Acetylene is one of the most versatile gases for welding and related processes. We look at what it can do…

Few people realise just how versatile acetylene is as a fuel for welding, preheating and cutting metals.

What is acetylene?

Many people will know of, and use, acetylene because of its workshop capabilities.

It’s the hottest and most efficient of all fuel gases, with a heat transfer rate of 3160oC compared to propane’s 2828oC.

Why is it so versatile?

We like to refer to acetylene as the Swiss Army Knife of fuels – one fuel that can carry out a variety of processes on a wide range of materials.

If you have lots of applications and requirements it’s the gas for you.  One day you could be welding mild steel, the next it could be aluminium, copper or cast iron. And by simply changing the attachment on your torch you can quickly convert your process from welding to cutting or heating.

Doing this without acetylene would mean having to change the process, gas and equipment each time. And when you need to change to a different welding application, you would potentially need to buy a separate gas for the material in hand.

But with dissolved acetylene you can weld several different materials with a single torch, compared to other gases, which more than likely have limitations.

These include:

  • carbon steels
  • low-alloy steels
  • stainless steel
  • aluminium alloys
  • copper alloys
  • nickel alloys
  • cast iron

Provided you’re pairing with oxygen and have the correct filler materials and nozzles to hand, you can weld several different materials without much downtime.

Versatility also means affordability

Acetylene’s versatility also makes it a more affordable choice for tradesmen.

If you were using different gases for each material, you’d need different equipment and types of gases stored in your workshop – this has cost implications.

Buying a variety of cylinders means you have to spend time searching and selecting the new gas each time. You then have to find space to safely store the numerous cylinders.

If you’ve always got your oxygen and acetylene cylinders with the right torch, a selection of tips and the right filler materials, you’re pretty much set up for any occasion – no matter which customer walks through the door.

Switching between nozzles is straight forward and fast, so you can jump between jobs quickly without loss of time, and money.

You could be heating material to a red hot form so you can bend it; then decide you need to join this to another piece – and be doing so in a matter of minutes with little disruption.

Not just for welding

Acetylene is hotter than other gases, which means it not only welds, but also cuts and heats several materials. Other gases are often focused on welding one specific material and, unlike acetylene, can’t cut and heat them.

And when it runs out, you can easily order by visiting one of our BOC Gas & Gear stores, approved Agents or online at

See also: 5 reasons to use Acetylene

Phil Moreton,

Product Manager Fuel Gases