Oxyacetylene cutting, when used properly, is no more dangerous than driving a car with 30 gallons of gas in the tank. But when used recklessly, it’s basically a flamethrower. So in the dear, sweet name of safety, we’re going to teach you how not to die and/or blow up while oxyacetylene cutting.
So how does oxyacetylene cutting work?
The “oxy” in oxyacetylene means oxidation. When oxidation happens slowly, it’s called rusting. But when it happens quickly, it’s called combustion or burning. The oxyacetylene cutting method oxidizes the metal super fast, which means the metal is not melting, but actually burning as you’re cutting. Acetylene gas is used because it produces the highest temperature of all flame gases (a scorching 5720°F compared to a max temperature of 5122°F with propane). The hotter the flame, the faster the piercing speed and the more time you save as a welder.
Obviously 5720°F will tear up the human body pretty quick. Oxyacetylene accidents are serious issues and can be avoided by following a few important techniques:
Keep your cylinder upright
An oxyacetylene cylinder is hollow and saturated with liquid acetone to keep the acetylene gases stable under pressure. Always keep your cylinder upright and secure so it doesn’t tip over. If the cylinder is tipped, the acetone can leak into the valve and make the cylinder unstable. This can be a major explosive hazard. Also, if the valve is knocked off while on its side at full pressure, the cylinder will basically become a deadly flying missile propelled by compressed gas, capable of breaking through brick walls. If your acetylene cylinder has tipped, you should place it upright for twice as long as it was lying down before you use it.
Performing a leak test on your equipment on a regular basis is a really good idea. Apply a leak detection solution to the valve, hose, regulator and torch connections and look for bubbles. If there’s a leak, it’s best to get it fixed immediately. When fixing a hose, use fittings made of bronze or brass. Don’t use copper fittings! This will create copper acetylide, which again, may explode.
Flashback and Backfire
Flashback is when the flame disappears from the end of the welding tip and gas burns within the torch or beyond into the hoses and regulators. Flashback can also occur when the gases are allowed to mix somewhere other than in the mixing chamber. Backfire is a loud cracking or popping sound caused when the gases inside of the nozzle become ignited and then extinguished themselves. One way to prevent flashback or backfire is to make sure your equipment has a non-return valve, which will detect and stop reverse gas flow. Another must-have device is the flashback arrestor, designed to prevent flames from reaching the regulator. Some other ways to prevent flashback or backfire include keeping the pressure below 15 pounds, purging your hoses before lighting the torch and installing your check valves properly.
Don’t be scared, be safe
There’s no reason to be scared of oxyacetylene cutting. Millions of people use this method every single day without exploding. Just remember to follow these tips and use functioning, reliable equipment. If you’re looking for some oxyacetylene gear you can trust, we stock the most dependable brands in the business. Click the button
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