Cutting With Pure Oxygen

(Note – this short little article was one I originally wrote back in February of 2019 for my Facebook friends. Thought I would add it here for you all to enjoy – E)

So I learned yet another new thing today and I am nerding out about it!! 🙂

I work for my Dad’s welding business and he brought a large equipment pin to the office that he had burned out using only pure oxygen. Well, pure oxygen and a thermal lance. The lance forces pressurized oxygen through a long tube. One end is lit with a torch and once the oxygen starts burning, you apply it to the metal you want to cut and voila…molten metal in mere seconds.

Pretty cool! I never knew such things existed. I thought metal cutting options were limited to shears, torches, cutting wheels, plasma cutters and chop saws. Obviously, there is not a shortage of options…

But I digress!

Here’s a YouTube video about a much larger application of a thermal lance…cutting rolls. Scrap yards can’t usually take the rolls at the size they are, so they have to be cut into smaller pieces.

Cutting rolls with a thermal lance – YouTube

And yes, this is dangerous!
…which probably just excited a few of you adrenaline junkies. Welding/thermal lance cutting might just be the career you need.

Remember your chemistry class in school? Oxygen-rich environments are ripe grounds for explosive fire, if fuel is present and something like a spark sets it off. Of course, in the case of a thermal lance, the oxygen is being burned and safety measures are being followed to ensure that the cutting is done at a safe distance (hence the long lance part) – so the danger is lessened. But any time you work with pressurized gases, safety is key.

Which randomly reminds me of when I worked for the hospital and was setting up oxygen tanks and concentrators on patients who refused to give up smoking.

I was required to tell them that they could not smoke around the concentrator or while using oxygen tanks – I was required to tell them that smoking and oxygen were a dangerous combination. I was required to document if they were compliant or not. I was indeed an earnest advocate for them not accidentally dying by fiery trial.

But the patients would almost always roll their eyes and glaze over, nodding their head in agreement while taking a puff or two of their cigarette, for emphasis. I’m sure they had withstood lecture after lecture from their doctors and family or friends and were quite immune to the dictums of a recent college grad still wet behind the ears.

They sometimes said things like “Well, I’ve lived this long and I’ll be danged if I’m changing now” (that’s the toned-down, PG version, of course) or “If I’m gonna die anyway, I might as well go out with a bang”. Everything going up in super fast, super hot flames?? Eh, nothing to worry about here.

Reminds me vaguely of something Dickens once wrote about.


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