Thursday, March 4, 2010

Big Match

Pictured above, lying in the snow, is what I call my big match. If you want to be technical it's a Bernzomatic piezoelectric start propane torch. As you can see it's mated to a regular Coleman fuel propane bottle. It came with a slightly taller and slimmer bottle. After the original bottle was used up; it's been nothing but the regular one pound propane cylinders available just about anywhere. The Coleman cylinders, or their generic equivalent, are cheaper than the cylinders found in the plumbing supply section. It's the same stuff inside.

The beauty of this beast is its ease of use. Just screw the torch on a propane bottle, open the red fuel valve all the way, then squeeze the trigger. Bingo! You suddenly have several inches of seriously hot flame. If the flame is a bit too much, turn the red valve back until the flame is smaller. To turn it off, keep turning until the flame goes out and the knob is shut. Finger tight is fine. Too tight could damage the valve.

Hardware stores keep these torches in the plumbing supply section. Walmart and big box building supply places usually have them too. There usually is a much cheaper torch in the same section. The big difference is the lack of a piezoelectric start button. The cheap torch starts using a sparking device. It's worth spending the extra money to get push button convenience.

I use mine almost every day. It's the perfect thing to start a woodstove with. It's great for campfires, especially if the wood is a bit damp. Sometimes I use mine to start charcoal without starting fluid. It takes a few minutes of applied flame, but it gets the job done. If canoe or car camping, this baby comes along.

Once my camp stove failed and I used the torch to make coffee. I set the coffee pot on top of a few stones and directed the torch flame to the bottom of the pot. While it does a great job heating water, I don't really recommend it for use with a cast iron frying pan. The heat is intense, but in a relatively small area. The uneven heating split a cast iron frying pan in two. Live and learn, I guess.

One more thing, it's possible to use this torch for what it was actually designed for. There's a reason it's in the plumbing supply section. Plumbers use it to "sweat" copper pipe together using solder. I've used it for that, but maybe less than 1% of the times it's used.

There are other brands, and they all seem to work well enough. I'd avoid buying the torches that only use special gases like MAPP gas. While the specialty gases are hotter, it defeats the cost savings and availability of Coleman cylinders.

Have fun, and please please please don't burn your house down.