I have had my trusty little Hot Head torch on bulk propane setup for just over a year now. It has done everything that I have ever asked of it (less for a bit of the Double Helix, TAG and Reichenbach Iris colours - oh and Reichenbach Magic). It has, in all honesty, taken a while to melt some of the glasses into beads and also to get enough glass onto your mandrel to make a large bead. I have access to a Bavarian Beads 3d Heart Press which makes a bead 1.4 inches across and it takes nearly 40 mins just to get enough glass on to the mandrel so that it presses a full shape! It is during moments just such as those that I wished that could upgrade to a big girl's torch, i.e a dual fuel torch run on propane and oxygen supplied either from a cylinder or, more safely and economically, from an old medical oxygen concentrator (oxycon). The basic setup of a dual fuel torch including an oxycon works out at about £500. I figured that one day I would upgrade only either if I sold enough beads or I had a windfall of some description. So I plodded on merrily with my Hot Head.
I was fortunate enough to have what one might call a bit of a windfall and after the essentials had been dealt with I did find myself a little flush in the wallet area so I went shopping. I had decided last weekend that I would use this opportunity to upgrade and so I began to discuss my torch options with other users and did some research. I was pretty sure that i did not want to buy a Nortel Minor - a lot of folk have them and they are very good - but i wanted to not limit myself to melting soft glass as I quite fancy a foray into Boroscilicate in the future. Nortel produce several torches in their range beyond a Minor, and the Mega Minor is capable of melting boro (some minor users can work in small scale boro by adding a second oxycon), but again I wasn't overly convinced by it.
By my very nature I am both a girl and a magpie. Therefore I like pretty shiny things. And torches don't get much prettier and shinier than the GTT Cricket and Bobcat. The Cricket is small and neat and great for 104 coe soft glass but is not designed to work at a high heat for boro. So that leaves me with its big brother and that is the Bobcat. It is great for soft glass and can work at a high enough heat and pressure to handle boro. There is another bigger one in the range and that is the Lynx but they are like finding hens teeth on the moon unless you live in America and can do a triple layout somersault whilst juggling pickled onions... you get the picture.
So I have been out on a sopping spree and upgraded to an all-singing Bobcat oxycon setup. The torch itself is a kind of metallic magenta-purple and silver. And it is sooooooooooooo pretty. And it's silent. Oh how noisy was my HH by comparison? Words cannot describe the weird peace in which I can now melt glass! No longer do i have to sit deafened by the roar (the HH is so noisy as it sucks oxygen from the air around it through tiny holes around its nozzle). So today I have hooked it all up and turned it on. Not only is it quiet but it is a veritable flamethrower when you first light it - you certainly have to be far more delicate in your operation of the knobs than on the HH, and even the Minor. And obviously once it was lit I just had to have a go at some beads. I found it to be at least twice as fast as my HH in melting glass (I only just managed to prevent glass glooping straight off the rod or mandrel on more than one occassion) and just really nice and easy to use. I tested the speed of it on a large heart shaped bead, probably about 1" accross, and it took no more than 10 minutes to load the mandrel with enough glass to fill the mold and in that time I also managed to decorate it.
I think I'm going to enjoy my Bobcat - he's been christened Beeblebrox as the oxycon is called Zaphod. and for those of you more into the idea that a bocat is a kind of fluffy spotty mountain lion - yes you are right but I bet ones that look like this are crap for making beads with....