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Old 06-21-10, 05:50 AM   #1
Airburst
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Gas suppliers in UK

I've been practicing brazing on and off with the gear in the workshop at my school, but I've decided I should probably buy my own equipment if I'm actually going to build frames, as I'm leaving school at the end of next year, and I'd like to be able to keep going with framebuilding. The problem I've been having is finding suppliers for the gases. I looked at BOC's site, which is where my school gets them, but BOC seem to charge for rental of the cylinders. Is there anywhere I can actually buy the cylinders, and just get them refilled when they run out? Ideally somewhere in the Reading area, which is where I live.

Also, I'll be doing fillet-brazing, probably using regular brass. Do I have to use oxy-acetylene, or would I be able to get away with oxy-propane or something?

Thanks in advance
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Old 06-22-10, 02:40 AM   #2
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The compressed gasses storage regulations in this country tend to make life difficult for people to store compressed gasses without being treated basically as a perpetual explosion hazard. Linde-BOC won't sell you gas bottles because then you own it and they aren't entitled to inspect it for corrosion, signs of potential failure, etc. If you rent the bottle from them, they provied all that as a service when you require a fill-up, and can replace the container as and when it's needed.

Essentially, they can't/won't trespass on your property to ensure you aren't going to blow yourself up unless they own the object. Then it's not trespass. Somehow.

Diver's tankers are the exception to that rule, for reasons I can't fathom (no pun intended), but essentially because you are meant to have insurance for them or such, which somehow is meant to miraculously prevent them from being a dangerous container.

Welcome to UK legislation. Please leave reasoning at the door.
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Old 06-22-10, 10:33 PM   #3
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"Linde-BOC won't sell you gas bottles because then you own it and they aren't entitled to inspect it for corrosion, signs of potential failure, etc. If you rent the bottle from them, they provied all that as a service when you require a fill-up, and can replace the container as and when it's needed."


The way that works around here is that they sell the bottles but they don't refill them, they just swap them, so there isn't a bottle with your name on it. This insures all the bottles are equally dubious. Some other places will sell and refill one's own bottles. I deal with BOC so there must be some wrinkle in the UK that we don't have yet. As the "owner" of the bottle, I don't trust them much. It is my kids and neighbours who are being put at risk because I can't control for quality through the simple gambit of buying new and taking care of it. Not dising BOC who have been pretty good to deal with, but the bottle I get do not look all that new to me...
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Old 06-22-10, 10:34 PM   #4
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By the way, this could take one back to the other thread on propane and O2 generators. Can one get a propane BBQ canister easily enough in the UK, can one get an O2 generator from the dead hands of the dearly departed at a reasonable price? If so, Bob's your uncle.
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Old 06-23-10, 02:06 AM   #5
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By the way, this could take one back to the other thread on propane and O2 generators. Can one get a propane BBQ canister easily enough in the UK, can one get an O2 generator from the dead hands of the dearly departed at a reasonable price? If so, Bob's your uncle.
I searched for "propane" and "O2 generator" on the site, but couldn't find the thread. How do I get to it? The idea certainly sounds like it might work.
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Old 06-23-10, 05:50 AM   #6
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The way that works around here is that they sell the bottles but they don't refill them, they just swap them, so there isn't a bottle with your name on it. This insures all the bottles are equally dubious. Some other places will sell and refill one's own bottles. I deal with BOC so there must be some wrinkle in the UK that we don't have yet. As the "owner" of the bottle, I don't trust them much. It is my kids and neighbours who are being put at risk because I can't control for quality through the simple gambit of buying new and taking care of it. Not dising BOC who have been pretty good to deal with, but the bottle I get do not look all that new to me...
The international standard tests those things go through to be deemed pressure-safe are intense. It may look scratched and rusty, but that's one of the strongest things you'll ever see. The brass regulator fittings on the other hand, well....

Suffice to say, the UK makes it very difficult to own anything potentially explosive. Consider it a throwback to a time when our Police *were* competent in dealing with an actual terrorist organisation, not a media-created one, for well over fifty years. Although I could have just ended that senstence after wthe word 'competent'.


