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Thread: Sweating / soldering copper tubing

  1. #1

    Default Sweating / soldering copper tubing

    Since plumbing is sometimes art and sometimes science, I thought I would share
    some lessons I learned the hard way regarding how to solder copper tubing.
    It seemed simple enough to me at the age I was then, ripe old age of 23. Just put some flux
    on each end of the pipes you're joining, put the coupler on, fire up the handheld torch
    heat the copper and then apply the solder. I mean, it couldn't have been that hard, as many times as
    I saw the old man do it. Boy was I wrong, it took many tries on my first one and I ended up quitting for the
    night once I finally settled on just temporarily capping the line.

    Here are the things I wish someone would have told me:

    1)When or if you cut the tubing you are joining, make sure you have a good clean cut by using a pipe cutter in good condition, make full circles around
    the tubing until it is cut off.

    2)If you need to bend or curve the tubing, use the correct tool like the one that can be seen
    at http://www.findtoolsnow.com

    3)Don't try to heat the tubing using anything other than the correct tool, I always use a small hand held torch like the ones that can be
    seen at http://www.findtoolsnow.com/Grounds-...orch-Kits.html


    4)Aside from the steps already mentioned above, and this is REALLY important if you
    want your soldering to hold - clean/sand/rough up all the parts of the tubing that you
    are about to solder. A lot of amatuers don't know this. I would suggest using two wire brush tools that
    are made specifically for copper tubing. You can find them at almost any hardware store. There is one male for the joints and one female that you
    can use for each end of the pipe. Buy them - they are worth their weight in gold! Use them until the affected area is noticably roughed up - and the varnish is removed.

    5)Make sure the affected pipes no longer are under pressure and are properly drained. This cannot be stressed enough. If there is any water near the
    point you are soldering it is an uphill battle due the natural cooling effect.

    Now you are ready to do the obvious of placing the flux applying the heat and then solder etc.

    Just be sure to follow all the tool and supply manufacturers' warnings and wear the proper safety equipment. Especially eye protection. Be careful where you point that torch!

    I also suggest practicing on some pipes and joints that are not in use. Just buy one long piece of the copper tubing, and a few unions of various shapes and practice cutting and soldering.
    It will make you that much more confident in your ability, pay off in dividends, and make the real deal much more enjoyable.

    Once you get the hang of it, it will come easy. And you'll wonder why so many people use plastic - I still haven't figured that one out.

    Good luck, The Redneck Plumber

  2. #2
    DIY Senior Member captwally's Avatar
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    AMEN for a good report, useful to all!

    Can I add that the use of a tinning flux helps tremendously as well as using MAPP gas instead of Propane. Propane is fine if you are absolutely, 100% sure the pipes are clean and dry, such as in new construction. A tinning flux such as Oatey's #95 has the added benefit of micro-pulverized bits of solder incorporated in it so that the soldering process begins as the joint heats before you even apply the solder from the roll.

    As for plastic, or PVC.... I like it too! They both have their places in plumbing life.
    Measure Twice, Cut Once
    Wally

  3. #3

    Default Good points Wally

    Yep, you're right Wally. Mapp gas is the way to go, seems like it heats the pipes so much faster!

    Last edited by Terry; 06-21-2010 at 12:06 AM.

  4. #4

    Default

    I'll add my two cents that are actually the two cents of a master plumber I used to know.

    I always keep a damp rag handy for two reasons:

    1. since the flux helps the solder flow, I wipe the excess off after heating the joint and before applying solder. We simply don't need a lot of solder on the outside, we really want it to flow into the joint via the capillary action and wiping the excess off helps it flow in the right direction.

    2. I also wipe off the excess solder from the outside of the pipe while it's still molten (BE CAREFUL). Again, it's really important that it flows all around the joint on the inside. But, a bunch of gloppy drips on the outside can trap the flux and other impurities creating a possibility of weakening that spot on the pipe over time.

