Oxy-acetylene Cutting

Cutting ferrous metals by the oxy-acetylene process is primarily the rapid burning or oxidizing of the metal in a localized area. This is a quick and inexpensive way to cut iron and steel where a finished edge is not required.

Figure shows an example of a cutting torch. It has the conventional oxygen and acetylene valves in the torch handle that control the flow of the two gases to the cutting head. It also has an oxygen valve below the oxygen lever on the cutting head so that a finer adjustment of the flame can be obtained.

Oxy-acetylene Cutting
Cutting torch with additional tools

The size of the cutting tip is determined by the thickness of the metal to be cut. Set the regulators to the recommended working pressures for the cutting torch based on the tip size selected. Before beginning any cutting operation, the area should be clear of all combustible material and the proper protective equipment should be worn by personnel engaged in the cutting operation.

The flame for the torch in Figure is set by first closing the oxygen valve below the cutting lever and fully opening the oxygen valve on the handle. (This supplies the high-pressure oxygen blast when the cutting lever is actuated.) The acetylene valve on the handle is then opened and the torch is lit with a striker. The acetylene flame is increased until the black soot is gone. Then, open the oxygen valve below the cutting lever and adjust the flame to neutral. If more heat is needed, open the valves to add more acetylene and oxygen. Actuate the cutting lever and readjust the preheat flame to neutral if necessary.

The metal is heated to a bright red color (1,400 °F–1,600 °F, which is the kindling or ignition temperature) by the preheat orifices in the tip of the cutting torch. Then, a jet of high-pressure oxygen is directed against it by pressing the oxygen lever on the torch. This oxygen blast combines with the red-hot metal and forms an intensely hot molten oxide that is blown down the sides of the cut. As the torch is moved along the intended cut line, this action continues heating the metal in its path to the kindling temperature. The metal, thus heated, also burns to an oxide that is blown away to the underside of the piece.

Proper instruction and practice provides the knowledge and skill to become proficient in the technique needed to cut with a torch. Hold the torch in either hand, whichever is most comfortable. Use the thumb of that hand to operate the oxygen cutting lever. Use the other hand to rest the torch on and steady it along the cut line.

Begin at the edge of the metal and hold the tip perpendicular to the surface, preheating until the spot turns bright red. Lightly depress the cutting lever to allow a shower of sparks and molten metal to blow through the cut. Fully depress the cutting lever and move the torch slowly in the direction of the intended cut.

Practice and experience allow the technician to learn how to judge the speed at which to move the torch. It should be just fast enough to allow the cut to penetrate completely without excessive melting around the cut. If the torch is moved too fast, the metal will not be preheated enough, and the cutting action stops. If this happens, release the cutting lever, preheat the cut to bright red, depress the lever, and continue with the cut.

Shutting Down the Gas Welding Equipment

Shutting down the welding equipment is fairly simple when some basic steps are followed:
  • Turn off the flame by closing the acetylene valve on the torch first. This shuts the flame off quickly. Then, close the oxygen valve on the torch handle. Also, close oxygen valve on cutting torch, if applicable.
  • If the equipment is not used in the immediate future (approximately the next 30 minutes), the valves on the acetylene and oxygen cylinders should be closed and pressure relieved from the hoses.
  • In a well-ventilated area, open the acetylene valve on the torch and allow the gas to escape to the outside atmosphere, and then close the valve.
  • Open the oxygen valve on the torch, allow the gas to escape, and then close the valve.
  • Close both the acetylene and oxygen regulators by backing out the adjusting screw counterclockwise until loose.
  • Carefully coil the hose to prevent kinking and store it to prevent damage to the torch and tip.

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