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Tools For Soldering Copper Pipe

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When doing a plumbing project that involves soldering copper pipe it really pays to be prepared. It’s really important to have all of the necessary tools on hand before you begin soldering. To help you get ready here is a list of tools you’ll need when soldering copper pipe.

1. Torch

Soldering torch
Aaron Stickley
The torch needed for soldering copper can be propane or MAPP gas. MAPP gas comes in a yellow tank and propane comes in a blue tank. MAPP gas gets much hotter than propane so it heats the pipe faster. MAPP gas is also usually more expensive to buy. Propane works just fine, it just takes longer. This can be a good thing if you are new to soldering copper and you are working on 3/4" or 1/2" pipe. The choice of torch is really up to you.

2. Solder

Copper solder
Aaron Stickley
There is more than one type of solder available so make sure to buy plumbing solder. Check that the solder is ok for soldering copper plumbing pipes and that it is safe for drinking water.

3. Flux

Soldering flux
Aaron Stickley
This is an acid that makes the solder flow into the pipe joints. Without a good flux the solder will not flow right and it is more likely that you will end up with leaks. I have been able to solder with most of the fluxes available at home improvement stores so I know they work but there are some I prefer more than others. If you find one that is working well for you stick with it since not all fluxes are created equal.

Once again make sure that the flux you purchase is safe for drinking water if that is what the pipes are for.

4. Striker

Torch striker
Aaron Stickley
The striker is used to create a spark to start the torch with. Some torches have auto strikers built in so in that case a striker would be unnecessary. For safety reasons it is always a good idea to use a striker, not an open flame, to light a torch.

5. Copper Pipe Cutters

Copper pipe cutter
Aaron Stickley
Using copper pipe cutters is an easy way to cut the necessary pipe lengths. The cutters leave a nice straight edge and they help to minimize burs on the cut edge.

6. Sand Cloth

Sand cloth
Aaron Stickley
Making sure that the pipe and fittings are clean is probably one of the most important things to do before you begin soldering copper pipe. A good sandpaper cloth is necessary to cleaning the outside of the copper pipe. Sand both ends of the pipe to about 1/2 an inch beyond the fitting.

7. Fitting Brush

Fitting brush
Aaron Stickley
To clean the inside of the copper fittings use a fitting brush. The wire bristles can prime the inside of the fitting to make good contact with the pipe.

8. Safety Items

Soldering safety
Aaron Stickley
A fire cloth, a spray bottle with water, and a fire extinguisher are very important to have on hand when soldering copper pipe so that nothing catches on fire.
  • Fire cloth: a barrier that is fire retardant can be positioned behind whatever it is you are soldering so that the surrounding area does not catch fire.
  • Water: A spray bottle with water is a must for me. I wet down any area I will be soldering first and then use it as a backup if anything begins to smolder. I also wet the area back down when I am finished soldering since the residual heat can still catch fire.
  • Fire Extinguisher: Always have a fire extinguisher handy when soldering copper pipe just in case something catches fire and you cannot put it out with just a spray bottle of water.
There are kits you can buy that have most of the basics soldering tools in them like a torch, solder, flux, sand cloth, and striker. Buying things is a pack like this will often save some money so consider that option unless you are looking at buying specific items such as a better than average torch, more solder, or a specific flux.
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