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Collectible Blowtorches and Soldering Tools

Blowtorches and soldering tools have been used in metalwork for applying heat to metal, or for joining two pieces of metal to one another hundreds of years. These tools have undergone numerous design changes due to advancements in materials, production, and technology, but an antique blowtorch provides great insight into the history of metalworking. These antique tools are a great collector's item, and collecting these vintage items will provide you with a unique display.

How do gasoline blowtorches work?

The blowtorch was first used in the early 1800s and was designed using the already existing gasoline lamp. Many of the antique fuel lamps were composed of brass, and the blowtorch was created by placing a sealed container over the flame in the lamp. Because the space was closed off, pressure built up inside the lamp from the burning gasoline. Later models utilized a hand pump to pressurize the air inside the torch and move the fuel through the piping. The pressure was able to be released through a valve, which was directed through the flame. This pressure forced the ignited fuel to spray out of the blowtorch, producing a controlled and concentrated flame.

How do you clean and care for antique brass torches?
  • Antique Brass: Brass is exposed to dirt and oxidation over time, and removing it is important to maintaining the look of the torch. Soaking the torch in undiluted household ammonia or vinegar for an hour will help to eliminate the harsh effects of oxidation and remove any dirt that may be present on the torch.
  • Removing Lacquer: Some gasoline blowtorches may have been lacquered, which commonly shows a very shiny yellow color. Lacquer can harm the brass, and it can be removed by pouring hot water over the torch and peeling off the lacquer while it is hot.
  • Maintenance: Cleaning a torch too often can cause damage to the copper topcoat, which causes a green color. Keeping the collectible item clean is important, and a light coating of wax can be applied to keep oxygen from penetrating the material.
How did antique brass blowtorches progress over time?
  • 1850s: American inventors implemented safety valves and an adjustment handle to the brass blowtorch, which increased safety and burner regulation.
  • 1860s: A mechanical pump was introduced into the tools, and blowtorch models decreased in size, allowing for single-handed use. The pump allowed for increased efficiency and effectiveness during use.
  • 1880s: A bell-shaped design was implemented, and this shape would be maintained for many decades of brass gasoline blowtorches.
How do antique handheld soldering tools work?
  • 1800s: These antique tools utilized a handle with a large copper tip on the end that needed to be heated directly by a fire. These tools would cool down quickly, so many of them were used simultaneously.
  • Early 1900s: When electricity became available, it was implemented into these tools, which allowed soldering irons to plug in and provide constant heat during work, although the tips remained large.
  • 1940s: Smaller copper tips were incorporated on these tools, and heat controls were also included to allow for higher working efficiency and effectiveness.
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