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Oxy-Acetylene Welding

Selecting Equipment


You need an oxy-acetylene or oxy-propane welding set.  This generally consists of two purchases - tanks, and everything else known as a 'torch set.'  Tanks can be purchased or rented in a variety of sizes.  Rental typically runs about $10 per tank, in other words, $20 per month.  You need good credit or a hefty deposit for rental.  Rental tanks must be brought to the same store where they were rented to be refilled. When you start your rental contract at most stores, you start with empty tanks, so you'll have to purchase contents also.  Purchase starts to look pretty attractive in comparison.  A medium size set of tanks runs about $300, and your first fill (average value $80) is included.

Purchased tanks aren't yours in the way that a camera is yours when you buy it. You get ownership of a set of tanks, but not the specific ones.  So, when you take 'your' empty tanks to the store for a refill, you actually trade them in for another set of tanks.  This is good, because it saves time, and you can have them 'filled' at any welding supply store.

Tanks can be had in various sizes, and just like toothpaste, the large sizes are more economical.  However, for bicycle work, unless you get very small tanks, the gases will last a very long time, even in fairly small tanks.  An advantage to small tanks is they are easier to transport.    

#4 Acetylene and 80 cubic foot oxygen tanks tied to a picnic bench

In purchasing the rest of the set, consider these factors:

* You can mix and match. Most regulators, hoses, and torches are interchangeable.  However, you're usually going to save money and time by buying a complete set right away.

* Many torch kits are very large, assuming you're going to do construction work.  You'll want a smaller "homeowner's" set.

* Torch kits come with single-stage or two-stage regulators.  The regulators are the devices that sit on the tanks, and have gauges.  These control the pressure of the gases in the hose, and should be sufficiently high quality that you know they won't fail - possibly letting unsafe high pressures slip through.  Two-stage regulators are less common, but higher quality.  Good quality single-stage regulators work just fine for bicycle work. 

* In addition to pricy torch sets made by big name companies, such as Victor, you can get others made for a very reasonable price by no-name companies, often in China.  These seem to be safe and reliable.  I have used them extensively without trouble. They are made from non-machineable cast brass parts, so rebuilding may not be possible.  However, most torches and regulators never need to be rebuilt in ordinary bicycle shop use.  You can also replace the individual regulators, torches, or hoses if they wear out.

* Try to get a kit with lots of torch tips.  Many torch sets start out with one welding/brazing tip, and it's probably not going to be the one you need most of the time.  If you get a kit with only one tip, you may find the price of additional tips is remarkably high in comparison to the kit itself.  In some cases, the torch may take non-standard tips, and then you won't be able to get the tips you need at any cost.  A good variety of tip sizes would be #0, #2 and #4.  With those, you can do all kinds of bike work, and general household chores as well.  You don't need more than one cutting torch tip, because cutting is fairly rare in bicycle repair and construction.

This set is just right.  Available from Harbor Freight at $135, it has three tips, #0, #2 and #4


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