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Soldering a Tee

Post about things you have launched or thought about launching. Also post about various materials used for building cannons. No posts about explosive projectiles!
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Soldering a Tee

Unread postAuthor: Velocity » Sat Apr 07, 2007 1:26 pm

OK, I am a novice when it comes to soldering copper. However, I have been improving recently, and I am about to start a project involving copper pipe and fittings (like my 4th; the first three failed :oops: ). This project involves a 1" copper tee.

I have heard many comments about what to do when you are soldering on a tee. Apparently, you need to do so in a sequence. How exactly would I go about that? Would I put flux on all three tee sockets and all three copper pipe sections, and then start at the left branch and solder that joint, then move to the bottom branch and solder that joint, and then move to the right branch and solder that joint? Or should I just flux and solder the first joint, flux and solder the second joint, and then flux and solder the third joint?

Sorry for my ignorance. Any other tips are appreciated.
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Unread postAuthor: demilus » Sat Apr 07, 2007 1:31 pm

I would suggest clicking on the How-To link at the top of the page. Look for a "Working With Copper Topic." This offers a comprehensive guide to soldering pipe.
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Unread postAuthor: Velocity » Sat Apr 07, 2007 1:58 pm

Yeah, I have read that topic before. I believe it says to heat all three joints at the same time, and solder them all at the same time as well. My only concern is will a simple propane torch be able to keep three 1" joints hot enough to be soldered at the same time? I would not think so...
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Unread postAuthor: hi » Sat Apr 07, 2007 2:41 pm

you may need to use mapp gas if propane isnt hot enough. To solder you need to put flux on. then you put the pipe into the fitting. then you heat the pipe and fitting at the same time. Heat it up for 30 seconds or so, the remove the torch and put solder on. the solder will melt when you touch the pipe. if it doesnt melt, keep heating the pipe. it will melt by itself.

edit- you only do ONE at a time. do one, then put the next pipe in are repeat the process.
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Unread postAuthor: Pete Zaria » Sat Apr 07, 2007 3:43 pm

I was writing you a response, and then started to second-guess it. So I called up my dad, who's a retired plumber.

He said to flux all 3 pipes, insert them into the T, heat the T from the back side (the side that no socket comes out of) until the whole T is almost up to soldering temperature, then move the flame to each leg to solder them individually. On each leg, he says to heat it until the flux stops smoking, then apply the solder. The solder should liquefy and run into the joint easily - if the solder beads up, you don't have the materials hot enough. Once you've soldered one, move to the next leg until you've got them all. If you burn off all the flux on one leg while you're soldering another, reapply the flux there. An oven mitt is helpful for grabbing hot pipe.

I've found propane is hot enough for copper fittings under 1". Over 1", MAPP speeds things up quite a bit.

Peace,
Pete Zaria.
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Unread postAuthor: Velocity » Sat Apr 07, 2007 4:19 pm

Thanks for the responses. I just bought the necessary copper fittings. Much to my dismay, they did not have a fitting where one end is 1" NPT, and the other end is 1" pipe (called a female fitting adapter; they do have them in 3/4"). It is basically a "street" female adapter. So I just bought a regular female adapter.

I like to have all of my fittings flush. This is easy to do with PVC cement. However, with solder, there needs to be a small gap for the solder to run into. My question is, can I solder something from the wrong side? Here is what I plan to do: I will heat up the female adapter fitting (Which will be sitting on top of the 1" pipe) regularly. When the copper pipe and fittings becomes hot enough, I will push the solder against the copper pipe, but instead of doing this on the exterior of the fitting and pipe, I hope to be able to apply the solder inside the female fittings. If this works properly, it will allow me to have a female adapter which will be flush with the tee it is soldered next to.

Sorry if my explanation is poor. I included a picture.
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Unread postAuthor: Hawkeye » Sat Apr 07, 2007 4:33 pm

I can see you ending up with solder running down inside the pipe the piston needs to slide in. Just make them reasonably flush and give yourself some room to get the solder in the center joint. What's wrong with a small gap with a silver ring around it?
The street female adapters actually never seem to be as nice a fit as the pipe anyway and the interior is rarely as smooth. On some brands there is a bit of a lip at the middle which can hinder getting the piston in or out.
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Unread postAuthor: Velocity » Sat Apr 07, 2007 4:45 pm

Now that I think about it, it won't look too bad. And I just looked up the price of a 1" female fitting adapter. Its $15 and up. Now even I am not THAT crazy, considering that I am sure I am going to splash solder everywhere anyways :lol: .

Hawkeye, you seem to be a bit of an expert in the field of copper piston valves; do you have a picture of one which you have built? Not because I don't believe you; just so I have an idea of what one will look like finished (I suppose I could just look at some of the finished cannons on this forum too)...
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Unread postAuthor: WOW!! » Sat Apr 07, 2007 5:08 pm

rmich732 wrote:Thanks for the responses. I just bought the necessary copper fittings. Much to my dismay, they did not have a fitting where one end is 1" NPT, and the other end is 1" pipe (called a female fitting adapter; they do have them in 3/4"). It is basically a "street" female adapter. So I just bought a regular female adapter.

