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Eatherton "flux sponge"

RodRod Posts: 2,067
Hi - I ran across this phrase reading an old post on sweating copper fittings. I'm assuming that it means using a sponge rather than a brush for applying flux.  Can anyone fill me in on the proper technique?


- Rod


  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,552
    You are correct Rod...

    A little back ground first. The CDA use to cut samples of failed copper pipe and fittings apart. In most cases, the pipe failure was thought to be due to hydraulic erosion corrosion. In fact a good 95% of their evaluations were technically wrong. The failures were due to the excess use of flux. It has always been thought by the trades, that if a little flux does a little good, then a LOT of flux will do a LOT of good. Nothing could be further from the truth...

    In the good old days of petroleum based flux, the flux did not simply wash out, even with extremely hot water and TSP.

    Hence the reason the code officials forced a move to water soluble fluxes, which the industry DESPISES. In fact, it was so bad that the EPA had to back off of enforcing the rule requiring its use due to the number of failures of soldered joints in the field. The basic reason was that many plumbers were used to being able to pouring a lot of heat to the copper fitting prior to applying solder, because the petro based flux had such a high "frying" point. Not so with the water based flux, and once oxidized, the chances of getting a decent joint were slim to none... THe "fry" point of water based flux is so low that one must watch the flux go through its phases. It starts out as a paste, and as you are heating it up, it will then bubble. Shortly thereafter, it goes dry, and THAT is when you want to back the heat off and apply the solder. If you let the joint get much hotter than that, it WILL fry, and then it won't tin, and will most probably either pull out or leak or both. No solder penetration into the cup of the joint due to the lack of whetting agents, which allow for capillary attraction to draw molten solder into the joint. Hence, the reason I developed the flux sponges. That and the labor savings.

    To use the flux brush, I use a 1" wide thick bristle paint brush to apply the flux to the sponge, and that is good for about 10 flux applications until it becomes necessary to reapply the flux to the sponge. Then, one swipe of the sponge to the pipe and it is ready to go. For fluxing the insides of the fittings, and use a sharpened piece of copper pipe and cut part way through a block of sponge, leaving a large chunk for a handle. Again, apply flux to the inside sponge using a 1" brush. Always keep the brushes sealed up in an air tight ZipLoc bag when not in use to avoid oxidation and dirt.

    And NEVER cut a hole in the lid of your flux container. They put lids on those things for a reason. To keep the air and dirt out. Flux contamination is the fastest way to a spoiled joint that I know of.

    When you use the flux sponges, you have to pay a lot of attention to those joints that ARE fluxed, because the film of flux is so thin, that you really can't tell if it has been fluxed or not, until its too late.

    When applying heat to the joint, you should NEVER leave the heat pointed at one place for too long. Keep the flame moving. I start by heating the face of the fitting where the pipe and the cup of the joint are, and then move the flame to the back of the joint. As I said, keep an eye on the fluxed surface,and when it goes dry, back the heat off and bring the solder to the joint. On joints of less than 3/4". once around is more than adequate. On 1" thru 1-1/4", 1-1/2 times around, and larger than 1-1/4", 2 times around. On joints above 2" I don't bother to solder any more. I use Propress fittings.


    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • RodRod Posts: 2,067

    Thanks, Mark, for such a detailed explanation!  The great thing about "the Wall" is that one constantly learns.  I can see now that I wasn't well versed in the use of water based flux.

    - Rod
  • jonny88jonny88 Member Posts: 1,139
    great info

    thanks for that mark,very what size pipe do you flux the fitting.i usually start from one inch and up,also whats your thoughts on using flux to clean the joint after soldering,im definitly going to change my bad habits after reading your post,
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,552
    Flux 'em all ....

    I flux ALL sizes of fittings, and obviously, pipes. If its not fluxed, its not whetting, and if it's not whetting, then it won't flow with capillary attraction. As for cleaning with flux after the fact, I have no opinion, although if the flux attacks the inside of the pipe, it probably attacks the outside of the pipe just as well.

    As for cleaning joints after the fact, I knock any dingle berrys off of the joint with my wire solder while it is still molten, but NEVER attempt to wipe a joint until the joint has completely solidified. Doing so will create micro-fractures within the soldered joint that don't appear to be leaking, but over time those joints will grow a white fur around the face of the joint where the water is evaporating, leaving the solids from the water behind. If its glycol, it will be bluish/green in color.

    If I need to clean flux residue off the joint after the fact, I will "brush" the joint with an open torch flame, and quickly wipe the residue off with a a good clean wet cloth (not Rayon or Nylon, cotton or paper only). I've recently discovered that there are boxes of industrial strength paper towels that work quite well, except that they are more susceptible to catching on fire.

