I have had the happy experience and total pleasure of beta testing Nortel’s new torch over the past 3 weeks. This is the new Mega Minor – and I have to say – it ROCKS. (Nortel makes the Minor, Red Max, Red Rocket, Mid-range and other torches.) Let me say that again - the new Mega Minor is awesome!
This torch gives you way more heat for the amount of oxygen used. My usual set up is a minor, propane, and two oxygen concentrators, and my personal style is to work large and fast.
I usually work soft glass, and my usual focal bead size is about 2 inches long.
My first reaction to the torch was surprise when I lit it and turned up the oxy. The flame spread outward from the torch tip, flaring out slightly, and giving a wider flame. The next thing I noticed that because the flame/candles look quite different, that the neutral flame did not look quite the way I expected it to. I found, with a little experimentation, that a completely neutral flame, (i.e. glass that reacts to a reducing flame ceases to react) was a flame that I would have thought was oxydizing (hissy). This results in the torch a bit noisier under normal working conditions. Nowhere near the order of hot-head noisy, mind you. Heck – with the concentrators running – you can’t really hear that much of a difference. (and now that I'm used to it, I really can't hear the difference.)
The wider flame means you can work larger beads, keeping them all over hot with ease. More heat means you can work faster, you get to working temperature faster, stay there easier. Some of the large sculptural shapes that I have trouble with due to cooling, ceased to be hard because maintaining temperature became a lot easier. Working multiple beads on a mandrel became a lot easier too – as you can keep them all hot easier.
I schlepped the torch down to the beadFX studio and set it up there – so this would be a natural gas and bottled oxygen environment. It performed equally well – and in being able to run it side by side with a Minor with functionally unlimited oxygen, I noticed that you can go to a larger flame that is still useable. With very high oxygen pressure, the Minor flame will eventually start to become too turbulent to work on - but the Mega still has a usable flame. I then had to pry it out of everyone’s hands to take it away with me again – as everyone who tried it wanted it.
So, I then tried to work some borosilicate. In the past, even with two concentrators – I’ve just never had the patience to work boro. Jean set me up with a sample pack – and I had to phone her to confirm that it was, in fact, boro – as it melts in real time. Not just little beads – but sizable ones too.
I did notice that there is more radiant heat from the torch – you can feel it on your face, which I had not initially noticed, as I usually use a shield instead of glasses. Glass on the table that is right under the torch can get uncomfortably hot to the touch too when working with a larger flame. Now I know why the boro boys spread out across the desk so much.
Once I settled down and stopped trying to get the largest flame possible, I found that the torch performs very well in the sphere of where I suspect most people work. Turning the torch down still means you can do detailed stringer work.
In fact, turning off one of the concentrators still results in a perfectly usable flame.
I also tried working some shampoo glass, my personal benchmark of working cool, and found that while the flame that was cool enough to work this picky glass looked ridiculously short, it was quite stable and there was no sign of the end of the torch starting to glow.
Verdict: I’m sold. My minor is set aside and I am now using this torch full time. I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking of adding another concentrator to get more heat – try this torch first – you may find that you no longer need another concentrator. You will need to get used to the flame looking different – but that’s easy enough. I think this torch is extremely versatile and opens more doors for torchworkers.
Disclaimer. I am not paid by Nortel for my opinion - in fact, nobody pays me for my opinions. I wish someone would. But I'm not completely unbiased - Nortel is like my second home. Or maybe third. Anyway - if I didn't think this was a great torch, I would have told them so.