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By the way, this could take one back to the other thread on propane and O2 generators. Can one get a propane BBQ canister easily enough in the UK, can one get an O2 generator from the dead hands of the dearly departed at a reasonable price? If so, Bob's your uncle.
Propane canisters for home plumbing? No porblem. But oxygen generators for the old and infirm are on a loan basis. They're returned to the company on notice of death. My nan had one until she passed away, and those vultures were round like a shot after to reclaim their expensive kit. There aren't many on the private sector market over here.
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Old 06-23-10, 07:00 AM   #7
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Airburst, If you go over to the framebuilders list archives <http://search.bikelist.org/> and type in “propane” in the search string you will find a lot of information about using propane instead of acetylene. It is a decent option. We have a little frame shop outside of Kiev, Ukraine where we make bicycles for pastors and we use propane there because of the convenience of getting it. The short version of the difference is that it requires a little bigger tip and has a bit cooler flame. It is also a little harder to light and adjust and makes more noise.

By the way when I was searching around England looking for a place to apprentice in the 70’s (this was before anyone except Albert Eisentraut knew much about what they were doing over here in the States) I often stayed in the dorm at Newbold College in Binfield near Bracknell, a short distance away from you in Reading.
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Old 06-23-10, 07:38 AM   #8
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By the way when I was searching around England looking for a place to apprentice in the 70’s (this was before anyone except Albert Eisentraut knew much about what they were doing over here in the States) I often stayed in the dorm at Newbold College in Binfield near Bracknell, a short distance away from you in Reading.
Did you manage to find anyone to apprentice with around here? I do recall hearing about a framebuilder of some note who used to live in the area, but I can't remember his name.

@Falanx, Would a big BBQ propane bottle be OK in terms of fittings?
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Old 06-23-10, 11:19 AM   #9
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Did you manage to find anyone to apprentice with around here? I do recall hearing about a framebuilder of some note who used to live in the area, but I can't remember his name.
Mostly I visited framebuilders in the London area. The only framebuilder I can remember in Berkshire was Dave Russell in Slough. There are so many nice places in England but Slough is certainly not one of them. He was a kind of retail wheeler dealer with a lot of knowledge and died a few years ago. I think he did it as a kind of part time thing to fill in the spare moments when customers weren’t in his shop. He sold frames with his name that were made by other builders too. He liked to have big Russell decals (transfers to you) everywhere on his frame so that they could be seen in a photograph taken at any possible angle or distance. I looked up in my old address book and found no other builders that I knew about in your area except him.

I apprenticed at Ellis Briggs up north in West Yorkshire. They are still in business. At that time it was the best possible place for me to learn (and also see how painting was done). The whole framebuilding scene in both America and the UK has completely changed since the 70’s. But that is a whole other subject thread.

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Old 06-23-10, 01:09 PM   #10
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The international standard tests those things go through to be deemed pressure-safe are intense. It may look scratched and rusty, but that's one of the strongest things you'll ever see. The brass regulator fittings on the other hand, well....
My last (or maybe last but one or two, I dunno) oxygen cylinder was made in 1910. It had UK certification markings from the 20s, and then had made its way to Germany, where it acquired Nazi proof marks, and then was taken by Americans, stamped with american numbers, and tested every five years or so. It was substantially heavier than modern tank, but is likely to be around, dispensing oxygen, for another couple centuries.

the prohibitions on private ownership are to protect the gas company's profits, nothing to do with safety. People that are going to do stupid things with a tank are going to do stupid things to tank whether they own it or rent it. That's why there are periodic hydro testing requirements, and inspections at every fill. That should catch the morons who destroy valves.
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Old 06-23-10, 01:36 PM   #11
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Did you manage to find anyone to apprentice with around here? I do recall hearing about a framebuilder of some note who used to live in the area, but I can't remember his name.
I'd be happy to take Doug on as an apprentice anytime he wishes.
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Old 06-23-10, 08:25 PM   #12
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Try this one it drifts into the dark arts, but wouldn't show up in a search too easily:

http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...-Acetylene-Air

Falanx, I hear you, but I do wonder whether such a tank is safer than a brand new one.
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Old 06-24-10, 03:32 AM   #13
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the prohibitions on private ownership are to protect the gas company's profits, nothing to do with safety. People that are going to do stupid things with a tank are going to do stupid things to tank whether they own it or rent it. That's why there are periodic hydro testing requirements, and inspections at every fill. That should catch the morons who destroy valves.
Are you suggesting -shock, horror- that a large multinationals have lobbied government to ensure that the huge backhanders and massive taxes they pay to same are maintained? Oh, the cynical humanity ;-)

