rob_lewis Dork
12/25/12 8:22 p.m.

Got one for Christmas from the wife because the place she ordered my MIG welder from recommended it.

Initially, I was going to have her return it, but I'm wondering if I should keep it. It's a cheapie one.

I've never welded with anything but MIG, and not very much at that. Is the oxy a accident waiting to happen? Or, is it so ridiculously difficult, I shouldn't even consider it?

I would have to teach myself, just trying to decide if it's worth it or just stick with MIG.

I would use any welder for simple frame welding, like kart stands and such.


Kenny_McCormic HalfDork
12/25/12 8:46 p.m.

Acetylene is EXPENSIVE, like $100 to exchange one of those 4ft tall bottles. You cant realistically do body work with one either.

JoeyM UltimaDork
12/25/12 8:52 p.m.

I've done MIG, never Oxy. Oxy welds are supposed to be softer, more easily shaped with hammer and dolly, and all together preferable for metal shaping.

ransom SuperDork
12/25/12 8:53 p.m.

I have a MIG, but no oxy/acetylene yet...

Seems like a lot of what the latter is good for is other fabricating tasks: annealing, cutting. If you have cause to try brazing, good for that. I gather you can gas weld aluminum with the right set up, but that's also true for MIG.

Oxy/acetylene is useful for heating things up when they're stuck. The "blue wrench" as they say...

I wouldn't trade my MIG welder for one, but I'd like to have one as well.

I don't know whether they're an "accident waiting to happen", but acetylene certainly gets your attention. Lots of people use it all the time without blowing themselves up, but you sure don't want to get sloppy with it...

moparman76_69 HalfDork
12/25/12 9:16 p.m.

So she bought a torch set? I assume it has a cutting handle (it will have a second valve and a handle you push on). That will be the most useful part of the set, seconded by the ability to braze with it. Find out what brand it is (hopefully Victor or similar) and find LPG tips for it and use standard 15 lb propane cylinders for it. That what I do for mine. It costs around 15-20 for propane and it will go through three of those blue rhino cylinders before I run out of oxygen. I do cylinder exchanges at Tractor Supply on the Oxy, although any welding supply and some rural auto supplies do exchanges also.

fasted58 UberDork
12/25/12 9:23 p.m.

OA is nice for heating/ bending/ cutting if your set can do it. I've had a set for over 35 years and wouldn't be w/o one. I use the shorter bottles (B bottle, IIRC) and they last a while for all that I do any more, no lease required here either on short bottles.

Time was I used it for exhaust and older (thicker) body patch panel welding but nowadays MIG is way better there all around. It's cool to dabble welding sheetmetal but cheaper torches and regulators just don't adjust down that well. Even w/ a shop press the OA torch came in handy when pressing out stubborn U-joint caps, nice to have the extra heat around when ya need it.

I bought a Presto-Lite plumbers torch for use w/ the acetylene bottle for sweating copper... but that's how I roll

BoxheadTim PowerDork
12/25/12 9:24 p.m.
Kenny_McCormic wrote: Acetylene is EXPENSIVE, like $100 to exchange one of those 4ft tall bottles. You cant realistically do body work with one either.

Actually you can do bodywork with it, but it's not the quick'n'easy "hot glue gun" approach you get with MIG. A lot of the higher-end bodywork used to be done that way before those people switched to TIG. Obviously JimBob's collision shop isn't going to use either, but the type of craftsman who think nothing of turning some flat sheet steel into a Bugatti fender before breakfast used to (and sometimes still use) oxy/acetylene.

It's one of those "I really want to learn it" skills on my bucket list, that and TIG welding. The latter is supposedly very similar in technique.

wlkelley3 SuperDork
12/25/12 9:29 p.m.

Grew up with a oxy-acetylene torch. I also inherited it, it's in my garage now. Haven't used it much but use it almost as often as the gasless MIG in my garage. As mentioned, If you have the cutting head, that will come in handy for rough cuts. Also good for shrinking and forming metal. Not so good on sheetmetal but does work well with thicker stuff. The old timers used to use it for body work. Had an uncle that restored 30's & 40's era cars and used nothing but gas. Necessary for the art of lead. Never done it myself though. It's as dangerous as you make it, have respect for it and be aware and nothing will happen.

oldopelguy Dork
12/25/12 11:05 p.m.

