Photo: Peter Meretsky
A little heat burns right through some thorny home fix-up problems. At the low end, 200 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, heat softens old paint and putty. At the higher end, 400 to 800 degrees, it can thaw frozen locks and rusted nuts and solder electrical and plumbing connections. Still more firepower, up to 3,000 degrees, will braze metals (a stronger form of soldering that uses harder filler materials) and cut or weld iron and mild steel.

High heat for home use is created with electricity or by igniting a gas such as propane, MAPP (methylacetylene-propadiene), or acetylene, each of which burns hotter than the last. While these gases will burn on their own using the oxygen in the air, to generate the most heat they need to be burned together with pure oxygen from a separate tank.

The important thing is to match a tool�s heat output to the task at hand. A $245 oxy-acetylene torch can weld steel; it can also sweat copper pipes or caramelize cr�me br�l�e, but that would be overkill. For about $50 each, a handheld propane torch and an oxygen-fuel combo if you do a lot of fence or pipe repair should give you the heat you need in a manageable package.
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