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Old 06-30-2008, 10:05 AM   #1
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The "ART" of sweating copper


Just had to share my weekend soldering efforts.

It's been about 5 years since my partial basement remodel. It included a fair amount of baseboard heat and a wet bar. When I was done, I though I had a halfway decent handle on sweating copper pipe. Well, yesterday I started the plumbing portion of the other half of the basement and I couldn't get anything right. I need some practice before I try again next weekend.

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Old 06-30-2008, 10:26 AM   #2
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The "ART" of sweating copper


YUP, practice makes perfect. It also helps if you use quality products. While buying the cheapest flux may seem like a deal at the time, it will come back to bite you in the end. You just need to get your heating techniques back and make sure there is NO water in the lines. Good luck.

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Old 06-30-2008, 10:42 AM   #3
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The "ART" of sweating copper


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Originally Posted by majakdragon View Post
YUP, practice makes perfect. It also helps if you use quality products. While buying the cheapest flux may seem like a deal at the time, it will come back to bite you in the end. You just need to get your heating techniques back and make sure there is NO water in the lines. Good luck.
I have decent flux (Oatey) but I probably didn't use enough of it. I think I got the fitting too hot and the solder just ran off. Copper's getting a bit pricey to make mistakes!
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Old 06-30-2008, 01:13 PM   #4
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The "ART" of sweating copper


do not overheat the pipe. perhaps the most crucial point in the "art" is knowing when to pull the flame off. you do it when the pipe starts changing color to psychodelic, tyedye-like coloration nuances. as soon as you see that, apply the solder. anything past that, you will overcook the flux. which is not much of an issue if you add some more, which involves applying it on hot pipe and is probably better not to do.

keep in mind that, for bigger pipe (e.g. >=1'), the heat necessary to heat the pipe may overcook the first application of flux and you may have to add more. when i was replumbing my radiator network using 1.5' copper pipe, it took at least 5 min to heat each joint - at which point the initial layer of flux was history and i had to reapply often a couple of times.

as far as flux goes, i used to use Oatey paste, which is horrible for your hands and takes days to come off, now i am using the Lenox water-soluble one, which is much cleaner. effect-wise, does pretty much the same thing. Lenox is a bit more expensive, a couple $ for a 16 oz. can, which is no biggie.
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Old 06-30-2008, 02:52 PM   #5
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The "ART" of sweating copper


Although water soluble flux does work, it generally requires more skill and a better technique. If you don't overheat the joints, very little flux is required. The main mistake people make when soldering is trying to force the solder into the joint. At least for sizes up to 1", as soon as the joint starts getting hot touch the solder to the opposite side from where you are applying the heat. When the joint is hot enough the solder will flow into and around the entire joint. You shoudn't have to apply the solder all the way around the fitting, a properly heated joint will draw the solder completely around. As a rule of thumb it should take 1/2" of solder for a 1/2" joint, 3/4" for a 3/4" and so forth. Keep a rag handy to GENTLY wipe the molten solder around the joint before it cools. Be careful though, if you wipe too hard you can break the cooling joint and cause a leak. A little practice will teach you how. Soldering is one of those skills that is really only learned through doing, so practice by soldering a hosebibb on one end of a pipe and a cap on the other and then pressurize it with a washing machine to check for leaks. This is a fairly cheap way to check technique before you start something that matters.
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Old 06-30-2008, 11:55 PM   #6
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The "ART" of sweating copper


Quote:
Originally Posted by mstplumber View Post
Although water soluble flux does work, it generally requires more skill and a better technique. If you don't overheat the joints, very little flux is required. The main mistake people make when soldering is trying to force the solder into the joint. At least for sizes up to 1", as soon as the joint starts getting hot touch the solder to the opposite side from where you are applying the heat. When the joint is hot enough the solder will flow into and around the entire joint. You shoudn't have to apply the solder all the way around the fitting, a properly heated joint will draw the solder completely around. As a rule of thumb it should take 1/2" of solder for a 1/2" joint, 3/4" for a 3/4" and so forth. Keep a rag handy to GENTLY wipe the molten solder around the joint before it cools. Be careful though, if you wipe too hard you can break the cooling joint and cause a leak. A little practice will teach you how. Soldering is one of those skills that is really only learned through doing, so practice by soldering a hosebibb on one end of a pipe and a cap on the other and then pressurize it with a washing machine to check for leaks. This is a fairly cheap way to check technique before you start something that matters.
caps are cheap practice. Solder a cap, cut through the middle of the cap, peel your cap off each half of the copper with pliers and see how far your solder penetrated.

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