If you get good with the oxy and you will be a better welder with MIG, stick, and particularly with TIG. Anyone can power-paint with a MIG, but that skill doesn't transfer like mastering the forming, manipulating, and replenishing of a metal puddle with the oxy rig.

Kenny_McCormic HalfDork
12/25/12 11:17 p.m.
BoxheadTim wrote:
Kenny_McCormic wrote: Acetylene is EXPENSIVE, like $100 to exchange one of those 4ft tall bottles. You cant realistically do body work with one either.

Actually you can do bodywork with it, but it's not the quick'n'easy "hot glue gun" approach you get with MIG. A lot of the higher-end bodywork used to be done that way before those people switched to TIG. Obviously JimBob's collision shop isn't going to use either, but the type of craftsman who think nothing of turning some flat sheet steel into a Bugatti fender before breakfast used to (and sometimes still use) oxy/acetylene.

It's one of those "I really want to learn it" skills on my bucket list, that and TIG welding. The latter is supposedly very similar in technique.

I know they are useful in custom panel beating type work, but due to the massive amounts of heat involved, it tends to turn a simple floor or rocker patch into panel beating type work. Useless in a GRM environment.

jere Reader
12/25/12 11:24 p.m.

You can tell who doesn't know what they are talking about in this thread because they say things like you can't use them for body work. They are actually better for steel and AL bodied cars, now stainless is another story (maybe that guy means O/A are no good because he has a Delorean er something). They also rock for sheet metal (esp rusty stuff) unless you might be trying to use the cutting head to weld Each type of welding system has its own advantages, honesty MIG has speed over O/A but that is about it. O/A would better be compared to TIG as far a versatility (all of the different metals you can weld) goes. The start up (used) is cheaper than a MIG setup (used) and it is really easy to learn. It is as safe as long as you don't do stupid stuff and learn basic safety. And you don't need to be stuck to a wall plug.

I would however shy away from the non name brand torches (esp regulators), you want tried and true victor, harris, smith or there re-brands. The used market has some great deals on them a lot of times with tanks (I picked up a cart torches tanks cutting head, welding tips, and regulators and some more were $300 on CL). Get a good selection of tips or get them online.

For new or used test valves and seals for leaks with soapy water and a brush. Make sure your hose is in good shape and matches the fuel you are using (ace or LP).

Check your local welding supply stores to find out how they do there tanks and best prices. Generally speaking bigger is a better value as are used tanks (which also have generally have trade in value). I have some larger tanks that I bought used a number of years ago. I have yet to fill the Oxygen and used up the small Acetylene also used quick. I upgraded the ace to a larger tank a year ago and it is still pretty full. I have done a good amount of hobbyist stuff, sheet welding/emt tube/exhaust which just uses small tips that don't hardly use any gas. Larger stuff, rosebuds, need more gas. As already mentioned LP/BBQ grill propane tanks will cut costs for the rosebud and cutting that needs done. (LP is not for welding tho because it won't get hot enough). has some nice small torches, beginner kits, and general cool stuff also training videos you can rent (or just pick up a cheap book, youtube, weldweb)

fanfoy New Reader
12/25/12 11:39 p.m.

Welding with O/A was the first method I learned and I have great memories of it. Everything happens slowly, you have time to see the puddle and push it slowly. But that's the point, it's slow, but it's also very versatile at other metal fabricating tasks. Also, I don't know if this is for your home shop, but if it is, check with your insurance because my insurance really got nervous when they saw I had those tanks in the garage (had to get rid of them), but they don't mind my 220V Mig.

fasted58 UberDork
12/26/12 12:25 a.m.

Hammer welding is a plus for using OA rather than MIG for sheet metal. Depends on the application, amount of time spent and results yur looking for, I 'spose.

Not to get carried away and not sure how far the OP wants to go w/ his present set, but as posts above said there are benefits to using OA.

pilotbraden Dork
12/26/12 8:40 a.m.

