Torch Leaking? Here’s the Test!

Testing Torch for Leaks

You’ve undoubtedly been told – possibly many times – that you need to test your torch regularly for gas leaks.  I was certainly told, but when I was a baby jeweler I didn’t know what to look for, and so, paradoxically, I didn’t test. Don’t emulate my early bad behavior!

To be fair, I didn’t have to test the first torches I used because those torches were in the classrooms where I took my first faltering steps towards jewelry competency, so someone else was, presumably, testing them for me. Once I took a deep breath and bought my own torch, however, I needed to get my poop in a group and be more proactively self-actualizing about this safety stuff. Nowadays, I generally test my torch when I change gas tanks, which happens ever few months.

Recently, I bought a new torch (for use with the small disposable propane tanks) and the requisite inaugural testing of this new equipment seemed like a golden opportunity to take some pictures for the benefit of… YOU!

Materials:

  • Soapy water (Yes, that’s it.  A squirt of dish liquid + about 1/2 cup water.)

Tools:

  • small paint brush or foam brush
  • container for soapy water
  • torch to be tested + gas bottle
  • small adjustable wrench
  • thread seal tape (PTFE – commonly called Teflon tape)

Here’s what you do:

1) Assemble your torch, following the manufacturer’s directions.  In my case, the instructions with my new Orca torch (aka EZ Torch) commanded me to hand tighten the torch tip

HAND tighten torch tip (you have to be able to get it off again easily...)

HAND tighten torch tip (you have to be able to get it off again easily…)

and the tank valve (attaches to the gas bottle), but to use a small adjustable wrench to tighten the connections between the torch head, the hose, and the tank valve.  Because I was hoping for a nice leak to show you, I callously and wantonly ignored these instructions and hand tightened ALL the joints. You, however, should tighten the joints with an adjustable wrench as directed (NOT pliers – I see you! Put them down! – Believe me, they will just slip and scratch your torch fittings).

2) Be sure that all the valves are closed (righty tighty…) and attach the tank valve to a tank of gas.

3) Apply a wash of soapy water with the paint brush to the joints.

4) Open the tank valve (lefty loosey…).  If your torch is leaking you will know immediately because even if you can’t hear anything, you will see bubbles like these! Egads!

OMG! Gas is leaking out!

OMG! Gas is leaking out!

5) Turn the tank valve off immediately (righty tighty…) and vent the line by opening the valve at the torch head, closing it when you can no longer hear gas whooshing out.  Finally remove the tank valve from the gas tank.

6) Wipe the leaking joint carefully with a towel to be sure it’s dry, and make sure there are no fibers stuck in the threads. Wrap a single layer of thread seal tape (“Teflon” tape) around the male threads, taking care that you are wrapping in the direction that will cause your wrap to be pulled tighter by the action of screwing the joint together (the opposite direction will cause the tape to bunch up in the threads, and you definitely don’t want that, since that will likely just make it leak more!). Be careful to wrap well back from the opening to avoid tape being pulled into the gas line.

Pay attention to the wrap direction!

Pay attention to the wrap direction!

7) Hold the tape on the threads with one hand, and pull the spool of tape hard with the other hand until the tape breaks, leaving a squiggly ragged edge. Carefully wrap the ragged bits around the threads, making sure that none crosses the opening.

Pull the tape to break it.

Pull the tape to break it.

8) Reattach the parts and use your wrench to tighten the joint gently.  Don’t ream on it, just be serene and tighten it confidently.

Tighten firmly, but without straining.

Tighten firmly, but without straining.

9) Retest with the soapy water. Very probably, there will be no more bubbles. Hoorah!

One last bit of advice: When you are finished for the day, ALWAYS turn off the tank valve AND bleed the gas out of the hose.  I found out the hard way that if you don’t bleed the gas line, the propane will gradually dissolve the rubber of the hose and form a sort of sticky yellow foam which will eventually bubble unhelpfully out the torch tip, clogging it and requiring that the torch be cleaned professionally before it can be used again.  This is particularly prone to happen if, say, you don’t bleed the line and then also don’t go back to your bench for a couple of weeks, thus giving the propane ample time to chew on the inside of the hose.

I know you don’t want to go through this (as I did – twice – apparently I’m a slow learner…), so I’ll take your thanks as a given :).

You’re most welcome!

Signature - Lowther

P.S. Did a friend forward this post to you? Did you stumble on it by accident?  Want to eliminate the element of chance? Click here to get on my direct list.

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26 Responses to Torch Leaking? Here’s the Test!

  1. Carol Rae says:

    Very helpful, Julia. Thanks. Safe torching to everyone.

  2. Thanks, Julia, will miss you this summer on Vancouver Island. I see you are teaching elsewhere. Where did you get your new torch set up?
    Thanks, Rene

  3. margaret baxter says:

    Julia, No one has had any comments about the Goss torch kit. Are you totally happy with the kit from Otto Frei? I’d like to order one soon. Cheers, Margaret

  4. Jerry says:

    How can I send this to a friend. THANK THANK YOU FOR THE BEST WEB SITE. I have this torch.
    Thanks
    Jerry
    Keep Up the great work. I wash I could walk in your shoes for a day.

