For me, the best part of every day – after my morning latte – is firing up my torch and crafting dazzling, happy beads. But this is not a tiki-torch or the British for ‘flashlight’. It’s a small, stainless steel, adjustable blowtorch.
And it’s the glowing hot core of my business.
I use a Nortel Midrange Plus.
It looks like Luke Skywalker’s pistol, only with a flat base I’ve bolted to my table.
The torch can be fuelled by either natural gas and oxygen or propane and oxygen. I use propane. It heats my glass to ºC, literally melting it to molten in a matter of seconds, so I can spin, shape, streak, spot, swathe and so on – always using my mandrels so I keep my fingers from getting scorched.
The ‘Plus’ means it is actually 2 torches in one. The lower torch is a Nortel Midrange which is larger, the upper is a Nortel Mega Minor, a smaller torch. So I can swap between larger, structural work and more detailed finishing.
On each torch I can control the flow of oxygen and propane. Adjusting these changes the flame and allows me to create different effects for some of the glass. My fire opal series uses a special type of glass called silvered glass. To get that fabulous opalescent effect after the bead is made I turn the oxygen almost off and flash the bead into the reduced flame.
Like all tools, my torch needs regular cleaning and maintenance but these ‘tune ups’ are a breeze. I just floss the tubes with a fine needle tool. A 25lb tank of propane (the size of a bbq tank) lasts me between 6 and 12 weeks depending on how much I am making. For oxygen I have 2 oxygen concentrators, these are converted hospital respirators that pump out pure oxygen.
I love my torch.