Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Using the Mechanical Gas Saver

I bought my first mechanical gas saver in January of 2004 based on the recommendation of a friend working in an industrial fabrication and forging shop. After seven years of use I can’t imagine using my oxy/acetylete cutting welding systems without them. My cost accounting suggests that my torch work is my most expensive (not to mention, dangerous) construction technique and unfortunately I use it quite a bit. It didn’t take me long to get compulsive about keeping connections tight, valves turned off whenever possible and gauge settings adjusted to the most effeceint gas use.

I watched Wendel Broussard in Lacrosse in July 2001 at the Grapevine Ironfest and in July 2004 at ABANA Lacrosse. The torch was hung at a convenient working height close the the gas saver pilot light. It was a “hands-free” operation. He could step down on the treadle which lifted the torch hanging of a lever arm which started the gas mixture flowing and as the torch tip passed by the pilot flame the heat was on. All Wendel had to do was turn and hold the workpiece in the hottest part of the flame. When the metal was at working heat he just lifted his foot off the treadle and turned to place the workpiece on the stake and hammer away as the torch flame shut off.

It was still a couple of years before I set up my gas saver and although I imagined I would construct a treadle operated system, that hasn’t happened yet. I simply don’t use my torch the same way that Wendel was using his setup.

I don’t need the “hands-free” part of the loop. I just lift the torch, light the flame on the pilot light, use the heat, hang up the torch and the flow of gas stops. Maybe not the most cool but still pretty cool and essentially equally cost effective.

I looked back at my photo file hoping to find an image of Wendel working as I have described but, naturally, I didn’t snap that image. I did find some examples of his expert work and I found an image of Jeff Mohr using the torch to heat an ash shovel blank just as I did it before I got a gas saver.

So, why did I think about this today? Well, it was a day of mechanical failures. First, the switch box fell off my power hammer. Next, the blade on the bandsaw got in a bind and slipped off. And finally, the gas saver pilot light reached the end of its’ life. These things alter the day schedule in an annoying way but they are just a part of doing business. That gas saver has indeed saved me a lot more that I paid for it so it was a no-brainer to order another. It is a WDW150, just for the record. I have another tip about using a hose clamp to make the flame adjustment easier - another thing to address later.

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