I think I'm going to pick up a basic kit and take it up.
Grizzly Industrial has a couple of sets (and I have some gift
certificates to use):
Are either of these any good?
What's the better deal on tanks? Buy a pair? Or a tank exchange deal? I
figure I'll start with a couple of small ones and move up if I turn out
to be any good.
The local Airgas web page (much more expensive equipment) lists all
their sets with a
CGA-510, CGA-300, etc., spec. What's that? I know CGA = "Compressed Gas
Association". But are the numbers different gas mixes, regulator fitting
sizes, or what?
The HF set works well-good regs. Usually on sale for $99
Dweller in the cellar
If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes
Doubt yourself, and the real world will eat you alive
The world doesn't revolve around you, it revolves around me
No skeletons in the closet; just decomposing corpses
Dependence is Vulnerability:
"Open the Pod Bay Doors please, Hal"
"I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.."
Your gas dealer will pretty much determine what you get into for
tanks, buying into the "pool", renting monthly, 5-year lease with
annual fee, or what. With the consolidation of gas dealers, many of us
are pretty much stuck with one dealer in the area and their specific
policies. The CGA numbers are the gas bottle fitting standards,
there's three different ones for US acetylene tank fittings, MC, B,
and larger tanks. The two smallest tank sizes are often referred to
as "Prestolite" tanks for historical reasons. MC was motorcycle size
and B was bus-size, for headlights in the pre-electrical age. They
are handy to have for small-tipped rigs and silver brazing, not for
general welding or cutting. Unfortunately, some of the "cutest" items
use MC-sized tanks, the small portable rigs that HF sells are an
example. About the time you get something up to temp, the tanks will
peter out. My advice is to get the largest tanks you can handle, most
of the filling fee is in handling and transporting the bottles, not
supplying the gas. If you can afford two sets, that'll save the
Sunday afternoon panic when you run out of gas 90% through a project
you need on Mon. In some areas, places like TSC will do bottle
exchanges, for a price. Kind of like barbeque bottles at the local
As far as Asian welding torches are concerned, they may work, but do
you have any guarantee that you can get seals, tips or valve parts
that wear out? Victor is still in production and still had parts at
the local weld supply last I looked. Used equipment can be had, just
research what's still being made for future availability of tips and
Farm and estate auctions and pawn shops are places equipment can be
had reasonably. Just be wary of tanks, you may pay a load for a set
at an auction, to be told "gee, thanks for returning them" when taking
them in to be filled because they were really leased, not owned. Get
the original sales papers for any used tanks you buy. And even if you
do buy privately-owned tanks, your gas supplier may refuse to fill
them if he's lease-only. Have one like that in town.
I would not buy empty new gas bottles until I talked with the local
gas supplier. If you're buying into the pool, you'd be just handling
over brand-new bottles and getting well-used ones in return. At worst
you'd be stuck with empty bottles that they refused to fill because
they didn't have the dealer's name on the neck ring and they only
leased those specific ones out.
You can frequently do deals on equipment with gas suppliers, they know
if they give you a deal on the torch, you've got to buy gas SOMEWHERE,
and that might as well be them. One local outfit has a table with
equipment that was left for repair, was repaired, and folks never
picked it up. Deals can be had for the price of the repairs.
No experience with the Grizzly sets, or with HF so I can't comment.
I've had good luck with other Grizzly products. They're probably
adequate for occasional use, and to see how you like the activity. A
set like that gets you all you need to get started. If you get into it
you will eventually replace everything but the hose as you develop
informed preferences. What you'll prefer will depend a lot on what
you want to do.
Don't go too small on the tanks. I would recommend at least 40 cu ft
for both oxy and acetylene. The smaller tanks aren't significantly
cheaper and the cost to fill them is nearly the same.
I have Smith torches for cutting and for when I need lotsaplenty heat,
but the torch I use 99% of the time is this one:
I really, really like this little torch.
My primary uses are brazing and silver brazing of various small jobs
in various metals, and welding of aluminum sheetmetal. Aluminum
actually requires more torch than steel because it has such high
thermal conductivity. For welding of steel, sheetmetal up thru 1/2", I
prefer MIG except that I prefer TIG if fussy precision is required.
Here in Iowa, you can rent or purchase title to bottles, and as other
poster indicated, if you buy bottles used, you must have this title as
proof of ownership. Some states do not allow this.
I bought a Crapsman Oxy set when I was a kid. They turned out to be
Harris re-branded. They were bottom of the line, and when the oxygen
regulator blew out a internal diaphragm, even sears could not get
parts. At any rate it could never deliver the oxy flow during cutting
of anything greater the 1/4" steel, and I now have a Victor regulator
that can deliver all I need.
Both these sets look like they have the welding tips with their own
fitting that screws onto torch manifold, which is one issue my set has
(only has one fitting that attaches to manifold, and changing tip size
is a PITA especially if it's hot.
If I had a do over, it would be Victors the whole way.
Also other poster said get largest tank you can handle.
