Copper pipes make up most if not all our plumbing connections. However, like any other system, plumbing systems do fail and become leaky at some point. Depending on your interest and skills in soldering, you can easily sweat (solder) a broken plumbing copper pipe connection. This just requires a few basic steps. These include:
Cut off the damaged piece
This will require some type of pipe-cutting tool. The easiest is a household hack-saw. Cut off the leaky part of the copper pipe making sure not to leave any cracked or damaged part along the pipe. Depending on the location of the pipe, you may need to improvise to get a good hold of the pipe while cutting.
Clean and brush
This is done on both ends of the piece that will join the pipes and on the pipe itself. Use a copper pipe cleaning brush to do this. However, a regular thick-bristled brush will do as well. Clean the ends of the pipes that will fit together until they reveal shiny surfaces. The insides of the pipes should be thoroughly cleaned as well. This ensures that the solder and flux form a seamless bond that would otherwise be compromised by dirt and other impurities.
Apply solder paste
This should be applied on the insides of the pipe and on the outside edges of the fitting. Apply this sparingly since excessive solder paste will lead to a poor joint. Use your tool of choice to apply this if you do not have a solder paste brush.
This will involve applying heat to the fitted joint using a soldering torch. Soldering iron and guns will not work as well as the torch will. Once the joint is hot, feed the braid of solder into the joint and ensure it melts and flows to seal the joints entirely. Wipe off the excess solder and leave to dry.
Soldering is a tricky art and requires quite a bit of experience, practice and knowledge to perfect. However, there is a wide range of options out there for the beginner, hobbyist or enthusiast who wishes to sharpen their soldering skill. Wherever among these classifications you may be, here are a few options that you could learn with.
What is not to be found on the internet these days? The platform has grown in leaps and bounds and now has information on just about anything. This would be a nice place to start honing your soldering skills. Some of the benefits of using the internet include low cost, wide range of topics in varied types and the fact that it is always accessible. However, take care to always research any piece of questionable information on the internet, not everything is true.
These would be your best learning bets. However, there are various disadvantages to using books to learn how to solder. The first is that most books you will find are relatively limited in content. This is due to the fact that most of these are general electronics books and not developed specifically for soldering courses. However, the content in books will almost certainly be valid and reliable. Another downside is that at times, the costs of acquiring a book tend to be relatively high as compared to other options especially in the short run.
If you happen to be an arts student, specifically taking subjects related to soldering, well, you will most certainly learn how to solder in the best possible environment. Most art schools have skilled tutors in the fields of electronics who impart soldering skills onto their students. There is also the option of engaging the services of a trainer in which case you would have to be their assistant or apprentice. This is perhaps the best way to learn. However, finding one of these trainers tends to be really hard.
Plumbing is the most common if not the only effective method of binding copper pipes together. Like in virtually every other type of plumbing, the first step involves getting everything you will require ready and cleaning all surfaces that will be joined together. The most common method of bonding pipes involves creating a socket. This involves fitting parts of the pipes together one within the other and then applying a filler of metal using techniques such as soldering or brazing. It is important to ensure that a significant length of the tube and the fitting overlap for stability. This area is known as the faying surface. Once these are in place, the filler metal is soldered in the adjoining surface area and after melting flows and cools within the points of contact thus permanently joining them.
From the basics of soldering, the metal used as filler must have a melting point lower than that of the parts of the pipe being joined together. The solder must therefore be of an alloy with a lower melting point than that of the material making the pipes. The banning of what was known as 50/50 alloy of tin and lead has led to development of new alloys usable in the plumbing industry. Most of these have large components of tin combined with other metals to make the alloy stronger. Such metals include silver, antimony and nickel. It is however important to note that brazing achieves better, stronger and more durable joints as compared to soldering. However, it does require a higher temperature to operate and melt the metal filler. For small cracks and pipes, soldering will work almost as well as any other alternative. However, for large pipes or large volumes of work, it is better to consider alternatives since the effectiveness of soldering very quickly takes a dip.