    I know that there are a lot of seasoned tradesmen/women reading this that are thinking to themselves, "I've been soldering for XX years and never had any problems", and it is not my intent to tell THEM how to solder. It is my intent to show anyone who is interested how I solder, and have modified the CDA recommendations to work to my advantage. If it works for you, keep doing it. If you've had a high percentage of leaks, consider modifying the way you do things, to your advantage. As it pertains to leaks, as my pappy use to say, "There are two people in this world that don't have leaks. People who don't work with pipes/fittings, and plumbers that lie...." ;-)

    Bad habits are not really bad habits as it pertains to soldering. It is just misguided instructions that start at the top of the chain, and flow all the way to the bottom. I met one of the gentlemen charged with inventing soldering way back in the 1940's. He use to live here in the Denver Metro area. Interesting fellow for sure.


    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Big EdBig Ed Member Posts: 816
    Flux Wipe

    After the job I wipe off the sweats with detergent and water to clean off the flux residue to prevent that future green oxidation ?
    I have enough experience to know , that I dont know it all
  • Big EdBig Ed Member Posts: 816
    Flux Wipe

    After the job I wipe off the sweats with detergent and water to clean off the flux residue to prevent that future green oxidation ?
    I have enough experience to know , that I dont know it all
  • PlumdogPlumdog Member Posts: 873
    Who was the guy

    that brought out the wheeled crates with all the eroded fittings and got real stern about reaming, cleaning, mixing flux daily, etc? From Platte River Plumbing, I think. Showed us all the how-to for the 2 thru 3 inch copper pipe and fittings when the transition to no-lead was making the experts look bad. 
  • Ron Jr.Ron Jr. Member Posts: 527
    edited April 2012
    Great explanation Mark !

    A little flux goes a long way . That's my soldering credo .

    We use flux brushes . I paint the thinnest bead of it on the end of the pipe or street fitting . Applying it half the distance the pipe will go into the fitting is more than enough . Never inside the fitting . Once you push the fitting all the way on and give it a little twist , the flux is spread pretty evenly . Even with that minimal amount , you'll have flux oozing down the pipe while soldering . The only time I'll re-flux the joint is if it leaked or we soldered a fitting on old pipe and it took kinda funky .

    I work with guys who paint it in the fittings , on the pipe , reflux after every soldering and keep dabbing that burnt out , dirty  flux brush stub into their flux can .......................Guess which method has more leaks ?

    What I think really helps alot with the bonding of solder to the pipes is the method you use to clean them . We use plumbers open mesh and fitting brushes . They actually put grooves in the fittings and I'll bet it makes the joint even stronger than cleaning the surfaces with fine steel wool .
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,552
    Agreed Ron...

    When I am doing a boiler room, I use a Rockwell 1" vertical belt sander to clean my pipes (Zip, Zip and done). It's an 80 grit belt, and does bite into the copper just a tad, and I too think it causes better solder penetration and better resistance to pull out, although I've (fortunately) never had to test it.

    I have a set of fitting brushes that I've cut the handles off of so I can chuck them up into my cordless drill (Zip, Zip again)

    I also built a flux sponge holder, that I will describe. A 4" piece of 2X4 for the bottom, a 6" piece screwed to that to make an L, and then a 3" piece of 2X4 with a V cut into the long length of the flat to hold the sponge, which I also cut into a V. THe sponge is held in place with a brass screw and washer to keep it from flipping and flopping around. You put the pipe into the V of the sponge and twist it around1-1/2 times, flip it over and do the other side, and your done. Zip, Zip, badabing, badaboom :-) I'd take a picture of it, but it is 100 miles away at my other project. I am installing my solar thermal system this weekend.

    I too prefer the open cloth to the old closed cloth, but I understand that not all warehouses carry the product. Old habits are tough to break.

    Keep up the good work.

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265

    Not wanting to be the contrarian here but,

    Almost every one I see uses WAY too much flux on fittings. I see guys in the supply house buying cans of flux for every job. I bought a case of 48 cans of Crest solder paste 30 years ago ant gave 24 cans away. I still have a few cans. I find that the correct amount of flux is when the can is almost empty and it flips over when I stick the brush in. When I give up on an old container, I scoop some new from a new can and put it in the old. Until the new can is getting down. I paste LIGHTLY, the pipe and fittings. My son turned me on to a Sioux Chief "Power Deuce" that has fittings that fit in my battery drill. It cleans fittings better than any sand cloth.

    As far as soldering, I wipe EVERYTHING with a rag. No soap, no nothing. And with a rag, I can tell if I got the fitting hot enough for the solder to have flowed properly. If I think it is done, and I remove the torch to wipe the Grapes off, and it won't wipe, it wasn't hot enough. I should be able to run the rag entirely around the fitting with molten solder before it starts to "stick". When the solder is molten, it is shiny. When it solidifies, it becomes dull. If I watch the solder and it is shiny, I will watch it and it will suddenly change to a dull color. I always carry a spray bottle of water to put out fires or spray on wood surfaces that might become over heated. I can also spray the fitting to cool it down.

    I didn't realize that the paste thing about burning the paste was the reason you stated. I always attributed it to over heating. I bought a can of that stuff and had a tribe of leaks. And I NEVER overheat fittings. "Start at the back, move to the front."

    I was under a house putting some crawl space ventilators in and I kept hearing a drip, drip, drip. There was a leak on a newly soldered tee (by others) that I could tell hadn't been heated properly. If you can't wipe the solder around the fitting with a rag, at least twice before it turns dull, you may not have heated it enough. Especially on tees. There is no other way that I have ever found that will show you if you got it hot enough.

    And you will never see any green stains on ANYTHING I solder. Not under houses, not in concealed piping in walls, attics or underground. Not even in plain sight.

    In 1964 when I was a union carpenter, I watched a plumber soldering a 2" copper water service together. He used a rag, over and over. When I started plumbing shortly after, my old boss did the same thing only he used to make us use sand cloth around the pipe on the insert to get rid of the green paste. A rag works far better.

    You want leaks? Use 50/50. It will run out like water.

    And I don't use a MAPP gas Blow Torch that will char any surface within 12" of it. I still use my "B" tank Presto lite with a #3 tip. I replaced a 2" water meter service by-pass where the gate valves had the stems strip. My #3 tip was adequate. I could have used a #4 but the #3 was OK.
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,552
    You, a contrarian????? GASP!!! I'm shocked Chris :-)

    As I said, if you are comfortable with what you do, then by all means keep doing it. My intent was to help newbies avoid issues with their soldered joints. If established tradesmen want to change their ways then I say KUDOS to them for changing their ways.

    Just as a side note, I was told by the guy who helped invent soldering, that the reason that you should heat the pipe at the face of the fitting first was to get the pipe to expand into the socket of the fitting, because if the fitting socket grows too much, the clearance between the tube and fitting socket will not have as good a capillary attraction as it could.

    As it pertains to wiping the joint after assembly, the CDA recommends that the joint be cool to the touch prior to wiping. Again, the co inventor (he was part of a team) told me that one reason to NOT wipe a molten joint (other than creating microfractures) was that you could draw molten solder out of the joint, thereby weakening its structural integrity.

    The CDA actually developed a soldering testing procedure standards .

    I had heard at one point in time that they wanted to register every joint soldered by the tradesmen, by having the solderer affix a UPC code to each joint they soldered, so that if it failed at some time in the future, that they could come back and make a claim on your (required) errors and omissions insurance. To the best of my knowledge (fortunately) that proposal died on the table...

    Lastly, and I didn't mention it because I don't have to do it when I am using my carbide bladed chop saw, you MUST ream the pipe to full bore and remove all cuttings/reamings. This is the LAW, Not optional. I know Dan told me once that a bunch of plumbers told him that they NEVER reamed their pipes, because if they took the time necessary to ream the pipe, their boss would fire them. My response was that I pay my employees to do their job right, and if they DIDN'T ream their pipes, they WOULD get fired...

    Ream your pipes, and keep your flux clean, and your fitting brushes dry.

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • PlumdogPlumdog Member Posts: 873
    To answer my own question

    Guys name was Bill Coffey I think. Expert in the field of soldering joints. He didn't like wiping because he said it was pointless. He demonstrated the method for filling the cup on the largest fittings while working with the pipes horizontally; starting at the bottom and working up one side, then from the bottom up the other side, finishing the top while the sides had already solidified, keeping the solder from running out of the cup at the top. Then just knock the dingleberry off the bottom. Wipe it with a damp rag afterwards to remove any greasy flux and clean it up real purty. 
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,552
    Talk about a small world...

    This person wasn't Bill, his name was John something. He and Dan H sat on numerous boards of directors. But I did meet Bill just before he passed. My daughter bought a cabin up in the mountains near my cabin, and the lady she bought it from was Bill Coffey's daughter.

    John's name is on the tip of my brain, but won't come out right now.... Maybe Dan can recollect...

    It's hell to get old ;-)

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Jean-David BeyerJean-David Beyer Member Posts: 2,526
    Alternative to detergent....

