Pushing back the night with light of our own making was the first and greatest of humankind's achievements. What a thrill it must have been to discover that the setting sun no longer had to mean darkness and fear. We've come a long way since that first campfire, but it's just recently that technology has topped the most advanced form of open-flame light.
MIG welders and plasma cutters might carry more cache, but serious metal cred comes from the mastery of a simple flame. The oxy-acetylene torch setup is one of the most affordable versatile tools in any shop. With it, a competent operator can heat, weld, braze, silver-solder, and cut. We've used it for all of the above, but it's most often used to heat steel for bending and to cut. Cutting with the torch is so incredibly simple and cost-effective compared to plasma cutting— especially for thicker materials—that it cannot be ignored. Fortunately, it's also not that hard to learn. Here's a quick primer to the tool every metal shop should have.