warnings
- Always ensure proper safety precautions when using a cutting torch. Wear a safety face shield, welding gloves, flame-retardant clothing and steel-toed boots.
- Never turn on an oxygen or acetylene tank quickly. The sudden drop in pressure could cause the tank to explode.
- Photo Credit torch image by Guy Verville from Fotolia.com