Gentec vs. Smith Torches

Q: I currently am using an air/acetylene Prestolite torch but would like to add a propane/oxygen torch to my toolbox. Can anyone offer insight into any differences between the Smith Little Torch and the Gentec Small Torch? Are the differences only the color and the cost or is there something more substantial that I am missing?

A: The Gentec torch is pretty much a copy of the Smith, as far as I can tell. But at least in my experience, the manufacturing quality of the Gentec is not as consistent. Many of them will be just fine, while others may not be as precisely made. Differences may be subtle if you don’t have the other brand to compare with, but things like the smooth operation and precision of the valves may vary more with the Gentec. I’ve found much the same with a number of other copies of well known torches.

The US-made Hoke torches, for example, are usually well—built good torches, and have a long history of being used by many commercial jewelers. But you can also get an almost identical-looking Chinese-made copy that frankly, is often a piece of junk. Nothing quite so annoying as a torch with sloppy bad valves that don’t hold a setting, or leak, or otherwise don’t work well….I don’t think the Gentecs are quite as bad as those Chinese-made Hoke copies have sometimes been, but for my money, I’d go with the Smith, if only because having used many of them over the last thirty five years, I’ve never had one that wasn’t a good tool, at least not until I pretty much wore it out (which you can do with those delicate needle valves).

by Peter W. Rowe M.F.A., G.G.