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Facing the truth about silversmithing...

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Author Topic: Facing the truth about silversmithing...  (Read 1534 times)
Neural
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« on: December 03, 2009, 05:11:23 pm »

Ok.  As indicted in some of my previous posts since I've been part of this forum, silversmithing really interests me.  I love watching what everyone here comes up with, and the information on equipment and such has been of great assistance.

However.  While I could buy a workspace, the tools, a torch, and even some metal to work with, none of that changes the single most difficult part for me.

I'm scared to death of the torch.  :-[

I've used a full size acetylene torch in the past when I worked at a junk yard.  Used it basically to cut up cars to send off for scrap.  But even then the fear that I have no was there.  It just wasn't as strong because there weren't flamable things like wood, carpet, plastic, etc. around.

I just mentally freak out when I imagine using a torch, because I am terrified that I'm going to drop it.  I can just see me dropping the torch, and the dumb thing coming to rest right with the flame cutting into the hose or something dumb like that.

It's not that I'm clumsy, it's just that it is an incredibly hot fire.
I've used a micro-mini before (Bernz) and I liked it because it was on and off in an instant (because my finger held the trigger down, and it clicked off when I released).  But I'll be darned if I didn't manage to nearly destroy a finger with it one time (singed hair only).

I don't know.  Just needed to get this off my chest.

Am I being paranoid?


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Pondmn
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« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2009, 05:36:15 pm »

Neural this is a safety issue for all of us.  One big thing you can do is arrange your work surface so nothing is in the area to catch the torch on.  If you are right handed remember that the torch is on your right and vise-versa.  If your alcohol lamp is in front of the torch you will not get your hose in it's way.  A friend developed a small wire holder that hooks to that hooks to the top of his portable throw away tanks and it keeps his torch out of the way.  If not make sure to use the holder provided with your torch.  Always turn off your torch after each solder and then you will  never have a burning tip to catch something on fire.  If you are using a portable throwaway bottle you might devise a holder for it so as to  not accidently tip it over.  If you use the same routine each time you will develop habits that will help you to be safety conscious.  Hopes this helps.  Jerry
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Taogem
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« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2009, 05:49:49 pm »

I agree about the keeping work area fairly free so nothing is close to your work.

I never have had the need to keep the torch lit after a soldering. I only do one phase at a time on any given piece so unless for some reason I drop it while soldering it is off when I set it down.

I think even if you did happen to drop it while soldering, you would be able to retrieve it plenty quick enough before it caught anything on fire.

One think I do pay close attention to is when I do set the hot torch down, it is on a fire safe surface. Making sure it is not going to come close to anything..

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BitterBrook
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« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2009, 05:23:47 am »

I've known several people with Torch Fear.

You really do get over it after a (short) while.
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CosmicFolklore
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« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2009, 05:53:33 am »

One of the first exercises that I have my students do is set stuff on fire.  Try a block of wood, a bowl of alcohol, marshmallows :)  If you see that nothing is going to burst into scary flames faster than you can get a hold on, then you'll realize that you are the one in control.  Honestly, I accidentally melt and set stuff on fire occasionally, especially the bench pin.  (and the alcohol and boric acid mix) 

I think the mental image of what setting something on fire is worse than what it actually is.  Amazingly, I've never heard of a jeweler (out of the millions) that have ever set their whole business on fire, while setting at their workbench.  Nothing will catch on fire that you can't just blow out with your breath, but a fire extinguisher close by is handy for those miraculous moments.  But, first thing you should do if an amazing fire should happen is make sure that your not missing out on a burning bush opportunity  ;D

Oh, and ask you doctor for a small jar of silvadene.  I keep one on my bench, and use it.  Burning yourself is more common.  But, honestly, it doesn't hurt nearly as bad as cutting yourself with the jewelers saw, YIKES. 

Go outside and play.  Set some stuff on fire and get those scary images of fire out of your head.  The real thing isn't nearly as bad. 

Have fun!!!
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bobby1
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« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2009, 11:20:57 am »

I always had my students get a torch in their hand in the first class session. After I reviewed all the safety things ( tie back long hair, loose sleeves, how to hold pieces when using the polishing lathe, wearing safety glasses, not touching hot metal, how to safely drop hot pieces into the pickle pot, etc.) I demonstrated the torch. This included how to hold the striker ( you would be surprised how difficult students can make this one simple act), what the gages do, what the regulators do and how to adjust the pressures for the torch and how to light and adjust the flame. I went over the torch info and steps twice to reinforce the information. When they actually practiced adjusting and lighting the torch they were hesitant as expected but after seeing how small the torch is (I always teach with the Little Torch at first) and how small the flame is they usually overcame their fears. I also turn on the acetylene valve on the torch and have them smell the gas so they will recognize it. I tell them if they ever smell this odor to stop all activities and look around the classroom for any possible source of a leak. So far after teaching over a hundred students over 14 years we have never experienced any acetylene leaks or torch injuries or accidents. I have had many students melt their projects on occasion but this is their most dramatic teaching experience and they learn quickly. For their first jewelry project I have them cut out two 1" diameter disks with a jeweler's saw from a brass sheet, file them round and to the same diameter, anneal them, dap them into a half dome, solder them together ( after practicing soldering two pieces of brass sheet together), filing the bead seam, polishing the bead and finally making a jump ring and soldering it to the bead. In this first project they get to use the most common tools and processes of jewelrymaking. Their next projects are with silver.
Bob
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Bluesssman
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« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2009, 05:48:07 pm »

