a kinder, gentler flamethrower
March 28, 2016 12:06 PM   Subscribe

I want a flame weeder that isn't going to involve too much anxiety about, oh, I don't know, explosions. Details inside.

This is primarily for between cracks in decaying brick and other little patches that are a finicky pain to weed.

First, in all seriousness: can I use a kitchen propane torch, like you'd use for creme brulee? How fast do those torches run out of propane?

Failing that, can you recommend a specific preferably-Amazonable product that doesn't involve hauling around gallons of propane? We have a big yard, and the instances where we would be using it are spread around. I'm not overly psyched about a wheelbarrow with a ten-gallon canister of explosive gas, or strapping it to my back, etc.

Looking for simple to use, lightweight, not terrifying.

(Not interested in chemical solutions and I've researched how to do this safely; this is just me seeking the least anxiety-inducing way to do it.)
posted by A Terrible Llama to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
can I use a kitchen propane torch, like you'd use for creme brulee?

You shouldn't even use those dinky things in the kitchen; in the kitchen I use this head on a camping propane tank (less likely to fall over). I've used it to melt ice on cellar doors but never on weeds, though I can't imagine that it would fail at the task. The big advantage of the weed torches is that you don't have to bend over all the time.

I'd give that a shot. (Though the LP gas cylinders are really safe when they're in decent shape.)
posted by supercres at 12:15 PM on March 28, 2016

Best answer: Yes, there is an attachment for small propane bottles that is exactly as you describe. I have one, from Amazon, that I use for that purpose. It's a lot of fun.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:16 PM on March 28, 2016

Lee Valley has exactly what you need. This is easy to use, light and not terrifying. Be cautious, because it is certainly capable to lighting things on fire, so a charged hose, or at the very least a large filled bucket nearby is a must! I use it with good success on exactly what you describe.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 12:16 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just want to say that unless something goes horribly wrong or you do something truly unusually stupid, using a propane tank on a flame weeder is no more dangerous than using one on a grill. These are consumer-grade systems, and they're designed to be quite safe. (A weedwhacker is quite safe too, despite being a gas tank strapped to an internal combustion engine with an exposed cutter sticking out of it. Think of it like that.)

I wouldn't use a plumbing torch attachment like supercres linked to, as they are designed to create a much smaller, hotter flame than you want and you would also ruin your knees/back using one to weed your bricks. Go with the type of attachment that MrMoonpie and Northbysomewhatcrazy linked to. Those things create a nice big orange flame suitable for torching weeds, rather than a small blue one suitable for melting solder and making creme brulee.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:46 PM on March 28, 2016

You can use flame indirectly: boiling water will also work.

Those small cans don't last all that long, but should get you through your yard if it isn't that big and you move fast.
posted by flimflam at 2:57 PM on March 28, 2016

I have an OSHA nightmare from Harbor Freight similar to the one MrMoonPie linked. it works OK, the linked one looks nicer/safer than mine
posted by Dr. Twist at 3:42 PM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

The little torches for plumbing or creme brulee will be a hot, small flame that will only kill little parts of the plant in a precise way. The weeding torches create a larger, blustery flame that will shock the whole vascular system of the weed.
posted by werkzeuger at 6:33 AM on March 29, 2016

If there's a danger, it's not that the torch itself will hurt you but that you will start a fire in dry conditions.
posted by werkzeuger at 6:34 AM on March 29, 2016

There is one danger, but only when using the unit incorrectly. Keeping the tube pointed downwards (you know, at your weeds) will ensure that only propane vapor makes it into the tube. If you point the tube upwards, liquid propane will begin flowing, producing a spectacular fireball. To me, this is a feature, not a bug, but probably best to do only outdoors.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:29 AM on March 30, 2016

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