    That's how it was explained to me anyway and it makes sense to me. It also makes for neat and tidy welds.

    **A few more tips from my own experience...

    1. Always wipe away from you. Seriously. I know it's common sense, but do it anyway.

    2. You may find yourself holding an assembly in a towel or something and holding it over a torch sitting on a surface and holding the solder in your other hand. Be very aware of the angle at which you're holding the assembly. Too steep and solder fallout will land on your hand or arm making you feel stupid and perhaps say some words that the neighborhood kids shouldn't hear.

    3. Finally, just remember that recently soldered copper is kind of like a girl on the first date. Gently touch first to make sure it's OK to grab. Otherwise you might get burnt.

    E!

  5. #5
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking fun things with solder

    ever had a hot ball of solder bounce down off a
    water heater and fly up into your nose???


    wear shorts and have a piece land in your socks??

    land on your fingernail??

    these are all fun things you got to experience
    to truely be called a veteran at soldering..

    it seems the solder has a mind of its own and goes
    wherever it wants to..

    if their is something on the way downward form where you are soldering,
    it will somehow hit that object and explode into hot schrapnel flying
    everywhere

    even when you take precautioins with a rag or towell it still
    seems to find a way to bite you in the ass if it can..

    I like acetelyne for soldering.....
    it gets the pipe hotter than hell very quickly,

    and you can even solder with a slight amount of water dripping
    on your joints ..... the acetylene gets and keeps if soo hot that the water cant cool off the fitting quick enough to mess up your joint.
    Last edited by master plumber mark; 06-03-2005 at 07:48 PM.

  6. #6
    DIY Senior Member Cal's Avatar
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    As I can see the seasoned veterens are handing out advice,please allow me to jump in.

    How about the way your eyes " Bug Out" when the skin is hit by molten solder or hot pipe ? OUCH !!

    Love the damp rag method . Also , I always keep a water bottle real handy cause we are always burning next to wood,etc.

    One more piece of advice for the DIY ers ,,,Solder from the farthest joint back towards yourself.If you lean across a hot joint you WILL understand this point.

  7. #7
    DIY Member Alexdc99's Avatar
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    From a friends personal expierence, never stand directly under the joint your soldering. If you can't reach it properly get a stool or ladder if your in the basement. He will always have the dot on his cheek from the solder dripping on him

  8. #8
    DIY Senior Member captwally's Avatar
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    It takes molten solder a few seconds to penetrate heavy cotton socks inside the ankle of your workboots, so the reaction can be delayed, then YEOWW! Always know the direction gravity wants to take that bit of liquid metal...

    Make sure that you don't get talked into sweating a fitting while at a friend's house for a barbeque because that splash of solder will never be removed from the polo shirt you are wearing and your wife will not let you off the hook because she just bought it for you....
    Measure Twice, Cut Once
    Wally

  9. #9
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking ruined clothes

    I totally forgot about the the good clothes
    you can ruin when solder burnes into the fibers
    of good material...

    thats what you get when you do a freind a favor
    in your good clothes, I guess.


    something else interesting happens after 40
    years of soldering, you develope a callous on your hands
    and the tips of your fingers that becomes almost
    impervious to heat...

    either that or you have burned off all
    the nerve endings in your fingers
    I am not sure which is really the case.

  10. #10
    DIY Senior Member Cal's Avatar
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    Speaking of doing "favors for friends",,,,,, How much money have we lost because we have skills and thus " tons of friends" ! Funny, somehow these folks never seem to call just to chat or hang out ??!!

  11. #11
    DIY Member jrejre's Avatar
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    Always keep the torch aimed away from you and others (at least all others that you like)

  12. #12
    DIY Senior Member captwally's Avatar
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    Kinda reminds me of way back when I bought my first pickup truck.... All of a sudden I had LOTS of friends!
    Measure Twice, Cut Once
    Wally

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