04:08PM | 05/24/05
Member Since: 05/23/05
1 lifetime posts
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


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

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 manufacturer 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 amatuer guy.

The amateur guy


02:28PM | 05/28/05
Member Since: 08/29/04
227 lifetime posts
Just remember, when all else fails read the instructions:) In addition, if you have some water in the pipe, you can use a straw to get it out. By the way, you can stop the water flowing if its a small drip, by wadding up some soft white bread and stuffing it into the pipe till its fairly tight. After your get the water stopped, solder the pipe and turn on the water. The bread will dissolve and turn to liquid, just don't use the crust.

Good Luck

Raymond VinZant Plumbing Prof.


02:44PM | 09/14/06
Member Since: 09/13/06
3 lifetime posts
But thanks for posting this anyway.

My first attempt at sweating pipe was pretty ugly & is now failing in one place. I just put a question on the plumbing bbs regarding if it's possible to "re-sweat" a fitting with too much solder outside the fitting & a small (1 drop/half-hour)leak with the hopes of having the solder flow into the offending spot.

Any advice? Thanks.


10:11AM | 09/15/06
Member Since: 01/24/06
1558 lifetime posts
1- Copper tubing should be cut with a tubing cutter not a pipe cutter

2- Copper tubing has to be reamed to prevent erosion and premature piping failures do to turbulent flow created by the end of the tube.

3- Flux should not be self cleaning type as these types of fluxes normally contain some type of acid that if not properly removed will eat away at the joint

4- The velocity of the water flowing through the piping should be taken into consideration as to much can cause hydraulic shock (water hammering) and pitting and erosion especially on hot water.

5- The coefficient of expansion per degree per foot should also considered as one has to allow for expansion and contraction of the piping.

6- What type of solder is also a factor that one should think about as each alloy has varying amounts of tin thus a higher melting point and liquid range and tensile strenth.

7- Flux generally is poisonous and care has to be taken as make sure the area is well ventilated

Personally I like brazing copper tubing as I get a joint stronger then the base metal and no flux is needed with the right rods, depending on the silver content what temperature range I will need.

Proper supports, and not mixing ferrous and non ferrous metals is very important to prevent electrolytic action.

Soldering with a little water flowing is possible if one uses the correct torch tip like a Union carbide Swirl jet tip or most brands of acetylene tips that can generate a 4,200 deg secondary flame ( Oxyacetylene generates 5,800 deg) copper melts at 1981 deg.

There are chemicals on the market that will stop the flow of water (trickle) and then harden enough to solder a joint and when the pressure is put on again the chemical just flows away harmlessly.

One can always solder a half a union or an adapter to a slow dripping pipe and then screw on a valve or continue with copper and then make up the union after all soldering is completed.


12:41PM | 09/15/06
Member Since: 09/13/06
3 lifetime posts
Thanks for all of the info, I'll certainly do better planning next time.

You mentioned chemicals on the market that can stop the dripping problem - would a hardware stock them or should I go to a plumbing supply? Can you name one for me?

Thanks again.


07:37AM | 09/16/06
Member Since: 01/24/06
1558 lifetime posts
Go to any decent plumbing supply and ask about Hercules or SOS chemicals.


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