Hand-held torches are one of the handiest tools of independent living anywhere. That’s why I’ve made it my business to try every kind of hand-held torch I could lay my hands on over the last 25 years, always in search of one specific barometer of capability that very few simple, consumer-grade torches can deliver – the ability to braze. Brazing is a weld-like process for joining steel with molten bronze – sort of like heavy-duty soldering. Heat the metal red hot, touch the bronze brazing rod to the joint, then watch it melt. When the metal cools you’ve got a very strong connection. Even if brazing isn’t something you plan on doing, it’s still a valid litmus test for torch performance because ordinary propane torches don’t deliver quite enough heat to do it efficiently. A hotter torch is a better torch for all kinds of applications, and this is the main benefit of my current favorite, the unique and effective Quickfire Hand Torch.
After more than a year of using this tool for various tough jobs – two of which ordinary propane torches can’t quite handle – I’m ready to go public. The BernzOmatic Quickfire is the best in my book, and heat output is the main reason why.
There are two technical features that let this torch create a hotter flame: The fuel it burns and the way that burning happens.
- Instead of a disposable tank of propane, Quickfire uses a gas called propylene. It costs about three times more – but this difference isn’t as significant as it sounds. A $10 cylinder of propylene solders at least half the copper water pipes in an entire house, so cost isn’t an issue. What does it matter that the same amount of propane costs $3?
- Propylene burns substantially hotter than propane all on its own, but this inherent heat advantage is also enhanced by a unique internal feature of this torch.
If you look down the tube that the flame comes out of, you’ll see four angled plates about two inches in from the end. These plates work together to impart a swirling action to the gas as it travels out of the torch and burns. Swirling means more complete combustion and hotter results can be seen.
To compare torch performance in an empirical way, I measured the time it took to heat one spot on a 12-inch-long steel spike enough that it turned bright red and soft. After 4 minutes, my ordinary propane torch had just barely heated the spike to a dull, red glow, allowing a small amount of slow bending under hand pressure. By contrast, the Quickfire heated the same spike to a bright red heat in only 45 seconds, softening the metal enough to make bending easy. This thing is way hotter than anything in its class. Take a look at a video I made all about the BernzOmatic Quickfire Hand Torch.
Steve Maxwell, Canada's Handiest Man, has shared his DIY tips, how-to videos and product reviews since 1988. Visit him at www.SteveMaxwell.ca, Facebook or @Maxwells_Tips on Twitter.
Photos: Steve Maxwell
Contributing Editor Steve Maxwell has been helping people renovate, build and maintain their homes for more than two decades. “Canada’s Handiest Man” is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. Contact him by visiting his website and the blog, Maxwell’s House. You also can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and find him on Google+.