Some companies will not let you own title, and only will rent, Air Gas
here in Iowa was one of these companies, they were the Miller dealer
when I bought my synchrowave250, and at the time of the sale "rented"
the argon bottle, which after the first $5/month charge, I returned.
Interesting years later I was contacted for a class action law suite
about their rental methods.
You can buy the large tanks, but you have to keep track of the
paperwork that proves your ownership forever. And have a copy with
you at all times to prove it, or they can consider them Stolen from
the welding supplier marked on the safety cap ring. Pain in the butt
if you don't need them.
The tiny ones (MC Acetylene and 10-CF Oxygen) are just about worthless
except when you have to lug them up onto a roof or under a house.
The smallest practical size is the B Acetylene and 50-CF Oxygen, and
even they will poop out pretty fast if you start doing real work.
Rather than haul them up on the roof, get another 50 feet of hose and
leave the bottle cart on the ground.
Advantage for the MC and B tanks and the smaller Oxygen, they are
always owner cylinders, never rented. You don't have to worry about
the paperwork, you have physical possession.
Get two sets, then you have a full one to keep working. They always
run out on the weekend, or at 5:15 PM when you have a deadline.
That's the size of the fittings on the tanks. CGA-300 is for large
industrial tanks and the 6-pack manifolded tanks. CGA 510 is
full-size acetylene, the CGA-300 is the B Acetylene, and CGA-200 for
And IIRC there are two sizes for the Oxygen fittings too.
They make little regulators with the native fittings for MC or B
tanks built in, for when size and weight are at a premium.
Most of the good sets like the Victor Tradesman and those Grizzly
sets have the Full-Size fittings.
They make adapters to swap between all the permutations, so you can
run the good two-stage regulators on the smaller tanks. Or the small
regulator on big tanks if you get a big enough job to justify buying
or leasing a set of big tanks for a month.
"Paul Hovnanian P.E." fired this volley in
Even with "owner" bottles, most of the places I've dealt with exchange
them. They're just careful to give you an owner-style tank. In the past,
the only time they required to re-fill the ones I brought in was when they
didn't have any owner tanks on the dock.
I would tend to question whether the OP should be looking at O/A at all
for welding. Here in 2010, I think unless you have a regular need to
weld where there is no power available and an engine driven arc welder
can't be used, there isn't much reason to O/A weld. There are too many
decent inexpensive MIG, TIG and stick welders available new and even
better ones available used for routing O/A welding to be practical.
Granted I do have an O/A rig, but I only have ever used it to heat
material for bending and for silver brazing refrigerant lines. I haven't
even used it for cutting since I have a plasma cutter and haven't needed
to cut anything out of reach of it's 25' torch cables.
Lots of good advice here already. Will just add that the use group
for Welding is Sci.Engr.joining.welding. Ernie is the Guru there.
Take anything he says as gospel. There are some other good people
I would recommend looking at Harbor Freight. They sell two different
torch sets. I am pretty sure that both of them are exact copies of
Victor. So you do not have to worry about getting replacement parts.
Not that you are likely to need any. I have a Sears ( Harris ) torch
that I got over fifty years ago and although the oxygen regulator gave
out after thirty years, the only other parts have been some standard
In looking at Harbor Freight, they only sell welding tips for one of
the two torch sizes. Naturally I have a small Victor torch that is
the size they do not stock replacement tips. ( I got it in a trade
and never had the tips I want. )
I forgot to add Lincoln has good books at very reasonable prices on
Get some silver solder and flux. Silver soldering is easy and works
really well for something. H & H have good info on the web.
Go by the local Community College or who ever teaches welding. You
may be old enough that they will waive most of the tuition. And a
little instruction is a good thing. If you qualify for tuition
waiver, it is cheaper to use their gas than to buy your own. If you
do not qualify, ask if the instructor knows anyone that will spend an
hour or so with you for a reasonable price. Most of learning is just
doing it. But a little instruction can speed things along.
He didn't specifically say welding, he said "take it up". I probably
do more silver-brazing than I do welding, just the nature of the kinds
of things I make. I agree about welding steel; I haven't gas-welded
steel for probably 15 years.
I have no experience with those particular set, but if I had it to do
over again, I'd see if I could afford two stage regulators instead of
single phase regulators. The acetylene regulator wanders and always
has since it was new. I typically have to readjust the regulator a
couple of times till it holds the correct pressure without continuing
to climb. I was told that two stage regulators don't do that.
Me too, though I've not done any TIG since January '09, been getting
by with MIG. The E-field from the HF HV exceeded the specs for my ICD
when I checked it before implant. A simple electrostatic shield would
take care of that but I've not gotten around to making a Faraday vest
or something yet. In a pinch I suppose I could scratch-start off a
Single stage regulators should do that either. The advantage to a
two-stage is that it'll deliver constant pressure from full tank to
nearly empty tank. That isn't important for amateur hobby-type work.
My regulators are single-stage and I've never found them less than