White gas powered blowtorch

This is a common blowtorch. It is somewhat historic, but non unseen in shops today. The torch burns gasoline under pressure. Traditionally 'white gas' was used, which was understood to be gasoline without additives, particularly lead because you were going to be breathing the fumes, and don't need lead fumes in your system from burning lead. Now the quality of Kerosene is such that it is often used as an alternative and it is often simply gasoline without the additives that you really don't need or want.

As one who grew up before the days of the electric soldering iron, a blow torch similar to this was in my childhood the standard solution for heating a soldering iron. The hook on top is to hold the iron. To operate one you put the fuel in the container in the base, and then pressurize the fuel by pumping up the hand pump. To light one cold you have to preheat the torch some. This is accomplished by adding some gas to the little 'boat' below the torch and lighting it with a fire source--such as a match. You need to do this somewhere out of the wind. The Gas burns under the torch and preheats it. Then you can turn the control valve on (black handle on back) which opens a needle valve and sprays gas under pressure into the torch which is lit off by the preheating fire below. Once preheated and adjusted correctly you will get a blue flame beginning at the mouth of the torch and extending out several inches. Obviously such a torch involves a number of potential hazards from fire and explosions (as do other fire torches) but in the first half of the 20 century these were common appliances, particularly for soldering, and the news during cold spells usually included a report on the number of houses that folks burned down using the things to thaw frozen pipes.

These things were around for a long time before the propane and butane torches became common, but it is my impression that they don't burn as hot as the propane or butane torches. They could melt Lead and babbit as well.

- - Updated 12/31/2012
- - Updated 3/05/2011