I just finished a welding processes class at my local college. We learned the basics of (in order) oxy fuel, shielded metal arc welding (stick arc), metal gas arc welding (MIG) and gas tungten arc welding (TIG).

As pointed out above it is a good method on thin metal and flaws are easy to fix. The acetylene is touchy and is unstable above 30 psi, 15 psi being the max pressure used. On 1/16 inch mild steel we used 7psi on both gasses. It was very controllable and suprisingly easy to learn. The skills learned in oxy fuel welding are very similar to those needed in TIG. Some instruction or training will help. I have a welding textbook from the early 1970's that I can send you, if you want it.

Don49 Reader
12/26/12 8:43 a.m.

To reinforce what Jere wrote: I started with OA many years ago and now have OA, MIG TIG and stick. Depending on your application all have some advantages. For versatility OA is great, but limited on heavier gauge metal. I would not be without it in my shop. PS: 35+ years paint, body and fabricating as a profession

BoneYard_Racing Reader
12/26/12 9:12 a.m.

Easier to pick up than TIG and the skills translate pretty well. A torch set opens up tons of possibilities everything from weld, cutting, brazing, to, the ability to burn bushings out in a matter of seconds rather than the 45 minute burning rubber marathon of using a propane torch. You can anneal metal, you can soften tubing enough to bend around a form by hand, you can do some basic tempering/heat treating. You can make those aluminum bonding rods they sell at HF and every car show Ive ever been to work. You could even learn to work lead filler if you wanted to and you will never have a bolt stick again (heat the whole bolt read hot and cool with PB Blaster, reheat and anything will just about turn out by hand. You might get a flare up so be careful)

In short keep it. Get your bottles at tractor supply (they're open on Sunday guess what day you will always run out of gas) a cheap set is probably going to use #1 cylinders they are like $125 each to buy and $40 each to exchange. If you are trying to find a nice budget friendly MIG let me again sing the praises of the RealGear 140 from GTS-weldco

mad_machine MegaDork
12/26/12 9:19 a.m.

it's funny.. I can do O/A welding.. but do not have a clue with tig and mig..

andrave Dork
12/26/12 9:42 a.m.

I picked up a set of O/A torches on a cart with regulators and 50' of hose and a cutting torch for around $300 used from a place that buys industrial equipment at auctions. I found them on craigslist. The tanks are the 4.5 foot tall ish ones. I own the tanks, not lease, and the local GTS Welco (welder supply stuff) exchanges them for full ones. Iirc I get both exchanged for around $110. I have a friend that uses propane, and you do use quite a bit of propane as it requires more pressure and is slower to heat. I priced it out, and for acetylene vs propane here, you are looking at maybe a $15 advantage per fill up with the propane, at best. I've never welded with mine but they have been invaluable for cutting up old stuff and heating stuck bolts. As far as safety, as long as all your equipment is up to snuff they are actually very safe. I would cut something with O/A before I'd reach for an angle grinder as far as safety goes. Always turn the valves off at the bottle when youre done using them, alway use pop stoppers/blowback preventers (most setups seem to have them build in now a days), always light the acetylene first then turn up the oxygen. Start with low pressures (I use around 3-4 psi on acetylene and 18-20 psi oxygen as a starting point) and take your time... its amazing how they will cut through 1" thick steel like its butter. Always wear over the ankle boots, and flame resistant clothing is a plus... always think about whats under you while youre cutting, since the slag is molten metal and will find the lowest point, so hopefully youre not on a wooden floor or anything.
I have not used my setup for welding. I don't have a welding torch/tip... but I do have a welding book I bought form lowes about 8 years ago when I started welding, and it walks you through it, so I want to try it at some point. I think the big advantage for me and doing the offroad stuff and all is that I have made a rack on my trailer for my 0/a bottles so anywhere my truck/trailer is, I could weld, without having to worry about 120 or 240 volts or carting a big generator arc welder around.
From the way my book talks about it, everything you learn about gas welding will apply to mig and even more so to tig welding, and gas welding will only make you a better electric arc welder.

rob_lewis Dork
12/26/12 11:05 a.m.

