Product Review: Miniflam EZ-PBT (updated 11/28/2011)
© Jeffrey Herman

 

My new Miniflam torch is parked to the right of my two natural gas/compressed air torches and silversmith's acetylene/air torch.

Miniflam EZ-PBT (Portable Bench Torch) is a high-temperature, pin-point torch used for brazing, soldering, melting, welding, and wax working, among other tasks. Miniflam is unique in many ways:

1. It's safer. Most high-temperature systems contain high-pressure gas and oxygen cylinders. The low-volume gas and oxygen canisters of the Miniflam can be safely removed and reattached to the valve assembly at will, and there's no pressure in the hoses. If you accidently puncture or drop the oxygen canister, it won't explode. This is a very important consideration if you intend on using a torch in an apartment or other structure with regulations restricting the use of high-pressure oxygen. There are no hazmat shipping charges for either gas or oxygen, and no special handling required when transporting your torch to a show in a vehicle. The Miniflam system has three available pen holders: wire and weighted bench-top stands and a clamp-on version. I would recommend the clamp-on for additional safety. If you should accidentally pull on the torch hose, the clamp will keep the pen from falling to the floor.

2. It's light-weight. The entire basic setup, which includes the torch (pen) handle, valve assembly, one fuel and one oxygen canister, hose, and clamp-on pen holder, weighs less than 1.5 pounds. This makes for easy transport of the system if you're looking to make jewelry at a show, or for student use to and from school. Another plus is that the system can operate at any angle.

3. It's hot. The butane/propane mixture is very clean and can produce temperatures between 3000 - 5000 degrees F. The torch "needles" are offered in six orifice sizes, ranging from .012" - .053".

4. The handle (pen). This aluminum barrel has been made lighter since the gas and oxygen valves are on located on the valve assembly, clamped next to you to the bench. This pen allows for all-day use without fatigue. Model makers will appreciate this feature since they're most likely using this type of stylus with their waxer. With the proper gas/oxygen mixture, the torch will also give you a soft flame for wax working.

5. Flexibility. The Miniflam system I used had one gas and one oxygen canister - both refillable by the manufacturer.

Note: the Oxygen is refillable by Miniflam USA. The S II Rechargeable canister replaces the GP40 vapor gas. It recharges with Miniflam 223 Gram Gas.

The third option utilizes optional gas and oxygen adaptors if you choose to use the Miniflam with high-pressure oxygen and acetylene tanks and regulators. With the Miniflam system, no regulators are required.

Note: Miniflam have check valves which are set at 1 bar (14.75 psi). The EZ-PBT should not be used with acelylene tanks since acetylene may become unstable at pressures over 15 psi.

Examples of pieces I've worked on

• Below is a sterling cruet top. The center hinge knuckle had detached from its hinge assemble. I first used my pulse arc welder to tack the knuckle in place, then used Miniflam's 17/10 tip and easy silver solder to fully secure the knuckle in place.

• Plated white metal bell: Because of its size, the Miniflam was the perfect torch to repair the leg of a figurative finial that had lost part of its leg. Using the smallest tip, I was able to reconstruct it with lead solder while not worrying about melting the rest of the leg. Though this torch can throw a small, high-temperature flame, it can also be "dialed back" to a softer flame when necessary, as was the case for this job.

• Sterling ball chain: This chain was made of .040" diameter hollow balls with very fine wire between each ball. I was able to braze the ball back onto the clasp without altering the color of the next ball.

• Sterling hair brush: I had to braze a crack where the brush handle and back met. This is normally a very tediuos job using my small universal torch with the smallest tip. The small tip and higher temperature of the Miniflam allowed me to concentrate the flame on the split without the usual resulting clean-up and repatination.

• Below is a plated white metal baby cup that needed the lower part of it's handle reattached to the body. Here, I used a soft flame and brushed it back and forth over the connection point, gently melting the solder with a 8/10 tip. This minute flame allowed me to heat a smaller area of the cup and be much more precise than with a larger torch. Though the Miniflam is known for it's high heat output, the unit can also be dialed down to handle the most heat-sensitive metals.

 

The verdict

There are other torches on the market that have the same functionality as Miniflam. If you're using the larger needles, you'll go through their refillable oxygen canisters rather quickly, so you may want to purchase 24 at a time. After you go through the first 12, send them back to the company which offers free refills for two years; only pay shipping and handling (under $9). The second set of twelve you purchased will come into use as your original 12 are being refilled. A new gas canister runs under $15. Individual oxygen canister refills run $1.50 each. NOTE: For economy, I would recommend purchasing the optional refillable gas canister and the large gas refill.

This is a great system if you're concerned about safety and like the idea of portability. Metalsmiths creating holloware won't find this torch of much use since the btu output doesn't come close to that of a high-pressure oxy-acetylene set-up. Production jewelers not concerned about torch portability and are practicing their craft in a building zoned to house high-pressure tanks are advised to go with those tanks to save money. Beaders, who may be working from their home and/or require the use of a torch when soldering the occasional finding or clasp, will find the low-volume canisters especially useful.

For system pricing and accessories, contact Miniflam USA:

Jean-Luc Ponsart
Miniflam USA Inc.
PO Box 133
Glen Echo, MD 20812
800/232-3370, Fax: 888/249-3986
info@miniflam.com
http://ez-pbt.com/

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