to Solder Copper Pipe
By Contractor Mike
Open the can of flux and get some paste on the
brush. A thin coat. Wipe the excess on the edge
of the can. You're not applying mastic around a
chimney here. Holding one of the 3" pieces
in the center, flux each end all around but no
more than 3/4" from the end. Slip an elbow
onto each end and give a quick wipe on excess flux
around the fittings with the 2nd cloth. Put the
partly assembled "plug" onto the 1st
Repeat this until you have your square copper
plug assembled. If it looks circular, or like an
irregular polyhedron, something went south on you
somewhere, so start again.
Since your plug components cannot touch anything
during the soldering (draws off heat), use your
vise-grips to (gently) lock on to the center of
one of the copper pieces so that the plug is hanging
over an edge (e.g., a work bench) in a vertical
position. The vise-grips will also act as a heat
The basic thing to remember in copper soldering
is that heat flows up, then sideways, then down.
But because the parts are so close together in
this practice session, and everything will heat
up rather quickly, this difference is minimal.
Still, you are going to start by soldering the
bottom two elbows, then the top two.
Unroll the solder so you have about eight inches
sticking out. Not a foot, and not two inches --
All you'll probably need to do (if you do it right)
is make one adjustment to the length of the solder
(after the bottom two elbows are sweated) to finish
up on the upper two elbows.
Okay, you're ready to fire up that propane/MAP
gas torch. For the abbreviation buffs, MAP stands
for methylacetylene-propadiene. It burns hotter
than pure propane. Always keep it pointed away
from your face and body. And keep that flame in
sight at all times, too. Also, never never never
lay the torch handle (or tank, if there's no hose)
down on its side with the flame on.
Much of what you're going to do next seems counter-intuitive,
but read carefully and you'll be soldering like a
pro in no time.
Contractor Mike was a General Building
Contractor for nearly twenty years in Los Angeles
and is now a produced playwright.