The Origins of Oxygen-Acetylene Metal Cutting.

French engineers Edmond Fouché and Charles Picard were the first to develop oxygen-acetylene welding in 1903. This new welding process rapidly spread around the world and changed welding forever.

The oxy-fuel cutting process is largely unchanged since its earliest days. However, after more than a century, it is still a vital process for cutting thick steel. No other cutting process is capable of cutting steel to 30” thick and more.

Many companies around the world have developed their own version of a cutting torch, cutting tips and gas regulators. Numerous products have resulted in significant safety advancements. Cutting tip designs for use with alternative fuels have provided increased cutting speeds and lower cost of operation. 

Oxy-Fuel System Providers

  • Harris / Lincoln Electric (US)
  • IHT Automation (Germany)
  • Smith / Miller Electric (US)
  • Victor / ESAB (US)
Oxy-Fuel cutting offered on the KANO™ HD CNC


“Walter Roberts was one of those responsible in Linde for developing the oxyacetylene use. He emigrated from England to be involved in the venture to produce oxygen. He did several feats to expand the oxy-acetylene torch. One of his first jobs for Linde involved the Quebec Bridge which had fallen into the St. Lawrence River in early 1908. Attempts to dynamite the bridge for removal were unsuccessful. Roberts convinced those in charge to let him try with an oxyacetylene torch. He did much of the cutting himself and was, of course, successful.

An even more convincing demonstration of the cutting powers of oxy-acetylene involved dismantling boilers in the battleship Kentucky. In 1910, the ship was in Norfolk for overhaul. Workers with cold chisels and hacksaws began cutting the 1-1/8 inch boiler plate to remove the boilers. After three months they were one quarter through the job.

Roberts offered to do the job for the Navy and they were skeptical, but Roberts’ claim to do it in 10 days got him the job. They set up a generator on shore and started with the torches on one end, challenging a hand crew which was no contest. The removed the boiler in less than 10 days. At the Navy’s request, Linde sent two skilled torch operators to teach the Navy workmen how to use the torches.

Thus, our acetylene industry was born and commercialized. Starting with lighting homes and street, cooking in homes, lighting automobiles and metal workings.

The five companies who formed Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation in 1917 were: The Linde Air Products Co. (1907), Union Carbide Company, Electro Metallurgical Company, National Carbon Company, Inc., and the Prest-O-Lite Company, Inc. (1912). All were involved in developing the acetylene industry in the early 1900’s.”

The above text was excerpted from “The History of Acetylene” by Ralph O. Tribolet


The Harris Group website states that in 1899, John Harris of Cleveland, OH discovered oxy-acetylene cutting while he was using the oxy-fuel process in his hobby shop to produce synthetic rubies and sapphires. He accidentally discovered that some of the free oxygen had actually cut the steel plate he was using as the base for his experiments. In 1905, he formed the Harris Calorific Company to manufacture and sell oxy-acetylene welding and cutting equipment. Harris Group has been part of Lincoln Electric since 1990.

Harris 98-6 machine cutting torch


Karl-Heinz Schmall founded IHT Automation GmbH & Co. KG in Baden-Baden, Germany in 1990. The company became a global leader in metal cutting by specializing in high quality torch height controls for the plasma and oxy-fuel processes. Kurt Nachbargauer, the IHT managing director with more than 30 years experience, took over running the company in 2004 when Dr. Schmall retired.

In 2017, IHT announced the launch of a revolutionary new oxy-fuel torch named the FIT + Three. The torch offers the ability to fully control torch to plate distance throughout the cutting sequence. Additionally, the torch includes an internal circuit that can ignite the fuel gases upon command. No external ignition system is required.

Other features:

  • Integrated torch electronics can easily be connected to CNC systems
  • Tool free tip removal
  • Integrated gas control valves
  • Built in pressure gauge for cutting oxygen improves cut quality
  • Cutting sheets to 4” thickness used with active height sensor
  • Cutting up to 12” with Splash Protector
IHT FIT + Three machine cutting torch
Park Industries KANO HD CNC Plasma Cutting Machine for Metal Fabrication


In 1916, Elmer Smith from Minneapolis, MN founded Smith Equipment Company to build oxy-fuel welding and cutting equipment. The company’s sales continued to grow for many years. Smith Equipment Co. moved to Watertown, SD in 1981. Illinois Tool Works (ITW) purchased the company in 1998. The Smith brand was consolidated into the Miller Electric brand of welding equipment.

Smith SC781a machine cutting torch

Victor / ESAB

Victor Equipment Co. was founded in San Francisco in 1913 by L.W. Stettner. After losing an eye during a welding accident, he decided to design safer welding equipment and accessories. L.W. Stettner and Fred W. Clifford, owner of the Great Western Welding and Cutting Company named their new company Victor Oxy-Acetylene Welding Equipment Company. They began creating welding equipment, cutting torches, and regulators. In 1928, they changed the name to Victor Welding Equipment Company. In 1960s, Victor moved from San Francisco to Denton, Texas. Pacific Lumber’s Company created Palco Industries which purchased Victor in the in the late 1970s. In 1988, Palco Industries sold to Thermadyne Industries. In 2014, Victor and all of Thermadyne were sold to ESAB.

Victor MT210 machine cutting torch
ESAB Oxweld C-67-1400 machine cutting torch

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