This 1949 Craftsman catalog brings us back to the days of zoot suits, the jitterbug, explosive shop tools, guiltless gasoline consumption — and the good ole’ gasoline blowtorch.
Even before the modern technology of propane and butane cartridges, amateurs as well as professionals commonly used blowtorches for stubborn household problems like thawing frozen pipes, loosening jammed bolts, and even detecting freon leaks (due to the changing color of the flame). Plumbers used the torches to liquefy lead for sealing pipe joints, electricians used them for soldering wires, and painters for stripping paint from walls.
To operate these blowtorches, you fill the fuel tank about 3/4 full of gasoline, and then seal the fuel valves. A hand pump pressurizes the air, sending the fuel up a wick tube to the burner head. The wick tube contains a cotton wick about eight inches long, with half of it soaked in the fuel and the rest leading up to the burner.
Just past the wick tube, a screen filters out impurities before the fuel is burned. Finally, an evaporation chamber on the bottom of the blowtorch head builds pressure between the wick and the burner head. The fuel escapes through the orifice in the burner head, producing a very hot, blue flame and the familiar roar of the blowtorch.
If you’re worried about frozen pipes this winter, you can buy the antique Craftsman blowtorch pictured above for about $10 on eBay — the same price as in 1949. For the same (adjusted) price as back then, you can even fill it up with gasoline — just like the good old days.