I like to have all of my fittings flush. This is easy to do with PVC cement. However, with solder, there needs to be a small gap for the solder to run into. My question is, can I solder something from the wrong side? Here is what I plan to do: I will heat up the female adapter fitting (Which will be sitting on top of the 1" pipe) regularly. When the copper pipe and fittings becomes hot enough, I will push the solder against the copper pipe, but instead of doing this on the exterior of the fitting and pipe, I hope to be able to apply the solder inside the female fittings. If this works properly, it will allow me to have a female adapter which will be flush with the tee it is soldered next to.

Sorry if my explanation is poor. I included a picture.


When I do things like that, I usely leave a small section in between them so I can put the solder in there.
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Unread postAuthor: Hawkeye » Sat Apr 07, 2007 7:07 pm

Sorry, no camera at the moment.. Plenty of good typical examples on here though.
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Unread postAuthor: pyrogeek » Sun Apr 08, 2007 11:27 am

What if you soldered the pipe leaving a little gap, then after the solder runs in you pushed them together to get rid of the gap?
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Unread postAuthor: Velocity » Fri Apr 13, 2007 9:50 pm

UPDATE

I had all of the joints perfect... until I had to solder the elbow to the tee. First time, the solder beaded up. I managed to break the bond (it was really weak) and then clean the fittings and try again. This time, I suspect water was in the 1" pipe, and therefore it was not soldering properly. I didn't have enough time to heat the pipe up to soldering temperature the third time, and therefore it obviously didn't solder properly...

There is a faint stain of solder on a small part of the elbow and tee. For some reason, these fittings just do not want to be soldered together.

If I decide to restart this project/fix it, I think I will use MAPP gas. Propane is honestly a PITA for these 1" copper fittings; it takes forever. On McMaster, I found a torch head for propane that cost $60; it said that you could soft solder up to 3" copper with this torch head using propane; I kind of doubted that.

Anyways, if I do buy a canister of MAPP gas and use the torch head that is currently on my propane setup (just a simple gate valve type thing with a 4" stem), is there any new technique or things to keep in mind while soldering? Thanks
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Unread postAuthor: pyrogeek » Sat Apr 14, 2007 12:43 am

This isn't really the proper way, but have you tried tinning the parts first? I've done that to solder large wires together, thin steel to switches and such. Heck, the handle on my vise fell apart, so I actually soldered that back together. And that was like 3/8inch steel rod. That was just with propane, so it can be done. Of course, steel isn't as good a conductor as copper, so that may have made it easier.

As long as your torch can handle MAPP gas, try that first. If memory serves me right, you can even braze with it, it gets that hot.
I don't do plumbing for a living or anything, but I'm pretty sure that all you are worried about is getting it hot enough. I don't think you have to worry about any special heating pattern or burning through.
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Unread postAuthor: mark.f » Sun Apr 15, 2007 10:30 am

Hey rmich! Sorry I didn't reply to this sooner but I've been a little "catched up".

When I soldered the tee on my copper cannon, I started from the bottom. When I made "flush" connections, I just left a small, (3/4 mm), gap between the parts and did each separately. It worked fine for me. Also, for the front and back of the valve, I did the same thing. The only thing that caught me up really was soldering the bushing into the end of the tee. I soldered the 1/2" barrel into the bushing first, then soldered the bushing into the tee.

As for torches... I just used your average 13 buck Bernzomatic propane torch. I've used MAPP gas in the torch I have with no sort of damage to it when I was making "glowing marbles", but I'm sure they make MAPP torches for a reason. :wink: It might hold up long enough for you to solder your connections.
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Unread postAuthor: Velocity » Tue Apr 17, 2007 6:11 pm

Sorry for the somewhat late reply. I am not worried about the MAPP damaging the torch; almost all the torch heads which are used with propane can be used safely with MAPP. My hardware store told me that MAPP burns hotter (duh) and is harder to work with for a beginner (me)... I need to know WHY, if any reason, MAPP is harder to work with then propane.

Either way, I am buying a nice torch for $60. The pencil ones are just not doing it for me. This one also has interchangeable torch tips, and the one which is included is a swirl flame one, which apparently is ideal for soldering.

The pencil one which I have now is suitable for soft soldering copper up to 1" in diameter (difficult to do now); the one I plan to buy is suitable for soft soldering copper up to 3" :shock: :o . I am never going to try that though, because if I screwed up... out WAY too many dollars. If the torch head really does work well, I might try some 1.5" copper and beyond.

Hopefully, I can just use propane with this torch (surprisingly, the MAPP gas at my hardware store is priced regularly, where the propane is way too much money, only $2 less than the MAPP). I might try brazing just for the hell of it once I grow bored of soft soldering (I heard brazing materials need to be machined to close tolerances though, so that might not work out...)
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