I sunk my claws into this hunky Bethlehem Alpha and wasted no time emasculating it with 1960 turquoise blue and little glittery stars all over its base. Ain’t that a woman for you?
Bethlehem Alpha: z-beads style
No luck on the cerulean, it was either this color or a dark primary blue. I love this blue! Lowe’s leaves much to be desired in the spray paint section. How about some Krylon, for Krylon out loud? Yuk, yuk. Mr. Sarah cut a plywood base for me which I attempted to color with anolin dye. Never again. Anolin dye will turn a fun, quick little project into a situation in a matter of seconds. So I made do with some watered down stuff and the base turned sort of a pinkish color. And thank Clorox for SoftScrub, lordamercy, I have white formica on my kitchen counters. I added a couple of hot purple leather washers under the nuts so they won’t mar the base. (Yes, I could be a bigger dork, actually. I still have a finishing touch to put on.) I’m using my Hot Head marver because my Minor’s marver doesn’t fit. The marver that was supposed to come with the Alpha didn’t make it into the package, and it should be here very soon.
Hooking it up: The fittings that came attached to the end of the short hoses were a bit loose and must have had microscopic bits of debris all up in them because I practically had a cow getting them completely clean and tightened up without a leak. Maybe they’re onto something with the cut hose ends and hose clamps…
Turning it on: Bethlehem has a flame like no other I’ve worked with. The center candle (and there are only 6 ports) is considerably longer and more, I don’t know, candle-y? than the others. The surrounding candles sort of flare out around the center one. Nothing in the literature or instructions mentioned the correct length or appearance for the candles, so I’m assuming this is what it should look like. The center candle usually has a yellowish tip while the others are blue. I’m not sure what this means.
I should mention that I use tanked oxygen so take this into account. This burner was designed for better functionality when powered by oxygen concentrators – I think in that case, you keep the oxygen knob all the way open and adjust the flame only with the gas knob. I did notice that when making adjustments to the flame, the gas knob seemed to be the one that made more noticeable alterations to the flame. On my Minor, I seem to use the oxygen knob more for this.
flames from left to right: regular, really big, really small, really small with sharpie for comparison
This burner runs pretty hot, however, the flame is extremely adjustable. Remarkably so, considering it only has two knobs. It can go from wide, long and bushy to about an inch long and the width of a lollipop stick without much adjustment at all. There are varying degrees of heat and atmosphere within those ranges, and you have a good amount of control over all of it. It isn’t like I’ve sampled a bunch of torches in my glassworking lifetime, but I can say that this one is very different from my Minor and my Lynx in just about every way. The ports are much bigger than I’m used to, and the flame is somewhat loud – not like a Hot Head, but louder than my Minor. While the Minor sort of hisses and hums, this one kind of whooshes. The Lynx, by the way, barely makes a sound at all. One time I left it on for 15 minutes without realizing it.
Color: Even with that weird looking flame that I wasn’t sure about, my opaque reds were just as lovely, or not lovely depending on the batch – pretty much the same as they are with my Minor. It didn’t wash out the pinks or reduce the turquoise so the atmosphere must be neutral to oxidizing. I suspect the same kind of reduction flame I get with my Minor for my Clio and other Double Helix colors will take some practice, but I can already get pretty close. And it isn’t like I achieve consistant results to begin with.
simpletons: nice and glassy and nary a wrinkle in the opaque bases
Heat: I made these nice Simpletons here. These have an opaque base and many wraps of transparent color. The first wrap of transparent melted quickly around the base without distorting it – this is something I struggle with all the time. This is likely more about my working habits than it is about the torch I use. Whatever your preference is for applying little bumpy dots – tiny flame or just on the outside of a regular flame or right in the middle of a bushy flame – the Alpha will bend to your whim.
They sent along a cleaning kit. I had no idea that the dowel was the size of a rolling pin! I exaggerate, but yes, it’s big enough that you can really get your whack on and knock that evil schmootz loose. Like I said, the ports are huge and very easy to clean.
bethlehem cleaning kit
In other words, If you’ve been eyeballing the Alpha, buy with confidence. That said, as much as I am enjoying this new torch, I have a feeling that when the Minor comes home I’ll feel like I have too.
And just because, here’s a recent photo of Calico Mo.
See you guys tomorrow with new Etsy stuff!
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