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Oxygen-Acetylene Welding: Torch Outfit Basics for Beginners

Man putting welding gas tank in the back of a pick-up truck.

Torch outfits produce heat (energy) by burning acetylene gas. By adding oxygen gas, torch outfits can produce flame temperatures of 5,620 degrees. A torch outfit is extremely versatile: this single piece of equipment creates its own portable heat source and can be used to cut, heat, weld, and braze various metals. Before electricity was available in rural areas, this was the only type of "welder" available to the farming/ranching community.

The basic torch outfit consists of two high-pressure cylinders (one apiece for oxygen and acetylene) and two corresponding pressure regulators. A dualine hose transfers oxygen and acetylene from the regulators to the torch handle.

The torch handle can hold a cutting attachment, welding tip, or heating tip (the heating tip is not included with all basic torch outfits). If you are cutting with the torch, you also need a cutting tip that attaches to the end of the cutting attachment.

The cutting tip controls the thickness of metal being cut, along with the gas pressures set at the regulators.


All torch outfits that use oxygen and acetylene reach the same working temperature of 5,620 degrees. The size of the cylinder does not affect the temperature of the flame. It affects how long the flame will last (the burn time).

To get their projects done, you will need proper safety gear. Safety goggles (Minimum Shade #5) protects your eyes while you are using the torch. Welding gloves protect your hands. You will need a hand-held striker to create the spark to light the acetylene and a cylinder cart to hold the cylinders and accessories securely.

Types of Torch Outfit Processes

Cutting is the #1 most widely used process of the gas torch outfit. The cutting attachment hooks up to the torch handle and holds the cutting tip. By burning acetylene enriched by oxygen, the attachment and tip heat the metal to critical temperature. At this point, the cutting oxygen lever is depressed, delivering a stream of oxygen that cuts the metal.

Cutting attachment with cutting tip for a welder.

The advantages of gas cutting

  • It is portable (can be taken anywhere and used).
  • It is able to cut thick material with a range of cutting tips (sold separately).
  • It requires a low skill level and is easily mastered.

The Disadvantages of Gas Cutting

  • The oxygen-acetylene gas, once combined, will only cut iron-based (ferrous) steels.
  • The process can distort thin metals unless correct cutting tip is used.

Heating

Heating is the #2 most widely used process of the gas torch outfit.

The gas heating tip (also known as a rosebud or MFA) does not come with all basic torch outfits, but is usually sold separately. The heating tip attaches to the torch handle. The tip has multiple holes that allow several flames to exit the tip. These flames can heat a large area of metal very quickly to allow bending or straightening.

Cutting attachment with cutting tip for a welder.

The Advantages of Gas Heating

  • No other tool can heat metal so quickly.
  • It is portable (can be taken anywhere and used).
  • It requires a low skill level and is easily mastered.

The Disadvantage of Gas Heating

  • Heating tip uses a tremendous amount of oxygen-acetylene.

Welding (Fusion)

Welding/fusion is the #3 most widely used process of the gas torch outfit.

The gas welding tip attaches to the torch handle. The flame heats the base metal to its fluid or puddle state. At this point, the gas welding rod (copper coated steel) is dipped into the puddle. The rod fuses to the base metal, creating the weld as they become one piece of metal. The steel welding rod must match the steel base metal in order for true fusion to occur.

The Advantage of Gas Welding

  • It is portable (can be taken anywhere and used).

The Disadvantages of Gas Welding

  • It is a two-handed process that requires a high skill level and takes practice to master.
  • Only works on iron (ferrous) based steels.

Brazing (Adhesion)

Brazing/adhesion is the #4 most widely used process of the gas torch outfit.

The gas welding tip attaches to the torch handle. The flame heats, but does not melt, the base metal. The flux-coated brass rods or bare rods dipped in brazing flux are then melted onto the heated base metal. The melted brass forms a bead on top of the base metal that holds the pieces together.

The Advantages of Gas Brazing

  • It is versatile (with the correct brazing rod many different materials can be brazed).
  • It is portable (can be taken anywhere and used).

The Disadvantages of Gas Brazing

    Gas welding tip

  • It is a two-handed process that requires a high skill level and takes practice to master.

Consult the chart below for which base metals can be joined by brazing (adhesion) and which by welding (fusion).

Oxygen Acetylene Welding and Brazing Specifics Chart

Consult the chart below for which base metals can be joined by brazing (adhesion) and which by welding (fusion).

Metal Type Process Welding Rod
Steel Welding Copper coated steel rod
Steel Welding Flux coated or bare brass rod
Cast Iron Welding Flux coated or bare brass rod
Galvanized Steel Welding Flux coated or bare brass rod
Brass Welding Flux coated or bare brass rod
Copper Welding Flux coated or bare brass rod
Copper Welding Self fluxing copper alloy rod
Aluminum/Magnesium Welding Self fluxing aluminum/magnesium rod