…finally, FINALLY I’ve bonded with the new torch!!!  It took me several months, mega frustration (some tears) and lots of practice.  But over the past couple sessions i think i’ve finally found a comfort zone with the new Mega Minor and even stopped missing my HotHead.


I’ve now figured out the right combination of oxygen and propane required to produce the Mega’s best neutral, oxidizing and best of all the REDUCTION flame – most important for me since the latter is the flame i prefer for certain effects.  It’s only ever needed for a few seconds but ohhh the lovely shimmery effects those seconds produce…


I’ve even discovered the sweet spot so my stringer work is vastly improving.  The torch is hot, hot, HOT so i’m working fast and big without ever having to worry about a freezing tank or cooling flame.   I’ve only pushed the Mega to make 2″ beads so far but they were made so easily, I know 3″ and 4″ beads and sculptures are not far behind.


giving my cousin a quick lesson

I think i’ll be able to work with this torch for a good while:  it has nice hot flame but not so hot that it overmelts fine details.  It has great radiant heat so large beads don’t cool too quickly and all those stringers and shorts just under the torch stay warm and are less shocky.  It also makes a great pinpoint flame for when i only need to heat a small area of the bead.

All in all i can now finally say yes, i’m very, very, VERY happy with this new torch.  It’s incredibly sexy looking (i just LOVE the red), easy to use and seems really very well made.  A lot of other (some MUCH more expensive) torches were suggested to me but at this point in my development i think they would have been overkill.  I’m a big focal beadmaker (soft glass only) and so far the Mega Minor on one 5lpm concentrator was the perfect upgrade for me.


Sweet Mega Minor madness…

my view sitting at the torch...
my new view sitting at the torch…
I’ve been waffling for the past year or so regarding whether or not i really wanted to upgrade my torch – it’s expensive and meant I would have to invest in additional equipment and a proper ventilation system.  Then, a couple days before the November bead show the glass gods made that decision for me:  my Hothead died!  So, at the end of the show i bought the full oxy-propane setup from Nortel including a hot, new, red Mega Minor torch. On the way home we then stopped off at Canadian Tire to buy a 5lb bulk propane tank.  Woohooo!!  No more frozen tanks or piles of 1lb empties!
right side...

right side...

Now i love this new torch, i truly do but… one of the less than obvious problems of changing to a new torch is that you have to relearn… everything.  Yes, everything: flame chemistry, working areas, sweet spots, colour reactions, etc.   After 2.5 years with the Hothead, I was very comfortable with that torch and its quirks so even though it was slow (and noisy!) I could create just about any effect i wanted. 
left side...

left side...

With the Mega, i’m working about 3x faster (wow!),however, after practicing on and off since the beginning of December I’m still not fully able to replicate techniques i easily did on my trusty Hothead.  I fell in love with glass colours like turquoise, periwinkle, iris gold, furnace frits and one of the Reichenbach whites based on the beautiful variations they revealed in a reduction (low oxygen) flame.  So far, I can’t get any of those colours to do squat on the Mega.   Oh well, i guess I just have to keep practicing.  Now some people will think I’m crazy but to be honest, i really, really miss my Hothead – the noise, the easy setup and simplicity of it – not to mention its fantastic reduction flame. 


While the Hothead uses propane/air, the Mega is a propane/oxygen torch (it can also be used with natural gas).  Some people use refillable, tanked oxygen, I preferred the easier route of machine-made oxygen, hence my purchase of this 5lpm Devilbiss oxygen concentrator. 

These machines are used new in the health care industry, then refurbished and sold to the lampworking industry.  Best of all they provide a convenient, unlimited supply of pure oxygen to the torch and can be daisy-chained for more heat – saves me having to worry about hauling, refilling and chaining huge oxygen tanks. 

