Propane vs. Acetylene (Hey, Ernie)

I have no first-hand knowledge but I have observed that a lot of the scrap yards are using propane for cutting up light and heavy scrap. One owner told me it worked nearly as well and was a lot cheaper.
Don Young
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Don Young
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I'm setting up shop again, and there's an endle$$ list of things to be done
and got.
One of them is ga$ cylinder$.
And then, I observed the obvious. I have several barbecue bottles. So,
thinks me, why not use them for cutting? If I don't have to buy an
acetylene cylinder, I can use the money somewhere else, plus, propane
filling stations are a lot closer than the AirGas store.
Compared to acetylene, what's the bottom line? I know I would have to go
buy some new tips, but I just bought a used rig with one tip, so it's not
like replacing them all.
Most of my cutting would be up to 3/8", and a lot of that less. I never say
never, and never know when someone will bring in some half inch broken piece
of machinery that needs gouged out and fixed.
What's the pros and cons of propane vs. acetylene? Propane's limits? Its
Advice, experience and opinions welcome.
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The main ingredient for gas cutting is oxygen, which is not available at the nearby hardware store. Anyway, whenever I use my plasma cutter, I feel that I am in a cutting heaven, and do not feel any need for a gas cutting setup. Mine is a Hypertherm Max100.
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We used LPG for cutting years ago in Thailand. As I remember it needed a larger tip then acetylene as LPG produces fewer BTU's but other then that it works well.
One thing, you can't weld with it. For some reason at about the time the metal starts to melt the torch goes out with a very loud bang.
Bruce in Bangkok (brucepaigeATgmailDOTcom)
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I consider someone seeing something in action as first-hand knowledge.
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Propane/oxygen works just great for cutting or brazing, not at all for gas welding.
So speaketh Ernie in his gas welding class ..
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Grant Erwin
Either gas is capable of making a perfect cut, but there are useful differences between them. LP will preheat a heavier section faster and will perform better cutting on a scaly surface. It will also cut multiple layers of steel, does it so well it's hard to cut a single layer if that's what you want. Properly used, you'll consume more oxygen with LP than with acetylene, but the faster cut will make up for it.
Acetylene is, for my money, a finer cutting fuel. The trick of cutting the nut from the bolt and not cutting into the bolt threads is easy with acet., very difficult/nearly impossible with LP. Neither really has limitations or advantages over the other concerning thickness of cut except I would choose acet. for work under 1/4".
I use LP for scrapping and acet. for fab work. 12' of dozer blade that's been patched a few times would be a miserable job with acetylene- three or four layers of steel with rust and sand. LP will cut it profitably. On the other hand, acetylene has a much more peaceful flame (big plus) and it's easier to get a cut with little or no slag hanging from the bottom edge.
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Propane is by far a better choice for cutting. Select the two piece fuel gas tips. I even prefer it for sheet steel around 1/8th. I use at least a 00 tip on light material. For general cutting don't use too large a tip. Preheating take a longer time but the cut is cleaner with less slag. Also the torch is not so height sensitive when cutting. if you get the right set up and speed on something like 1/8th you will hear a sputtering as you speed along much like a plasma arc sound. Insurance companies are happy to learn you do not have acetylene on the property. Randy
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Randy Zimmerman
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