This is a Smith Little Torch. It may look small, but it's compact and powerful. This little guy has a ton of range and can be used for basic soldering and annealing along with heat big enough to cast over a troy ounce of silver. This "little" torch is amazing. I've used mine in the studio for just over 8 years now and I love it. I've tried others and just couldn't get over the power of this little buddy.
Let's go over the anatomy of this friend. As you can see in the photograph above, there are two knobs. This particular torch is for a propane & oxygen set up. The left, red knob is for the gas, in this case, propane. The right, green knob, is the oxygen knob. These knobs turn the gas on and off. This package comes equipped with a #5 torch tip which is probably the most often used. It's small enough to solder delicate items and still large enough to anneal a pretty hefty piece of copper, brass or silver. The red & green hoses correlate to the propane & oxygen knobs. The red connects to the propane canister and the green connects to the oxygen canister. You can see from the size of my hand, it's not very big which makes it easy to wield and versatile.
This setup is called the Portable Smith Little Torch. It runs about $250 and is well worth the investment. This particular set up comes with the torch, hoses and one-setting regulators for the disposable tanks you can buy at your local hardware store. All-in-all, with the additional purchase of the two tanks, it ran me about $275. Not a bad start. The propane tank is about $6 and the oxygen runs closer to $10. You'll likely run through 2-5 oxygen tanks for each tank of propane, but I have yet to test this theory.
If you were to buy the industrial tanks and regulators it would run you close to $600 for the torch, hoses, regulators and tanks. The one thing about this setup is that it is not intended for constant use. This is particularly handy for someone who doesn't solder a lot, but would like the option to use heat to create pieces.
The regulators are basically either on or off. You turn them on completely, light your torch and begin to solder. This has two advantages: 1.) you never really have to worry about whether or not it's set at the correct pressure, unless your tanks are getting low and 2.) you can quick-change these out to new tanks in just a couple of minutes, unlike the bigger, gauged regulators.
I love my Smith Little Torch so much, I purchased a few of these for group classes. This way each student has the same power capabilities and can learn on a consistent, accurate torch system instead of trying to fiddle with an unreliable creme brûlée torch. One thing not shown in these pictures is the wire stand. Each package comes with a wire stand to hold the torches to keep them from tipping and is pretty handy for group settings.
So, my opinion, these are the best bang for your buck if you're just starting out. Plus, once you buy this setup and begin using it, you may decide you want to solder a lot more. And, if that's the case, you'll only need to invest in the bigger, gauged regulators and start an exchange for tanks at your local welding supply house. It's great for beginners and can easily be upgraded for the bigger tanks and more soldering time.
NOTE: The disposable tanks must be disposed of properly when they are empty. I recommend contacting your city or county waste department to find out the appropriate process for discarding these tanks. DO NOT just toss them in the normal garbage bin.
So... what do you think? I'd love to hear if you have any questions or experience with this setup. So far, I haven't really found any reason to dislike this option, but then again, I am a bit biased with my love for the Smith products.