Rena use to be scared to death of a torch. She did not like even igniting it! Each time she wanted to use it, I was required to open the tank valves, ignite the torch and stand there making sure nothing went wrong. After a few weeks of having no problems she realized as long as she followed some safety guidelines everything was okay. Now she is the torch queen!
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CosmicFolklore
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« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2009, 09:48:31 pm »

Oh, and one of the clever things my dad taught me that has stuck is "POOP."
This is the order of the gases.  Turn on P (Propane), ignite the torch, then turn on the  O (oxygen).  Then the order is reversed to turn them off. O (oxygen) then P (propane).  Thus POOP :) 

It's amazing how easy it is to remember when you break it down.  As easy as POOP, LOL.
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Jeweller
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« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2009, 10:08:05 pm »

You're certainly not alone .... Like anything, it's practice, patience and perseverance.

I would certainly recommend getting a blow-back valve for your hose since you have that particular fear of burning the hose. Install it close to the bottle end of the hose and then if by some chance you DO burn through the hose, the gas cannot ignite ..... the valve stops it going back through the hose to the bottle ;)   Gives great peace of mind.

Also, someone posted here that if you are right handed your torch is on the right of your bench.....for me it's the opposite. My torch is set up to the left of me on my bench (I am right handed). I work with three other jewellers. Two are left handed, one has his torch on his left, the other has his torch on his right. Another is right handed and has his soldering board right in front of him on the middle of his bench behind his saw peg. When I am teaching, I have a seperate bench for soldering with 4 torches set up and students can sit where they are most comfortable.....The other reason for a seperate soldering bench is for safety....nothing there for them to set on fire (in particular, my pliers!!). And I have a bucket of water in the middle of the bench, for quenching, but also so that if something does catch fire on the bench all you need to do is tip the bucket up.

The hardest thing I find to teach students about the torch is to hold it in your NON-dominant hand..... Right handed? Hold the toch in your left hand....this way, you use your dominant hand to manouver tweezers, solder, etc. Some students are hard to convince and will try to stick with their natural tendancy of holding the torch in the dominant hand (which I think is related to the fear of dropping it!) but once they do try my way, they all stick with it.....

Try it every way you can and just go with how you are most comfortable...take your time ;D

I have been a jeweller for 20 years and although I am very comfortable with my own torch, I am always a little wary of other peoples, and i htink that's a good thing.....best not to get too complacent. But I am still, even after all this time, completely paranoid about the bottles though....connecting the torches to the bottle is not something I like to do.

Anyway, we're all behind you..... go forth and solder !!!!!  ;D ;D ;D
Good luck and show us what you make !!!!!

  
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Taogem
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« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2009, 02:19:12 am »

Just a few hours ago my girlfriend was visiting our cat under my work bench.. That is where I keep my propane bottle.

She could smell propane.. I have everything tightened down well, but for what ever reason seems to be seeping just ever so slightly.

So..... at least for now am making sure I shut the valve on the bottle after each use as well as let the gas in the hose burn off as well.

Going to take a close look at it when I am back up to snuff.. or is that sniff ?  :)

So, maybe something to think about....
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thewrightthings
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« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2009, 07:53:13 am »

George, it's always an especially good idea to turn off your gas at the tank when you are not working with it for the day.  Propane, especially, can pool near the floor and create an explosive problem.  I use acetylene, but alway turn off the tank and burn off the hose. 
Also, its a good idea to soap the connections frequently to check for leaks. 
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« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2009, 07:57:22 am »

And if your tank has been leaking that might be one of the reasons you have been feeling sick too. I hate gas leak smells and for some reason I can smell them faster than other people. Even the ones under the covers:)
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bobby1
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« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2009, 01:40:29 pm »

Another good practice is to back off the regulator adjustment handle when the torch is shut down. If you keep the tension on the regulator diaphragm for long times of disuse the diaphragm weakens and fails. You then have to get the regulator rebuilt for many $.
Bob
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Bluesssman
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« Reply #13 on: December 06, 2009, 06:32:15 pm »

Sara, Sara, Sara... Your not suppose to have the propane tank under the bed covers!!!


Gary
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akansan
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« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2009, 06:36:33 pm »

Late to the party - life has kept me busy recently!

I, too, have feared the torch.  My fear was both from catching things on fire, those somewhat-mythical acetylene explosions, and watching my dad weld (and cut) growing up.  I'd seen the sparks and burns the big torches produce and worried about melting/ruining too much silver (and me, lol!). 

I had my Little Torch for over a year before I ever got the tanks filled.  And then I had the tanks full for over 4 months before I had my dad finally screw on the guages (lol - I was a wimp).  I've definitely gotten over my fear, but I'm still cautious around it, as I should be!  A little fear is a good thing when you're around dangerous items. :D
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