Paul & Leanne (Reids Beads, Ottawa) stopped by in December and helped me to set up the new equipment because despite reading the instruction sheets that came with the torch and concentrator, and calls to the manufacturer, I still wasn’t comfortable that i knew enough to set everything up correctly.  It’s good thing too, because once i watched Paul put everything into place, I realized i really didn’t know how all the various parts were supposed to be put together.  Whew!
what my worktable really looks like…

The Mega is a huge increase in heat and when that’s combined with the fact that i’m now able to torch for much longer periods of time, i’ve noticed a definite difference in how I feel after each torch session – enough to tell me my current studio setup is no longer effective.  I’ll have to upgrade my safety glasses to Aur-92s and install a proper ventilation system (in progress). 

In the meantime I still have a lot more practicing to get myself up to speed on this new torch: practice, practice (and then more) practice…

Decisions, decisions…

I’m thinking of upgrading to a bigger torch…

Now i love my trusty little Hothead but i think I’ve just about outgrown it.  I want to work cleaner, faster and BIGGER, and that means moving up to a surface mix-burner setup: torch, oxygen concentrator, larger propane tank.  Currently i use my trusty little HH with 1lb propane tanks – somewhat annoying but I’ve adapted quite well to the quirks associated with this choice. 

My beads are currently around 2″ and when i try to go much bigger it just takes forever to melt all that glass – it’s becoming frustrating.  I’ve had several recommendations to try a bulk tank (lots of bead makers do) but to be frank I’m not comfortable with the idea since this isn’t what this torch was originally designed for and brings about a whole set of other issues. 

Soooo, after extensive research, I’ve narrowed down my choices to these two torches.  They are both about equal as starter surface mix torches, each can work soda lime (soft) glass with either propane or natural gas and one 5LPM oxygen concentrator, and i have the option of moving to two concentrators for increased heat once i decide to work even bigger or try borosilicate (hard) glass.  Plus, they come in awesome colours (yippee!): 

Check out this awesome red Mega Minor from Nortel!  Yes, it’s a great soft glass torch.  Yes, it will work for the sculptural work i do, yes, it will grow with me… blah, blah, blah.  Have i mentioned this torch is a fantastically beautiful shiny, metallic red???

It’s so sexy – like a really hot shade of red lip gloss – makes me almost as excited as a great pair of shoes.  Almost.

This torch is made right here in Canada (Toronto) so that’s a huge selling point for me.  Nortel Manufacturing (not the telecommunications company that screwed up our retirement plans) is one of those typical Canadian success stories.  Their products are extremely well-known and respected all over the world and of course where did i hear about their torches? from outside of Canada first.

I also know a few bead makers who’ve bought the Mega and seem quite happy with what it can do.  I got the chance to briefly see it in action in Toronto at the Nortel factory (which is a drool-worthy place to visit if you love glass) but to be perfectly honest since I’ve never used a dual fuel torch before, i didn’t even know what the heck to do with it – i balled the tip of a rod in the flame so i do know it melts way faster than my HH… (duh?)

Now, i thought i had made my choice and then GTT came out with this baby:  a sparkly purple Cricketyes, it’s sparkly AND purple – a brand new torch that has tested comparably to the Mega and costs about the same.

Call me shallow, but when all things are technically equal I’ll generally lean toward aesthetics over utility.  My motto has always been “Have nothing in the house that is neither useful nor beautiful”.  Or studio.  And this sparkly purple torch sure is pretty. 

Seems both manufacturers have realized that their target market for the smaller torches suitable for glass bead making is mostly women.  So instead of the usual massive, ugly chunks of grey metal or loosely resembling a certain male body part, both torches are instead cute, sleek and downright sexy.  Have i mentioned my absolute favourite colour in the whole world is purple??  and especially sparkly purple? 

I need to choose my new setup soon, sooo: purple? or red? sweet, juicy, sparkly purple? or deep, luxurious, luscious red? Technically, they’re both on par soooo… which torch should i choose?

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

Glass Torch Technologies (GTT):

Nortel Manufacturing:

Hothead Source: