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soldering copper pipe

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  • soldering copper pipe

    Hi Guys Im trying to put in a shower and am having trouble soldering the copper pipe. I have a propane torch and I thought it was hot enough. If I use the rose bud type tip I can actually hold it in one spot forever and partially melt the copper piping. Yet i cant get a solder joint. I sanded the fittings and fluxed them and am using lead solder. Any tips

  • #2
    That's it, clean the joint, flux, heat, and solder. It should work.

    Be sure you clean the inside of the fittings as they often tarnish. Also, be sure it's the right flux.

    AND DON'T USE TOO MUCH HEAT. Flame from the opposite side and rub the solder on the joint till it flows. Should be easy.

    Oh, are you sure you are using solder? It sounds stupid but I once found a guy at the bench trying to solder with a roll of tinned copper wire. True story. We did laugh for a while.

    Paul A.

    [This message has been edited by Paul Alciatore (edited 11-30-2004).]
    Paul A.

    Make it fit.
    You can't win and there is a penalty for trying!


    • #3
      You don’t need a rose bud. Warm up the fitting and draw the solder in rather then warming up the pipe. Unless you have water in the system or are not using the right solder or paste you should have no trouble doing this.

      [This message has been edited by Al Flipo (edited 11-30-2004).]


      • #4
        As per Paul and Al:
        1. CLEAN surfaces.
        2. Proper flux.
        3. Heat the fitting and let it melt the solder. The solder will want to flow towards the heat.

        If you get everything correct, it's hard to have it not work.

        Al may have the answer: be sure everything is DRY. A surprisingly small amount of water can raise havoc.

        Try to make a living, not a killing. -- Utah Phillips
        Don't believe everything you know. -- Bumper sticker
        Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects. -- Will Rogers
        There are lots of people who mistake their imagination for their memory. - Josh Billings
        Law of Logical Argument - Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about.
        Don't own anything you have to feed or paint. - Hood River Blackie


        • #5
          First of all, you should not be using lead based solder. No sense bathing your skin with lead leachate, with all those open pores. Once a lead sloder joint has be around for a while it is reported to be somewhat sealed off from the water by scale. New joints leach most.

          Soldering copper pipe is quite easy and does NOT require much heat. A propane torch with a small tip is all you need. The secret is using the internal fitting wire brush. You MUST get all surfaces shiny clean. You must also use that waxy flux on all cleaned copper surfaces. (The waxy flux is good for absolutely nothing else IMHO, but is magic on copper) Heat the fitting on one side and feed the solder in from the opposite side untill you get a solder line all the way around. If you have used acid flux and/or lots of heat, cut the joints appart and start over. They will end up leaking later.


          • #6
            Clean with abrasive like a wire plumber's brush or even abrasive paper. Flux the joint, fitting and pipe, assemble parts, heat evenly around the fitting and draw the solder into the joint. Sounds to me like you are getting it way to hot and scorching the surface of the copper so that the solder won't flow. Flux as I understand it does two things, it helps clean the surface of the copper pipe, and it releaves the surface tension of the solder as it becomes liquid so that the solder will flow. With practice you should be able to get the solder to flow up hill if you heat the fitting correctly.

            If you still have standing water in the pipe that won't let you heat up the pipes, an old trick is to take a piece of white bread and ball it up, stuff it into the pipe 6-8 inches beyond the joint you are soldering then solder the joint. The bread will desolve away in a short time so solder quickly.

            Jason, I always thought soldering was easy too. Musical instruments are soldered together much the same way plumbing pipe is. I had a boss in the music shop that couldn't solder anything together without it leaking or looking terrible. He always passed soldering jobs on to me. I just think it is a skill that takes a bit of practice.



            • #7
              Did a soldering job for a friend once and had a similar problem. The roll of solder was really old and the outer wraps were oxidized. Couldn't get it to stick no matter what til it dawned on me what was going on. Spun the old wraps off til it was fresh solder again, then it melted in easily.
              I have tools I don't even know I own...


              • #8
                Sounds like you are getting the pipe TOO hot. If you cook the flux it will burn and not provide the cleaning action like it is supossed to.

                On the other hand, if you can't get it hot enough then the problem might be water in the line, open a valve that is lower than the shower pipe you are trying to fix. JRouche
                My old yahoo group. Bridgeport Mill Group



                • #9
                  A standard propane hand torch is all that is required for most copper pipe joints. Very large fittings or water filled pipes require a MAPP gas turbo turch or Air/Acetylene torch to solder. You are unlikey to ru into these in the home.

                  I concur with Steve (SGW) on this - I would also suggest that you purchase a lead free solder rather than the common solder and proper flux for that lead free solder.

                  Toxicity of lead and the ability of water to leach it out of the plumbing system is well known. Next year (to the best of my recollection) all electronics manufacturers world wide have to go lead free as well. I honestly believe this to be a good thing overall. Leaded steels (12Lxx) will be unavalable in a few years as well and will be replaced with the 12Txx series (tin added - cuts at higher SF/M (400-500) with carbide quite nicely - ideal for production, bad for the HSM).

                  [This message has been edited by Thrud (edited 11-30-2004).]


                  • #10
                    I think you must be overheating the joint, or else there is water or other contamination on/in the pipe or solder.

                    You may also be burning off the flux.

                    I use regular "Nokorode" flux and a propane torch all the time to solder copper pipe. For structural stuff I still use lead, but the no-lead solder works fine and should be used for all parts of domestic water systems.

                    You can melt copper (thin wire) on the stovetop gas burner, so yes the propane is plenty hot for soldering. If you get close to melting the copper pipe you are way too hot. For silver solder, you need red heat, but for lead and no-lead plumbing solder, you have to stay much colder.

                    Clean the heck out of both parts, and flux right away. Put the joint together, making sure that the clean area and some flux is visible outside the joint.

                    I like to start by heating the pipe a few seconds at a point several inches back from the joint, as a "heat dam".

                    Instead of holding the flame on the joint, heat away from the joint, alternating between the fitting and the pipe. Heat the pipe an inch or so back from the joint, at least.

                    Spend about twice as much time on heating the pipe as the fitting (inless its a faucet, etc), and keep touching the solder to the pipe at the edge of the fitting where the pipe goes in, ON TOP. DO NOT let the torch heat the solder, you can move it away for a second to touch on the solder.

                    All of a sudden the solder should run in and around the joint.

                    Take away the torch and if it sucks in too much solder, so the joint still gapes, touch some more on. The solder will still melt on and in for a number of seconds after the torch is gone.

                    Do both sides of a joint or elbow at once, because re-heating cold joints usually fouls them up.
                    Heat both sides, and the fitting a little, then concentrate more on one side, and finish it, re-heat the other pipe, should only take a little, and finish it.

                    [This message has been edited by J Tiers (edited 11-30-2004).]

                    Keep eye on ball.
                    Hashim Khan


                    • #11
                      It was mentioned but could be repeated. Don't heat the seam directly. The flame will oxidize and contaminate, and cook away the flux, pretty quickly. Concentrate the flame just enough away from the joint to avoid hitting it directly.


                      • #12
                        I don't know about the States,but in the UK you can get capillary pipe fittings with a ring of solder already in.

                        Just clean pipe and fitting,flux both with a paste flux and warm up until you see the solder appear at the mouth of the fitting. Just waft the flame over and round the joint to avoid all the heat in one spot.

                        As mentioned earlier,the slightest drop of water will stop the solder running.If you need to bread the pipe,use a slice of plain white bread and don't use the crust,the bread will flush out when the water is turned back on.Very few plumbers nowadays know the old bread trick.

                        Allan (ex plumber)


                        • #13
                          Or the old dip a rag in salt water and wrap it around a leaking fitting. Or worse still. Pour salt in a water loop to stop many leaks. I've had both done to my jobs over the years.

                          The big boss told this joke at our meeting this month.

                          If there are a pipe fitter and a plumber standing in crap up to their neck and you throw a wrench at them how do you tell which is which? The plumber will duck!


                          [This message has been edited by meho (edited 11-30-2004).]


                          • #14
                            I've been soldering pipe for years and just last year ran 1.5" copper pipe air lines at work, I solder it all with a propane torch. As the others stated get everything clean and flux immediately. A great trick I learned long ago about heat, Hold the flame on the outside of the fitting near but not on the joint. Have the solder ready and when the flame turns slightly greenish touch the solder to the joint and remove the flame, it'll suck in just enough solder to make a nice seal without dripping everywhere. FWIW my solder joints handle the 115PSI from our Boge 15HP rotary screw compressor no problem. I run all of our lines for water and air at work and have replumbed at least 6 houses using this method, very rarely do I ever get a leak. Another important thing is to make sure that at least one end of the pipe is open to the air so pressure doesn't build and force the solder out of the joint rather than is sucking in.


                            • #15
                              What they said.

                              If there is water in the pipe all the heat you are putting in will only create steam and the pipe won't get hot enough. You have to have clean copper so that the solder will have a nice affinity. Waxes or oxidation or oil screw the deal. This is why the acid flux is used. If you have a problem joint, then you should "tin" both parts first. If you can't get the solder to flow like a new coat of chrome on either part then you have to start over and properly clean and tin both. On clean copper heated above the melting point of the solder, it will flow out and coat the copper just like paint. If it balls up an falls off then you have wax or oils or oxidation interfering with it. Solve that and you will make consistant solder joints.