Of course idiots are going to to silly things with tanks. There's nothing you can do to stop that. But there's nothing like legislating that a body has right of trespass to make sure these things are detected... We're th ehomne of knee-jerk legislation, but can you imagine how many loud bangs that devastae a cul-de-sac would be required to ensure that legislation had come in nonetheless? Not many, I'd wager.
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Old 06-24-10, 03:33 AM   #14
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Falanx, I hear you, but I do wonder whether such a tank is safer than a brand new one.
No, no, of course not. The safest option would be a pristine tank, absolutely. But the margins we're talking here are pretty slim :-)
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Old 06-24-10, 10:28 AM   #15
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Are you suggesting -shock, horror- that a large multinationals have lobbied government to ensure that the huge backhanders and massive taxes they pay to same are maintained? Oh, the cynical humanity ;-)

Of course idiots are going to to silly things with tanks. There's nothing you can do to stop that. But there's nothing like legislating that a body has right of trespass to make sure these things are detected... We're th ehomne of knee-jerk legislation, but can you imagine how many loud bangs that devastae a cul-de-sac would be required to ensure that legislation had come in nonetheless? Not many, I'd wager.
What, the gas companies actually send people out to watch you not beat the tank valve with a hammer? 24 hours a day, 365 days a year?
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Old 06-25-10, 05:15 AM   #16
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No, I meant louder, sharper, much more *final* bangs than that ;-)
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Old 06-27-10, 06:16 PM   #17
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No, I meant louder, sharper, much more *final* bangs than that ;-)
And remarkably, I've never even heard of such an accident in the US, happening in a home/farm/hobby shop, of which there are many. (I rode past two garage sales with oxy-acetylene tanks on carts last weekend, on a ~30 mile ride.) I've heard of it happening in industrial and university settings. I know people who've set themselves on fire with a torch (I've only managed to set myself on fire while stick welding), any number of people who've set something on fire, but not even any stories of someone who's blown up a tank. It just doesn't happen. Any decision not to sell things has nothing to do with safety, but is entirely driven by monopolistic rent seeking.
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Old 06-27-10, 06:21 PM   #18
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And remarkably, I've never even heard of such an accident in the US, happening in a home/farm/hobby shop, of which there are many. (I rode past two garage sales with oxy-acetylene tanks on carts last weekend, on a ~30 mile ride.) I've heard of it happening in industrial and university settings. I know people who've set themselves on fire with a torch (I've only managed to set myself on fire while stick welding), any number of people who've set something on fire, but not even any stories of someone who's blown up a tank. It just doesn't happen. Any decision not to sell things has nothing to do with safety, but is entirely driven by monopolistic rent seeking.
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Old 06-27-10, 06:44 PM   #19
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my experience here in the U.S. was that they wanted to sell me a small tank in preference to renting me bigger tanks. Back when I got my first tanks in the '70s, the rent was paid if they could sell you the gas. Things have changed a little.
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Old 06-29-10, 02:22 AM   #20
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my experience here in the U.S. was that they wanted to sell me a small tank in preference to renting me bigger tanks.
Of course. Small bottle refills yield greater profit because they charge more $ per unit of measure - grocery stores have been doing this for decades. And if you own the bottles, you are responsible for, and are expected to pay for required hydro testing when due - which can often exceed the value of the bottle.
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Old 06-29-10, 09:19 AM   #21
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no, I swap bottles every time they are refilled, so I never have to get them inspected. Not sure about the refill prices, didn't compare.
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Old 06-29-10, 11:18 AM   #22
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no, I swap bottles every time they are refilled, so I never have to get them inspected.
It's true that if 'buy' bottles from a specific (although not all) LWS, they will often just exchange bottles instead of continually refilling the originals you purchased - it's easier for them, and faster for you (and the bottles are usually labeled with their logo).

But take those same 'owner' bottles to a different LWS (i.e. say, you moved to a different town for example), then rest assured that the LWS is NOT obligated to follow the same exchange program and many will only refill YOUR bottle - as such, you WILL be responsible for any repairs (i.e. valve replacement, etc) and ALL future hydros.

If you lease bottles and later have to move to a different location, then you simply return them, retain your deposit and start all over again at the new LWS.
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Old 06-30-10, 01:54 PM   #23
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Thanks for all the advice everyone! It looks like I'll probably have to pursue different ways of building frames, at least until I've got a little more money.
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Old 06-30-10, 05:37 PM   #24
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http://www.flamingbarbecues.co.uk/6-...-Burner-Hooded

https://secure.calor.co.uk/OrderCalo...geType=propane

These are the kind of bottles I use for propane, though I have yet to see a fiberglass one.
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Old 07-01-10, 11:11 AM   #25
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And remarkably, I've never even heard of such an accident in the US, happening in a home/farm/hobby shop, of which there are many.
In that case, I'll direct you to one or two of Derek Lowe's blog posts at In The Pipeline...
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