Using a butane torch is one of the most common ways to heat glass for use in arts and crafts projects. These tools operate using small butane tanks that can be found in gas grills and cigarette lighters. When you depress the trigger on a butane torch, this triggers an ignition sequence that heats up a series of coils inside the machine, causing a large amount of combustible gas to be released into the air through a very focused blue flame.
You can blow glass with a butane torch, but butane is not an ideal gas for the job. The best gases for glassblowing are acetylene, carbon dioxide, and oxygen. Projects completed with butane torches will generally take longer to complete than those finished with other gases.
Below, we address the nuances of using a butane torch for glass blowing projects.
Can You Melt Glass With a Butane Torch?
While you may expect that the answer to this question is no, it is actually possible. Glass can be melted at extremely high temperatures, so if you are prepared to invest in some serious gear and deal with very hot flames, then it is possible to do this with a butane torch.
However, it is certainly not an easy task and is only recommended for those who have undergone either training or research into glass-melting techniques. If you haven’t conducted any specialized study into the subject of melting glass, then we would advise against attempting anything described below.
Butane torches can reach temperatures of 1,980 degrees Fahrenheit (1,099 degrees Celsius), which means that they should be able to melt small quantities of glass objects – however, it is very difficult to create a large enough quantity of glass to be melted in this way.
First, you need to procure what is termed “hardcore glass.” This is glass that has been doped with nickel oxide, which means that it becomes more malleable and will soften faster than normal glass. Hardcore glass can withstand temperatures of up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit (815 degrees Celsius).
When the hardcore glass needs melting for whatever reason, place it on top of some kind of fire-resistant surface so that it does not melt through anything beneath it. Then take your butane torch and direct the flame onto the metal plate (which must also be heat-resistant) above where you are aiming it. The aim is for the heat to be evenly distributed, which then melts the hardcore glass into a much more fluid state.
It takes an extremely skilled individual to do this, and it is only recommended for those who are experienced in working with molten materials. If you haven’t tried anything like this before, then please don’t attempt it yourself. Melting glass requires years of experience, so don’t risk injury or damage by trying something that you have no real knowledge about.
What Kind of Torch Is Used for Glass Blowing?
Torches are large, powerful machines used by glassblowers to melt the materials they need for their craft. Torches are usually fueled by propane or natural gas and blow a large flame that can reach up to 3200°F (1700°C). The process may take some time, but it’s worth it in the end when you have successfully created your own piece of art. There are generally two types of torches used for glass blowing: one-sided and double-sided.
A one-sided torch has one nozzle that is aimed at the glass piece while it rotates on the pipe. A double-sided torch uses two nozzles, which are placed about 10 inches away from the work area and directed at the glass.
The choice of a torch depends on how large or small your project is going to be. Typically, a more advanced user would need a double-sided torch. However, if you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of experience with glass blowing, go for something simpler like a one-sided model. Blowing glass can be tough, especially when you’re making use of higher temperatures that come from double-sided torches. Inexperienced users tend to get themselves into trouble when they get intimidated by this and end up blowing glass that is far too thick and strong for the high temperatures of a double-sided torch. This will result in an extremely hot, unstable glass piece that can easily be broken into pieces if it’s not handled correctly.
Can You Use a Cutting Torch to Blow Glass?
Glassblowing is an art form practiced all over the world for hundreds of years. Many glassblowing firms create custom blown glass items as well as work with customers to fulfill unique requests for blowing their own glass pieces.
Blowtorches like this one should not be used on other types of glass. In a word, no. While it’s certainly true that you can use a cutting torch for this task, it won’t exactly provide the best results. There are a number of issues to take into account when using a cutting torch to produce glass pieces, and you’re going to have much better luck if you just purchase your glassware from a supplier or repurpose broken glassware.
The first thing you need to realize is that all torches operate at an extremely high temperature, usually above 2500 degrees Fahrenheit (1400 Celsius). With such an intense heat source very close by (sometimes within inches), large portions of the molten glass will melt before the end is even drawn out. Under these circumstances, it’s impossible to produce anything more than a molten blob.
Nothing is impossible with enough time, effort, and skill. If you’re not afraid of the heat then read on! Glassblowing can be done at home using relatively simple tools that are almost always safe to use.
As an alternative, if you insist on purchasing glassware from a lab supply retailer or even repurposing broken glassware it’s important to note that they won’t sell their wares without following certain safety procedures
It also may seem counter-intuitive but after the initial shaping has been completed the trickiest part of working with molten glass is keeping your cool, literally! The key here isn’t to produce more heat but less. This involves increasing airflow around the piece being worked on as well as maintaining a wetted surface with adequate water. Beginners will often use too much water which ends up cooling the glass too quickly and causing cracks to appear in the finished product, whereas more experienced blowers know that you can’t use too little water or else it will vaporize off and cause your piece to lose its shape.
Losing control of your temper may damage your blowtorch making future work difficult at best, if not impossible. With this in mind, we’d like to discuss how one goes about safely using a cutting torch for glassblowing and recommend against it unless you’re willing to take these risks.
What’s the Best Gas to Use to Blow Glass?
The best gas for blowing glass is either oxygen (O) or carbon dioxide (CO). Oxygen is slightly more expensive than carbon dioxide, but both are generally available in any well-stocked metal shop. However, if your studio does not have either of these gases readily available, then acetylene (C₂H₂) would be the next best choice. Acetylene is widely available at welding supply shops and can even be found at hardware stores like ACE Hardware. Hydrocarbons such as propane will not work because they do not displace enough oxygen to maintain an adequate flame temperature required for proper glassblowing. Butane has a lower burning point than propane and will not work no matter what the proportion used.