    • julialowther says:

      Hi Jerry,
      Thanks for your kind words!
      You probably already figured out that you can copy the URL for the post and email that to your friend. I hope your friend finds the post as useful as you did.
      I’m glad so many people are using the Orca torch. I’m really enjoying mine :).
      All the best, Julia

  5. ccantwell22014 says:

    Thanks for a great post. I didn’t know about the propane eating the rubber in the hose. Thanks! By the way, i found you via the Metalsmith’s Coffee house. Love your articles.

  6. Jerry says:

    Two Days before I read your safety tip my hand went up in a small flame. The first one I purchase the main valve would not turn off. the second one had the leek at the handle. I like the torch but I sent it back.

  7. Inga says:

    Thank you for sharing your skills and knowledge, very helpful.

  8. Atelier Argentea says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. It was very helpful to read. My question to you is where can i find the iron holder where the propane tank is resting? Thank you!

    • julialowther says:

      The wire stand holding the propane tank came with another torch. I measured the thickness and the wire is 3mm in diameter. I think you could make one fairly easily with some heavy copper wire.

  9. Rachel says:

    Hi Julia,
    I’ve just purchased the Orca torch from Gesswein and alas it came with pretty bare-bones instructions on setting it up, and I’ve had trouble finding more through instructions online. I was concerned because when I screwed my torch handle into the hose (making sure I was attaching it to the swivel end!) the threads on the torch handle are only about half covered. I see on your first photo on this page that it looks like the threads on your torch handle are showing quite a bit beyond where it screws into the hose as well, can I assume that this is normal? I really liked your explanation of how to check for leaks, I’ll be doing that as soon as I get brave enough to actually attach this hose to the propane cylinder!

    • julialowther says:

      Hi Rachel,
      Welcome to the Orca torch family! I hope you’ll love it as much as I do :). I think you are right that having some threads exposed is probably normal. If you are able to screw the torch parts together firmly, and the joints don’t leak when you test them, then I believe you will be fine!

      • julialowther says:

        BTW, Dawn brand dish liquid is what I use for my leak detector solution. This is a good one for this purpose and for cleaning metal, since it has no oils in it (yep, many dish soaps have oils like Vit. E in them) and you definitely DON’T want to add oil to clean metal, or put it on your rubber torch hoses.

      • Rachel says:

        Thank you so much for your help Julia! I ended up ignoring the visible threads and put the torch together. I followed your instructions to test for leaks and a couple tightened nuts later I had a no-leak functioning torch (didn’t even have to bust out the Teflon tape!). I used basic Sunlight dish soap and it didn’t say anything about added oils but that’s good to know about potential additives and I’ll have to pick up some Dawn just to be safe (I want my lovely new torch to be around for a long time!). Thank you again for your very informative site and taking the time to answer my questions! 🙂

      • julialowther says:

        Interestingly, Sunlight dish soap is one that my beginning jewelry students and I had problems with ;P, and it wasn’t until I read the very fine print on the back that I realized it had Vit. E (an oil) in it! We were using it to clean metal for soldering, and were having lots of problems. We decided we’d rather lay the blame on the oil in the soap than on operator error :).

  10. Michael says:

    Where did you get the little wire propane tank stand? or did you make it? It is a good idea to keep the tank from falling over.

    • julialowther says:

      The wire tank stand came with a Weller brand torch (the kind with a hose). You could probably make one pretty easily with a wire coat hanger :). You definitely need a way to keep the top of the tank elevated somewhat above the bottom. This keeps the propellant that’s mixed with the liquid propane from clogging the tank valve. You can either make a wire support, or stand the tank upright and figure out a way to keep it from falling over. I set one of my little tanks into a small plastic wastebasket that is tied to the leg of my bench.

  11. Thank you so much for this article. I just got this torch a few days ago and tonight tried to tighten the joints and kept getting gas leak bubbles. My sister was helping me out and we got so frustrated we decided to try again tomorrow when we were wide away and it was bright outside. We thought we might have a defective hose. We never turned the torch valve on just the tank valve but will be sure to bleed the hose out tomorrow morning. None of the instructions I found online said to

    • julialowther says:

      I hope your fresh morning eyes got your torch sorted out! I’m so glad you tested the connections before firing up the torch, since there was clearly something going on that wasn’t working. Did you get the problem solved? Do you know what the issue was?

  12. Do you take your hose off from the disposable propane take after every time you solder? One You Tube Video I watched said you should and then the place where I bought it said it was fine to leave on unless you weren’t soldering for a month then you could take off the hose

    • julialowther says:

      I don’t take the hose off the disposable tank every night. I DO turn off the valve at the tank and bleed the line every evening when I am finished work, and if I am away for a long time (a week?) I’ll try to remember to detach the regulator from the disposable tank.

  13. MonUm says:

    Hi i have a problem with the hose it leaks at the part that spins , that gets the handle attached , I can’t figure it out thanks

    • julialowther says:

      Hi MonUm, I don’t know what to tell you, other than don’t use the torch if it’s leaking! And also contact the company you bought it from to either return the torch, or see if they have any suggestions for addressing the leaking.

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