Heat It Up: 10 Great Household Uses for a Blowtorch
A handheld torch is a great tool to have when you need to quickly apply some heat to your project.
A Quick Safety Note
Blowtorches are safe and easy to use, but like any other tool, they demand some safety precautions. Work in a well-ventilated area and on a non-flammable surface. Torches are capable of producing a tremendous amount of heat so eye protection and safety gloves are a must and it’s a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher handy. Never light your torch with a lighter or a match. Always use a striker or better yet, buy a torch with an electric starter. Remember to always follow the instructions that come with your particular torch.
Loosen Rusty Nuts and Bolts
If you’re having a hard time loosening a rusty bolt from a piece of metal, a blowtorch can help. Give the bolt or nut a dose of heat from both sides using your torch. Don’t overheat, it doesn’t need to be glowing you’re just trying to get it to expand a little. Once the bolt is good and hot, turn off your torch and let the bolt cool for a while. As the bolt starts to cool it will contract slightly and loosen.
Soldering Copper Pipes
Many homes have copper pipes for plumbing systems. When you need to make repairs, you’ll have to solder the joints. Or perhaps you want to make a project or two using copper pipes. To connect two pieces of copper, clean both ends of the pipe with sandpaper and apply soldering flux to both ends. Next, gently heat the backside of the pipe until the flux starts to melt. Then rub the solder all the way around the joint. You’ll see the joint start to draw in the solder as you work. Once it’s cooled and hardened, your joint should be watertight.
Brazing Metals Together
Brazing is a way to join two pieces of metal without welding. You can also braze different types of metals to each other using this process. Brazing is great for jewelry repairs or lightweight ornamental metal work and repairs. Just heat the metals together at the joint, and use a brazing filler rod (like you would use a glue stick) on the hot metal to adhere them together.
A blowtorch is a great way to bend a piece of steel. Clamp the steel piece in a vise or on a strong non-flammable metal work surface. Heat the piece just beneath where you want your bend to start. You’ll need to get the piece of steel to a very high temperature so be patient. Make sure to wear gloves, and when the metal piece is glowing orange at the bend, use a pair of vise grips to bend it. Remember to allow the steel to cool completely before you handle it.
Shrink Tubing for Wires
If you’ve soldered two wires together and you need them to stay out of the elements, a shrink tubing is a great solution. Slide the shrink tubing over the wires before you solder them together, then cover the joint and use the heat from the torch to shrink the tubing. Don’t touch the flame to the wires, just use the hot air beyond the tip of the flame and watch as the tube shrinks around the wire. Once it's cooled off, your electrical connection will be watertight.
Remove Labels From Glass Bottles
Taking a label off a bottle can be a messy affair. If you have a torch around you can give the bottle a gentle heating and scorch the label off of the bottle. Remember to be gentle, the objective isn't to start a fire or melt the bottle. You just want to scorch the label and heat the label's glue. Allow the bottle to cool and the remaining remnants should come off easily with glass cleaner. It's never a good idea to use a torch on a bottle that's been painted. Painted bottles can be flammable and cause flare-ups when ignited.
Start a Charcoal Grill, Campfire or Firepit
If it’s a little cold and damp outside it can be tough to ignite your fire pit or grill. A blowtorch with an electric starter can give you a hot steady flame and make getting a fire started much easier. Prepare your fire or charcoal mound as you normally would. Then, aim the torch at the base and ignite. Hold the torch in one place steadily until the coals develop a white edge or the kindling ignites. Repeat the process on both sides of your fire until you’re satisfied it can take off on its own.
You can use a torch and a scorch marker to make some pyrographic art. Use a light-colored wood like poplar or pine and sand it until it’s smooth. Give it a wipe with a damp paper towel to remove any sawdust and then lightly sketch your design in pencil. Use your scorch marker to trace over your drawing and then ignite your torch. Using a back and forth motion gently heat your design until it burns in all the way.
Instant Hot Glue Gun
Sometimes you just need a quick dab of hot glue for a project. Use your torch to quickly heat the tip of a glue gun stick. Presto, instant glue stick! You can use as much or as little as you need and when you’re done, your glue stick will adhere to your torch tank for handy access later.