Monday, May 9, 2011

Should I light my torch with a disposable lighter?

This is a striker. It is the first tool people need to learn how to use before they can begin silver soldering. It's pretty basic. You squeeze the  wire handle and a flint is scraped across a file like metal surface causing sparks within the cup. It's possible to adjust the tensioning of the grip so that it reguires very litle hand strength to opperate it. It also has replaceable flints available for it. New ones of these are priced between $2.00 and $10.00. Every other garage sale will have at least one for sale. They are so available that rather than buying a package of flints, that I'll never be able to find. I collect strikers. I found four of them in my tool cabinet. I know there are a couple at the jewelers bench. There is another at the casting bench. Many welder will wear one from a clip on their belts. There is a hook to the left of my bench pin that holds my striker. I've used it every day for years. I don't have to look for it to find it. I don't have to look at it to use it. I don't have to look at it to put it back. It has become a tool of habit. It is an extreemly safe tool. Necessary.
This is a cigarette lighter!  In fact this is a very cheap lighter. You may feel free to take the meaning of cheap in the previous sentence to mean poorly and quickly manufactured. I am an old school jeweler. My instructors would wrap me upside the head if they caught me using this at the bench to light my torch. I follow this old established method of teaching. You signed the waver!
   There is an urban legend about these disposable lighters. It seems, the story goes, that railroad welders would carry these to light their torches. Sparks from the welding would ignite the lighters. As I heard the legond they explode with the force of a stick of dynamite. Workers were killed and or severely burned. I did a little bit of research on the legend. Seems that there is no proof this ever happened. There was proof that the lighter manufactures would settle out of court and require silence about the matter as part of the settlement.
I have dropped these and had them explode. I have seen them spontaneously ignite on the dashboard of a hot car. The ones I have had explode created a rather nice bang and a small fire ball. I suspect that the legend was created to scare the beginner into using the correct tool. This might be a better teaching method. My teachers did not however believe in this teaching method.
    There are better disposable lighters on the market...They are still cheap, still plastic. There are very expensive butane lighters on the market. There are other fuel lighters available. I don't want any unexpected fires at the bench. Use a striker.
   There are nice tabletop automatic igniters on the market. They are battery operated spark producers. They will run in cost from about $25.00 to $45.00. They are an alternative. Frankly I'd rather have an ounce of silver. But that's up to you. I don't want anything else that requires 2 AA batteries. I suspect I have some of them some where. Perhaps the replacement flints to my strikers are in the same drawer.Get a striker and get good at using it. Enjoy


  1. It is always amazing to me when a metalsmith can't figure out what that thing is...great reminder.


  2. I have sawn the bottom off the bottom of the cigarette lighter, emptied out the petrol and used just the flint. Seems a better use for them ... what ARE cigarettes?

  3. We do the things we need to do. Mother being the necessity of invention and all that. Removing the fuel from one of the plastic lighters makes them just a sparkle maker. No risk of explosion. The actual striker has a couple of other features. Fingers are at a safe distance from the torch flame and the cup of the striker makes lighting the gas of the torch easier. I've done the sawed up lighter trick, too. I'll tell you the flints are pretty darn small on the plastic lighters. The approach represents a short term solution to a reoccurring situation.

  4. I see so many people using a lighter, and sometimes I do it myself, and each time I do, I think, "Fool!" Because really bad things can happen.

    Thanks for the post- I'd recommend a title that comes up on an Internet Search, like, "Should I light my torch with a disposable lighter?"

    That way people who are trying to find out if it's really actually a bad idea can find this and read it.

  5. Kate, That was such a wonderful Idea I did change the title. The SEO approach is always a good idea. Thank you