Plasma Cutting

Comparing Propane vs. Acetylene for Cutting Metal

Comparing Propane vs. Acetylene for Cutting Metal

Every welding shop needs an effective way to cut metal, and a simple torch cutting set up is an ideal option for many. Torch kits are more affordable than a plasma cutter and also provide the option of pre-heating metal before starting a welding project, an especially important step when you’re working with thick metal.

There are two popular options for torch cutting fuels: acetylene and propane. They both have reputations that may not necessarily hold true, especially under certain circumstances. Let’s take a brief look at a comparison between these two widely used cutting fuels.

Comparing the Effectiveness of Cutting Fuels

As is the case with any comparison, there are very different experiences and opinions, but in the case of comparing acetylene and propane as cutting fuels, there’s no denying that both can effectively cut a lot of metal of various thicknesses. If you take the time to pick up the right equipment for your propane set up and cut with the edge of the flame (rather than toward the center, which is common with acetylene), you’ll be able to cut without any trouble.

When you talk to metal workers and welders, you’ll find that many shops and scrap yards use propane in addition to many hobby welders and metal workers. By learning a slightly different technique and picking up the right torch tips, hoses, and regulars, you’ll be able to start cutting without too much of a difference compared to acetylene.

It’s true that acetylene burns hotter and can pre-heat metal faster. But with the right torch tips and technique, you’ll find that propane can burn quite hot. Some torch users have even found that they could rival the heat output of acetylene under certain conditions. If you’d like to have the option of welding with your torch set up, then you should consider an acetylene set up.

Comparing the Equipment for Cutting Fuels

Propane and acetylene have different torch tips that change how the flame is concentrated. In fact, if you meet a metal worker who is convinced that propane is ineffective, it may be worth asking if he’s used a propane tip with his torch set up!

You’ll also need a grade T hose for working with propane, while an R-grade hose for acetylene will deteriorate much faster if you run propane through it. Don’t forget to look into getting a proper propane fuel regulator as well.

Additives for Cutting Fuels

HGX is an additive for propane that helps increase the cutting temperature to a reliable 5400 degrees F. HGX linked up with propane uses significantly less oxygen than acetylene, making it a highly efficient and cost-effective option for cutting metal that doesn’t burn much less hotter than acetylene.

Comparing the Cost of Cutting Fuels

While workers who cut metal sparingly won’t necessarily have to worry too much about which cutting torch set up they use, many shops and hobby metal workers swear by propane as a cutting fuel. Propane is easy to find at any hardware store and generally costs a lot less than acetylene.

Most welders and metal workers won’t need the extra kick that acetylene provides, and once they get used to the proper technique for cutting with propane, they may even end up preferring it.

Comparing the Safety of Cutting Fuels

Acetylene has often made the news over explosions at workshops and manufacturing plants. There’s no secret that all cutting fuels require safe handling, but acetylene is especially volatile. If you’re in need of a cutting set up for your home and you’re already used to storing a cylinder of propane for your grill, you may want to stick with propane just to be on the safe side.

Ed Cyzewski

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