Oxy-fuel cutting, which uses fuel gasses and oxygen to weld and cut metal, comes with a long list of benefits: superiority in cutting thicker materials, portability, versatility, ease of use and low cost-of-entry (as low as $250 to $350 for high-end oxy-fuel equipment) to name a few. And while plasma-arc and laser processes for cutting and welding have started to gain some ground in the past years, oxy-fuel is still the most commonly used method worldwide.
In addition to cutting, oxy-fuel torches also can perform welding, brazing, soldering, heating and gouging, and with the right equipment, users can cut ferrous metals as much as two feet thick or more. When properly set up and applied, oxy-fuel cutting is a cost-effective and robust cutting process. And with these tips and tricks, cost-savings can be streamlined even further.
Multi-Use Cutting Tips
If you’re looking to increase productivity, one easy way is to use tools that can accomplish a variety of tasks. A multi-use cutting tip is one of those gadgets that can save a lot of hassle. Think of it like a socket set -- your torch has one universal adaptor that can heat, cut or weld just by changing the tip. It’s designed to work with most brands.
As with any equipment purchase, there’s an initial cost, but because it eliminates torch head re-seating and the downtime required to completely change out a tip, it can save up to 60 percent or more on replacement costs in the long run.
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Using Alternate Fuel Gases
Oxy-fuel cutting is all about the flame. And although acetylene is the most commonly used fuel gas for oxy-cutting, that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. Natural gas and two liquefied-petroleum (LP) gasses, propane and propylene, are also used. Each reacts with the oxygen in a different way, producing different flames and, as a result, different cuts.
Acetylene, for example, has a higher-temperature primary flame that’s effective in cutting thinner material. However, its secondary flame produces less overall BTU output and is less effective in cutting thicker materials. Alternate fuel gases like propylene, natural gas and propane have secondary flames produce many more BTUs and can “throw out a lot of heat into the workpiece,” so they’re more effective for cutting thicker material.
Propylene has the largest total combined BTU/ft. output, which allows it to work faster and more effectively in certain applications. And natural gas produces one of the most robust flames with the least fuel, so it’s often used for large-scale jobs where the gas is piped in. (Dig into the details of each oxy-fuel gas here.)
While fuel gasses are diverse, they are not interchangeable and cannot be used across the same equipment. For this reason, it’s important to do your research and make a decision on your fuel at the outset of the project so that you can pair it with the right hose, regulator and torch tip.
Proper Tip Selection
The types of oxy-fuel torch tips are as varied as their applications, from a large-scale project like cutting off the base of an I-beam down to removing the head of a rivet, and everything in between. They can be two feet long, designed to fit into tight or awkward spaces, cut at odd angles, or just about any other specialty you can imagine.
It makes selecting the right tip all the more important (and potentially confusing) but when it comes down to it, the tip you need depends on four factors: seat type, metal thickness, application and fuel gas. Once those decisions are made, the torch tip choices narrow significantly.
RELATED: Selecting the Correct Cutting Tips for Oxy-Fuel
Proper Set Up
Because oxy-fuel cutting uses flammable gasses under pressure combined with pure oxygen to produce extreme heat, proper setup of both the torch and the workspace is essential not only to ensure efficiency and productivity but also safety.
For the torch and its parts, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper setup and maintenance. And in your workspace, make sure the area is well-ventilated and free from anything that’s flammable (embers can fly up to 30 feet), wear fire-retardant clothing and make sure an approved fire extinguisher is handy.
Use our online catalog to take the guesswork cutting, welding, heating and specialty tips for your next project. Search by brand or part number and get related information about fuel gas, application, features and length.