Thanks for the replies!!

So, it's one of the cheaper "Victor Type" sets. I had decided to keep it until I started reading about acetylene blowback and tanks exploding.... Not from fear of my skills/safety, more from the quality of the kit she got me. From what I can tell, it's the same kit you'd get at a Harbor Freight. Sounds like a book on it (or some searching) would help me figure out how to check the valves and such.

I know it takes skill to learn one, which is why I was tempted to keep it. Kinda forcing myself to learn on it to make me better with other welding tools. Looks like I can get the tanks (after the initial cost of the tank itself) exchanged at Tractor Supply for $35 per #1 size bottle. I assume oxygen will be a similar cost.

I do like the idea of not needing power and for the work I'd be doing (basically, no bodywork, all square framing). I'm thinking I'll just keep it and learn.


andrave Dork
12/26/12 11:49 a.m.

If its just the blowback protectors that concern you, you can upgrade those for like $30 to harris or victor, thats an inexpensive fitting.

My torches are victors, if that matters, which it probably doesn't. Honestly, once you start using them much you'll figure out how to avoid blowback in the first place... and of course always cut the oxygen first when shutting them off.

What you'll probably find after research is that cheaper valves don't hold pressure as reliably as more expensive ones, but that doesn't really make a difference on 90% of what you use them on. Its not a safety issue. The valve is on the tank. Shut the valve off and the gas flow is off, so as long as you shut the valve off when youre done its not really a safety concern if the regulators aren't A list stuff.. as long as the torch is on the pressure between the regulators and the torch is pretty low, so leaks at that point aren't a big deal either.

I don't know what size a #1 tank is, is that the "little" one? They call them MC tanks, apparently used to be used for headlights on motorcycles or something. Anyway, I'd try and avoid those if possible, only because you can't cut or do anything else that would pull a lot of acetylene out of them or they can get unstable. I don't have my book here but you'll find it in a google search, you don't want to pull gas out of a tank at a rate of more than like 20% of its volume in an hour, something like that. Thats where having a bigger tank is nice, because you can cut with it or use a big nasty rosebud tip to throw serious heat at something youre trying to bend, or whatever, without having to worry about the tank. Also, more safety advice that should be obvious: the tanks must be chained or fastened securely upright all the time. Acetylene doesn't like being laid down because it is stored in a binder insidde the tank... think of it like a big sponge in the tank that the acetylene is in.. If you tip it sideways and then right it and try and open the valve, the liquid can come out. You don't want that to happen, its bad. So always keep it upright and if it falls on its side let it sit for a while upright before trying to use it again, I usually wait at least half a day for safetys sake. But I try very very hard just to not tip them over in the first place. and on that note, always use the screw on covers for the valves any time you are moving the cylinders, if they were to fall (and they are heavy and awkwardly shaped, so it does happen sometimes) and the valve hit something and broke off, well, I'm not sure exactly what would happen, but I'm guessing there is a good chance the tank might shoot off and blow a hole in your wall like the warf scene in gone in sixty seconds. Also probably a decent chance that if it happened in your garage, you'd have a nice high concentration of acetylene looking for a spark.

Get yourself aforementioned book and read up, then go get a pair of tanks... I'd recommend finding a used tank on craigslist or in the local free classified ads or whatever. And I am betting when you do, there is a good chance you'll find a pair of tanks, a cart, and a name brand regulator and hose for around $300.... and thats what the new tanks alone will run you. If this happens maybe take your cheapie regulators back and just run the whole craiglist set up.
It hasn't not worked for me so far. lol

motomoron Dork
12/26/12 6:27 p.m.

Seconding the usefulness.

I have TIG, MIG, tanks and a plasma cutter. Once I learned to TIG reasonably well...

  • I use MIG for trailer grade work on mild steel.

  • I use TIG for sticking similar ferrous and non-ferrous metal together.

  • I use the oxy-acetylene rig for brazing, annealing, bending, and heating. Having TIG I don't gas weld steel anymore, but I have and it's neat to do TIG quality work w/ $400 worth of equipment.

So I'd keep it for sure. A very useful tool.

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