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Old 01-15-2009, 12:34 PM   #1
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Hi,

A quick question about soldering copper pipe. I've read lots, and probably had to solder about a dozen connections on 3/4" pipe using propane.

My question is: How long should it take to heat the pipe enough to melt the solder? Whenever I see demo videos, they're always working with a separate piece of pipe on bench. I'm working on pipe attached to all the other plumbing in my house!

I do my best to drain all the water out and there isn't ever any liquid running out, however there is usually some steam.

Sometimes it'll take 10-15 minutes for the pipe to get hot enough to melt solder. If I make a mistake and have to try it again, it still takes another 5-8 minutes (even though I should have boiled off any water that might have been nearby).

Is this usual? Should I switch to MAPP? How big of an improvement will I see?

Thanks!

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Old 01-15-2009, 02:09 PM   #2
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No, that long heating time indicates to me that there's water in your piping. If a 3/4" copper pipe is empty, it should take no longer than 30 seconds of torch time to solder on a fitting.

Also, a lot depends on the torch you're using. There are two kinds of soldering torches; the pencil tip torch and the "Bunsen-Burner" style torch (named after the Swedish/French collaberative team that won the 1958 Nobel Prize in Plumbing for developing a soldering torch that mixed the fuel and air in a short mixing tube before igniting the fuel-air mixture. The bunsen burner style torch achieves a significantly hotter flame temperature than the pencil tip style torch, and that results in better soldering because the hotter flame results in your reaching soldering temperature at the fitting faster, and so there is less time for heat to be lost to the surrounding piping.

The pencil tip style torch is so named because you can see a very light blue flame inside the torch flame that appears to have the shape of a sharpened pencil.

Using MAPP gas is a step in the wrong direction in my view. The solution is to eliminate the water from the piping, not to boil it off faster with a hotter flame. Buy yourself a 6 foot piece of 1/8 inch ID vinyl tubing and use that to siphon water out of the pipes you're wanting to solder. Or, get yourself a wet/dry vaccuum cleaner and adapt a way of connecting it to a short piece of 5/8 inch ID garden hose so that you can suck the water out of the piping.

If you're using a pencil tip style torch, throw it in the garbage where it belongs. Buy a torch that mixes the fuel and air in a short mixing tube before igniting the mixture.

I think the problem is that you're using a pencil tip torch without doing what you can to remove the water from the piping first. If you use a bunsen burner style torch on dry piping, you will see a dramatic increase in the speed with which the fittings heat up to soldering temperature.

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Last edited by Nestor_Kelebay; 01-15-2009 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 01-15-2009, 02:27 PM   #3
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I wrote an article about sweat soldering . . . check it out for a useful tip about sweatting a joint which is "steaming" hot . . .

http://www.misterfixit.com/nosweat.htm

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Old 01-15-2009, 04:03 PM   #4
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Quote:
The solution is to eliminate the water from the piping, not to boil it off faster with a hotter flame. Buy yourself a 6 foot piece of 1/8 inch ID vinyl tubing and use that to siphon water out of the pipes you're wanting to solder. Or, get yourself a wet/dry vaccuum cleaner and adapt a way of connecting it to a short piece of 5/8 inch ID garden hose so that you can suck the water out of the piping.

If you're using a pencil tip style torch, throw it in the garbage where it belongs. Buy a torch that mixes the fuel and air in a short mixing tube before igniting the mixture.
Ayuh,... I Agree,.. Especially about tossing the pencil-tip torch, if that's what ya got...

A Much Simpler method I use to get rid of the Water is,...
Pack both ways inside the tubing with Bread,... Plain ole White Bread...

Pushed in an inch or 2, it allows the joint area to heat up Quickly to soldering Temps....
When you're done, the Bread just dissolves....
If you have sinks with strainer type spigots, pull the strainer Off before flushing the line...
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Old 01-15-2009, 04:32 PM   #5
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a Presto-lite tip,and an acytalene MC tank..fluxed up ...clean fitting 5 to 10 seconds 1" away from an 5/8 copper elbow .....hit "wipe" both joints pull away torch flame.
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Old 01-15-2009, 06:09 PM   #6
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Yeah, I gotta agree 5-10 minutes is ridiculous. The technique is:
  • Sand the fitting & pipe (with 3/4" pipe you should be sanding at least 1")
  • Flux the fitting & pipe (and make sure you flux beyond the fitting). You don't want gobs of flux, but also don't want to go too thin either.
  • Bend the solder in a sort of hook, you want to apply solder to the opposite side you're flaming (read on why).
  • Next apply flame so the middle of the fitting gets the most amount of time and I try not to have the flame sit on one spot, I try to rotate the flame around the fitting as much as possible but focus mainly on the middle (sometimes you can't).
  • Periodically bring the middle of the flame to the joint where the fitting & pipe meet. If the flame turns green on the opposite side I keep the torch applied for 4-5 more seconds and the joint is ready to solder. This green flame at the opposite side of the joint may not work with propane, I use MAPP. My pipe has never been ready to solder before the flame turns green, and if I put it at the joint and it's blue but then turns to green it needs 4-5 more seconds of flame.

    Solder is attracted to heat so you want the middle of the fitting hottest so the solder gets sucked in. I can't tell you how many newbies heat the pipe and wonder why the solder isn't going into the fitting. I don't directly flame the pipe ever unless the pipe is cold from being in say an unheated basement in winter. Apply the solder to the OPPOSITE side of the fitting you're heating cause again since its attracted to heat it will be "sucked" towards the side you heated since it's hotter, it also ensures the whole fitting is hot enough, and sometimes there isn't room to apply it to the opposite side you just have to do the best you can.
  • I follow 1/2" pipe gets 1/2" solder, 3/4" pipe gets 1" solder, and 1" pipe gets 2" solder.
  • I wait to let the joint cool some but before it completely cools I clean the joint the best I can with a moist rag to remove any flux which wipes right off when still hot. If you wait too long, the flux will cool to a wax and is very difficult to remove.
If you try to solder and it doesn't get "sucked" in rather it's avoiding the pipe like it's teflon coated you probably
  • Did not cover enough of the pipe with flux (such as putting flux on 3/4" length of pipe for a 3/4" deep fitting leaving no extra on the pipe itself outside the fitting. In this case you don't have flux outside the fitting to help the solder liquify. Often quickly applying flux to the outside of the fitting and then appyling the solder again will get things working and the solder sucked in.
  • You have water, any water will cool the pipe down almost immediately but the fitting will remain hot enough to melt the solder. You have to either keep the flame on the pipe to evaporate the water, or after cutting the pipe give it some time to drain/air dry.
  • You contaminated the joint with grease (likely from your fingers, maybe the pipe had grease on it when you sanded it, maybe you made the joint on the sticker of the pipe or where it used to be. Don't ever put a joint/fitting where the sticker is/was).
  • Kept the heat on too long and burned the flux away.
Good luck!

Last edited by Piedmont; 01-15-2009 at 06:31 PM.
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Old 01-15-2009, 06:50 PM   #7
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I thought something must not be right.

But, I'm confused about the water in the pipe. For example, recently I was soldering an elbow on a 3/4 copper pipe. The pipe was on the third floor of the house, and I drained all the piping using a tap in the basement. How much water can be left? The 3rd floor pipe is open to the air, so shouldn't it all flow out? (misterfixit1967, I read your article. I guess I'm just stuck at how much water can be left!)

I understand if water were constantly dripping through the joint, but that's generally not the case. Am I worried about drops of water clinging to the pipe, or basically pipes full of water? How far back from where I'm soldering do I need to worry? 6 feet? 10 feet? Anywhere in the house? I'll try the shop-vac.

I'm just using one of the propane "kits" like this: http://www.homedepot.ca/webapp/wcs/s...k=P_PartNumber

Based on the flame description, I'd expect I have a pencil-tip torch, but I see there are air-holes near the bottom of the torch tube. So, I don't know. Can someone point me at a link for a better propane torch? For $40, I guess I could go for one of these: http://www.homedepot.ca/webapp/wcs/s...k=P_PartNumber which (according to Bernzomatic's website) does MAPP and Propane.

Thanks again everyone.

Oh, by the way, has anyone ever used one of these: http://toolmonger.com/2008/10/21/a-n...al-water-gate/ seems neat as a replacement to the bread trick.
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Old 01-15-2009, 06:57 PM   #8
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You can tell if there's water in the pipe if spits at you and steam is coming out when you apply the torch, and sometimes water starts coming out of the joint. I know it's water also when after about 1 minute the solder still isn't melting (but I use MAPP).

A little more than a foot away is as close as I've successfully been able to solder a vertical pipe with water in it. Any closer, and as I've applied the torch/flame to the joint the water rises and starts to boil and come out of the joint.

I would guess by your description then, it is your torch.

Last edited by Piedmont; 01-15-2009 at 07:02 PM.
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Old 01-15-2009, 10:12 PM   #9
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What is a decent torch for a DIYer? I looked at some that weren't pencil tip and they seem a little pricey? Can someone recomend a good torch, one that doesn't cost a fortune but isn't a piece of junk? I'm thinking somewhere between 50-100 bucks. Thanks
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Old 01-15-2009, 10:50 PM   #10
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Quote:
You could also go the low-tech route and stuff a piece of bread in the pipe to block it off — this old standby usually does the trick, but can clog faucet aerators if it’s not removed. I found this out the hard way. Street pricing on the Water-Gate is around $37.
Ayuh,...
That 3rd link is a pretty Cool Tool,... But,.. 37 Bucks buys alot of White Bread....

I use a Burns-o-matic Sure Fire, with propane..

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