Butane torches are small blowtorches that use butane to fuel them, much like a standard lighter. A welding torch is different from a butane torch in many ways and is built for a specific purpose. But what if a butane torch is the only thing you have lying around the house?
Can you use a butane torch for welding? No, a butane torch is not powerful enough to be used for welding. It also doesn’t supply enough heat to melt the base metals used in welding, which is the whole point. It simply isn’t up to the task.
Don’t be discouraged. Just because you probably won’t be able to weld with your butane torch, there are other ways you can put it to good use (click here to see what you CAN do). Continue reading below to learn more about why butane torches are not capable of welding and what else you can do with them instead.
What Is a Butane Torch?
A butane torch, or micro torch as they are often called, are small handheld blowtorches that are incredibly easy to find.
As the name suggests, these torches are powered by a small refillable tank of butane fuel and use the oxygen in the air to keep the flame burning.
Butane torches produce the least amount of heat of any torch available. They average around 2400° F. They have an open tip that produces a pinpoint flame with different levels of heat throughout.
This makes it easier to control the temperature being directed to your project by moving the torch closer or further away.
These small torches are relatively easy to get your hands on and are the most inexpensive choice of the bunch. You can use a Butane torch for several different applications like plumbing work, jewelry making, and caramelizing the top of a crème brûlée.
Why Can’t You Weld with a Butane Torch?
Welding is a precise process that involves heating two pieces of metal to the point that they begin to melt. Once they are hot enough, they are joined together again to form a stable join between them.
There are a few reasons why butane torches are not suitable for this process.
Doesn’t Produce Enough Heat
Because of the low temperature of a butane torch as compared to other welding torches, there isn’t enough heat to get the job done. Most metals won’t reach a high enough temperature under the flame of a butane torch to weld together.
Not Powerful Enough
Like the problem with heat, a butane torch doesn’t produce enough power behind its flame to properly heat most metals for welding. They are small and handy tools, but this prevents them from being strong enough to be used to weld.
Small Fuel Reserve
Because a butane torch is handheld, the canister for the fuel is quite tiny. A butane torch won’t stay lit long enough to heat the metals to the necessary temperature before it needs refilling. When you refill it, the metal will cool down again, which is counterproductive.
While it is pretty much impossible to weld using a butane torch, there are still some ways you can put it to use. Two similar processes to welding that a butane torch can be used for are brazing and soldering. You can read how to use your torch for these processes below.
How to Braze with a Butane Torch
Brazing metal is a unique form of joining metal together that doesn’t require much heating of the base metals being used. Instead of attempting to melt the actual metals to a high enough degree to weld them together, you use a filler metal to fill the gap between them and create a strong joint.
Here’s a great video how to braze a brass tube to steel. It gives you a good idea of how the process works.
Because the overall temperature of brazing is lower than welding, it is possible to use a butane torch to braze small projects together. It will be easiest to braze using metals with a lower heating temperature like copper.
How to Braze:
- Scuff the surface of the metal using a wire brush or emery cloth.
- Clean up the metal with soap and water.
- Position your metal pieces and clamp them into place if desired.
- Use the butane torch to heat the joint where the metals meet until it glows.
- Place the filler rod into the joint while keeping the heat on it.
- If the pieces are large, work on one area at a time.
- Once everything is joined, clean the joint with a wire brush to scrape off the excess residue.
There are some advantages of brazing over welding when the two are compared. Both result in healthy joints that will hold together well. Brazing isn’t inferior just because of the lower temperature or filler metal applied.
In fact, the lower temperature prevents any distortion in the base metals being joined together. Because you aren’t melting the base metals, they retain their integrity. These solid joints are present when brazing both thick and thin bonds.
A brazed joint may even look better in the end than a welded joint. Because the filler metal is in between the two pieces of base metal, provided you haven’t overlapped them for strength, it results in a smoother surface than welding.
Finally, brazing is a significantly easier process to learn than welding. You don’t have to spend nearly as many hours learning the skill. Brazed joints tend almost to make themselves and require less precision than welding.
How to Solder Jewelry with a Butane Torch
Soldering is a useful technique in the world of jewelry making. Butane torches are the go-to tool for soldering, especially when it comes to fine detail. Soldering silver and copper is elementary with a butane torch once you learn how to do it.
How to Solder Jewelry:
Bend your pieces into shape before soldering any joints.
Use clamps to position the joints as you want them if necessary, to adequately brace and prepare the pieces for soldering.
Apply your solder to the joint. Avoid adding too much, or you won’t get as clean a result.
Use your butane torch to heat the solder at the joint, moving around it to temper it evenly.
Quench the soldered jewelry piece in water to cool it.
Use sandpaper to clean up your joint if needed.
Using a butane torch to make jewelry is a tried and true method that many artists stand by. There are quite a few things you can use your butane torch for including closing jump rings, forming ball headpins, and annealing metals.
Put Your Butane Torch to Good Use
Welding is a skill of precision and patience that takes a lot of time to learn and very specialized equipment to do correctly. Unfortunately, butane torches are not on the list of a welder’s tools. Even though you can’t use it for larger welding projects, there are things for which they are incredibly useful.
Instead of welding, use your handy little butane torch for:
Cooking – caramelizing crème brûlée, browning meringue, or adding shine to chocolate.
Jewelry Making – closing jump rings, forming ring bands, or joining small pieces
Brazing – joining two metals together with a filler metal
Firing metal clay
Having a small butane torch around the house or in the toolbox is an excellent way to be prepared when the need for a blowtorch arises.
You won’t be able to break it out to weld together scrap metal, but at least you can use it in home repairs whenever they pop up. Even the smallest tools can be incredibly useful.