Monday, September 29, 2008

Torchworking Glass with Natural Gas

Many glass torchworkers are now using Natural Gas (Methane) instead of Propane.

There are advantages and disadvantages - the short end of the story is this: Natural Gas is safer but setting up the system takes a little of bit of know-how.

One of the major hurdles is that residential NG comes at a very low pressure that will not be sufficient for your torch. Some small torches will run on the low pressure, but you will inevitably want more. You can purchase a booster (pictured above) and this will solve the problem. In fact, you will have to purchase a gas regulator and attach this to the booster to dial down the pressure to your ideal level.

Let me first spell out the advantages of using NG so its clear why its worth it to go thru the trouble.

1. both NG and Propane smell bad, but Propane is heavier than air (so it falls and smelling leaking gas can be elusive and very dangerous) where NG is lighter and will rise, so you can smell a leak! Thats a good thing.
2. NG can be plumbed into your studio (hire a professional to split off the gas already coming in for the furnace) where Propane comes from a cylinder that must be filled and kept outside
3. Propane and NG run similar hot temps when run with Oxygen.

and here are the disadvantages:
1. set-up required! first get the NG plumbed in with an on/off valve, then fit the NG line to your flexible red gas line (heres a great Lampworkers Etc. thread with pictures that details how to do this)
2. Natual Gas pressure at a residential home is usually 1/3-1/2lbs of pressure, when you most likely need more than that

But hey - if you overcome those two disadvantages - you never need to fill a propane tank again! Safe and easy - who doesn't like that!
In fact, if you take things a step further and purchase an oxygen concentrator (pictured to the right of the booster) - the two machines plug into the wall (electricity) and into your torch - and you will never need to purchase or fill a gas cylinder again! When you are ready to work you simply go into your studio and turn it all on... work for as long as you want, as many days in a row as you want, and you will never need to stop and fill a tank or change one out. Boooyah.

Okay, so my friend Spike was kind enough to invite me into his studio and let me take a bunch of pictures. I had never seen one of these NG boosters before. Its a great little number.

Spike also has created a couple of saftey mechanisms that are well worth sharing:Here he has built a simple wood housing for the NG on/off valve. When it is off he can lock down the wood around it and then his grandchildren cannot play with the valve and turn it on. So brilliant eh?!

Here he has plumbed in water under his studio bench at hand level, so if something rolls away from him and he wants to put out a fire, bam, grab the hose. He has also has an extinguisher present and hes painted all surfaces with fire retardant paint, but this simple garden hose attachment at hands reach is a wonderful addition to any glass studio!

No comments: