I am in LOVE. With a torch.
You'd think it silly, being this much in love with a torch that is technically a step down from the torch I have now, a Bethlehem Piranha. Dogmaw of Dogmaw Glass reviewed the Cricket, and when I saw that review I knew I had to try it. The Cricket is Glass Torch Technology's latest entry level torch, with only five ports instead of the seven their previous entry-level torch, the Bobcat, had. In terms of price, the Cricket is a clear winner. The Bobcat runs $195. Both the Piranha and the Betta are made by Bethlehem (the Betta replaced the older Piranha), but both torches ran in the $300-$350 range, whereas the Cricket is on special, introductory pricing now ($139) and will reach a final price of $167.
However, price isn't everything. Glasswork tends to make you either patiently Zen (Naos and Nikki Carollo come to mind, two stellar beadmakers who prefer to work on a HotHead torch) or a speed and fire junkie. I am inherently impatient, so I have to join the chant of "burn, baby, burn!". I want the most torch for my setup, but I can't afford tanked oxygen, nor would it be safe to use it in my current location. Tanked oxy in my breakfast nook? That would be a resounding NO.
However, Dogmaw noted that in terms of heat and speed that the Cricket outperformed her Betta; and as the Betta is the newer version of my Piranha, it was a safe bet that the Cricket would outperform my Piranha, too. And it did. I hadn't played with borosilicate for a while, but I made some glass pendants and hollow shapes with the Piranha, and then with the Cricket. My experience matched Dogmaw's--while I didn't time each bead as precisely as she did, the Cricket was significantly faster.
When I turned on the second oxygen concentrator, I had to be careful not to burn through my mandrels fast! Borosilicate melted reasonably fast, Moretti transparents just wilted, and Moretti whites and ivories were like buttah. I'd have to dial this torch down far to work with Satake.
The flame can get bushy and then move down to a true pinpoint. I could make larger pieces with the Cricket than I could with the Piranha, including a freeform drop fan pull, and shaping was easier because of that wide flame. (I'd like to try a teardrop shape next.)
I could also do smaller pieces with ease, including buttons. Pendants were a snap, as were large hollow beads. And the Cricket has a sweet spot, which, oddly enough, is harder to find on the Piranha. Striking was easier on the Cricket than on the Piranha, and so was reducing. Mmmmm, some of the colors I got .... wow. While we're on color reaction, raku in soft glass works amazingly well on the Cricket.
The reason the tiny Cricket can perform so well is that the Cricket was created to maximize its use of a 5 lpm oxygen concentrator, and on two oxycons this little torch really rocks, whereas the other torches on the market were intended for use with tanked oxygen. If I had a Regalia oxycon, or tanked oxy, I suspect that my Piranha would work better (or that I would be dreaming of a Lynx). But I don't, and I have other things to spend money on--heat envy only takes me so far before I bump into economic and practical reality. So, overall, I have to echo Dogmaw's grade. As a professor AND as a lampworker, I have to say that the Cricket has earned an A++. I think its only downside will be that it is fussier and more prone to clogging, as are all GTT torches --- but I haven't had any problems yet, and regular cleaning and running the candles at the suggested length will help with that possible problem. And I always have my trusty Piranha as backup!