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"I really love that amazing Hands On sculpture. I feel very lucky to have had the chance seeing the early stage of making it in Kevin's studio. I hope to see it being displayed in that perfect spot some day when I come back to Arizona!"
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Oxygen-Acetylene: "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?!"



A viewer wrote and asked Kevin about some of the things to look at, be aware of - what could possibly go wrong - with an oxygen-acetylene torch, which both welds and cuts.

One of the first things to do when you buy a new oxygen-acetylene unit or set one back up after a while, is to inspect your hoses, especially where they make sharp bends, such as near the regulator. Look for any cracks in the liner. If they're cracked, get rid of them. Don't even keep them around. They could start to leak and cause a fire, and then, as Kevin says, "You're running out the door with your hair on fire and making all kinds of weird noises."

Next, Kevin recommends you check your whole system for leaks every time you get the unit out to use it. Put some water and a few drops of dish soap into a squirt bottle. Turn on your valves to get pressure in the system, and spray all of your connections, even on the torch handle and body itself. If bubbles appear, you have a leak. Turn everything off and fix any leaks.

Another thing to keep in mind when using an oxygen-acetylene torch is that you have plenty of hose. Don't bring the bottles right next to where you are working. If you do, your hose usually ends up coiled beneath you where sparks and molten metal are falling, and you have two bottles that are basically bombs sitting right next to you. Keep the gas bottles at a distance, and extend the hose so you're not tripping on it or dripping hot metal on it.

Also be careful to use the right safety gear. After all, you're dealing with explosive gases, molten metal and flying sparks. Kevin emphasizes that you need dark safety glasses, not clear ones. You also need to wear leather gloves, preferably heavy welding gloves with gauntlets. Don't try to use work gloves that have mesh backs, which sparks go right through. Using the right gloves helps prevent burning yourself or setting your gloves on fire. Also wear cotton clothes or a leather apron or sleeves. Closed-toe leather shoes - not sneakers, not flip flops, not barefoot - are a must. Dress for the job so you don't get hurt.

Another big discussion with oxygen-acetylene is how far you open the valves on the bottles. Kevin likes to open his a quarter-turn, so if there is ever a problem, he can turn it off quickly and easily. The valve has a seal above and below the outlet. The bottom seal keeps the gas in the bottle and out of the regulator. As soon as you open the valve, it pressurizes the regulator. The top seal seals the shaft of the valve to keep gas from coming out of the top. So a lot of guys like to open the valve all the way and bottom that upper seal out at the top of the valve body. But if there's a problem, you have to turn the valve all the way off to shut it. Kevin says there's a lot of controversy about this issue, and that people should do whatever works for them.

Finally, when you're done using the unit, do you leave pressure in the system or bleed it off in the system between the valve and the torch itself? Kevin likes to leave the pressure on for about a half hour. Then he can look at the gauges to make sure the readings haven't changed. If the pressure reading has dropped, he has a leak. If this happens, get that soapy water and find the leak. If the readings don't change, the system is tight, and you can open your torch and bleed off the pressure.

One last thing: if you're not using your oxygen-actylene unit for a couple of days, put the safety caps on the bottles and remove your regulators and coil them up out of the way. You can leave the bottles chained to the cart, and put it out of the way. If you leave the regulators on and the torch cart gets knocked over, you have a good chance of snapping off the regulator or the valve. "That's not good," says Kevin.

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