    I am not a pro, but I did install a lot of 1/2-inch copper tubing when plumbing my darkroom. This included 100 soldered connections made with a Bernz-O-Matic torch. When done, I used a thin paste of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in a rag to clean of the residual flux to prevent turning the tubing green. I then wiped it again with a damp rag with nothing on it. If I were a fanatic (I am not) I would have polished it all and lacquered it to preserve the bright copper color.
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Getting Reamed:

    I ream most everything. That's what that thing on the end of a Ridgid #15 tubing cutter is for. Its also for turning a "B" tank on and off. I also chamfer the end of the tube to remove the burr from the cutter wheel so it doesn't possibly gall the copper fitting and get stuck going in or out. Then I give the tube a little squeeze to give it enough friction so it doesn't fall back out when I solder it or back out a little when I don't see it. Then end up with a partly inserted fitting.

    As far as heating the face of the fitting, that's sort of the way I was shown way back when before PVC and all drain, waste and venting was done with DWV Copper fittings. IT was back in the Pleistocene era before testing, and one day this plumber, who had been my helper in an early ere commented how he had taken some DWV copper apart that he and I had soldered and how the solder hadn't gotten to the back of the fittings. In 7th grade metal shop, we were taught that the hottest part of the flame was the point of the blue at the tip. With the flame thrower tips of the hand held turbo-tip torches that will burn and scorch anything within heating distance, it's easy to burn the paste. That crystallizing of the solder occurs when you move a pipe or fitting at that moment when it is about to solidify from molten to solid. Where the solder is liquid and shiny, and then becomes solid and dull. If you wipe consistently as I have, you will notice this changeover. If you are holding a fitting and waiting for it to cool, and you see it change, you are OK. If you let go too soon, and the tube moves in the joint when you thought it was "set", you will have a crystallized leak.

    If there's water in the pipe and you are trying to solder it, if you think you made it, and you take the torch away and wipe, and the solder on the bottom of the pipe won't wipe, it wasn't hot enough and will leak.

    I have a couple of those hand turbo torches. I use them for solder joints where I have a long crawl and I don;t feel like dragging my Presto-lite. I have a 25' hose. You and I do it the same way.

    More solder leaks are caused by overheating the front of a fitting than from under-heating at the back of a fitting. But both cab be spotted by wiping with a rag. If it won't wipe when you remove the heat, it may not have been hot enough.
  • NYplumberNYplumber Member Posts: 476
    lost fitting

    Ever see a plumber be a magician? They can be when they pre solder a female adapter to a pipe & dump it into a bucket of water way too early. The result is the pipe end exits the bucket sans the fitting!

    Mark, when you get a chance, post up a photo of that sponge, it would be greatly appreciated!

    A tip for those soldering upsidedown fittings is to start heating where the pipe enters the fitting, and wipe/burn the flux that drips down. Use just enough heat to solder w/o heating the pipe to the point that solder runs wild.

    For solder I use 95/5. Some brands melt lower making for a quicker joint completion.

    The only complaint I have with the brushes are that they leave bristles behind on the pipe or fitting, causing issues.
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    edited April 2012
    Soldering Horshoes:

    Soldering copper is like shoeing horses. If you do it every day, you get a real feel for it and do what you must by feel. You get a "feel" for what you are doing. I don't solder every day. I might go for a month without soldering anything because i am doing other things. But I still know how to solder. What I say about MY soldering technique is what I have developed as "feel" after many years of soldering and what I need to remember when I haven't been doing it for a while and how to avoid leaks.

    The act of a fitting falling off a pipe into a bucket when trying to cool it off.

    I always squeeze the tubing if it is loose on the fitting so it doesn't fall off when hot or doesn't slide back and I don't notice it. I've had too many fittings come apart when soldering and had to clean them up after they were hot. Saves me time, no leaks.

    On a tee with the run in the vertical, the bottom fitting will never leak if properly soldered, even if you overheat it. The branch may leak on the top if you aren't careful and overheat it. The top will easily leak when if you overheat it, the solder will run out the bottom like water.

    If you are in the habit of putting the heat to the face of the fitting, you may have leaks. Because the middle of a tee will suck up heat and may not ever get to the molten level when soldering the whole tee. I looked at a leak on a 3/4" copper tee that was installed recently by some P&H'er on a job today where I am installing some crawl space ventilators. When you solder, there is energy in the flame that will react with copper. I could see that the solderer only face heated the fitting on all three outlets. They didn't wipe because there was still paste on the fitting. And it was leaking. They didn't "wipe" because if you do it consistently, you will notice that when you take the heat away from the fitting, and it immediately "sets", the fitting wasn't hot enough. If you can wipe the liquid solder off the bottom of the fitting, it was hot enough. "Feel" will tell you. If there is any water or steam in the pipe, it will solidify instantly, before you can wipe it. If you think it is OK and fill it with water, you will probably have a leak. It will cost you a lot of time fixing it.

    When you wipe with a rag while it is hot, all traces of paste disappear. It leaves the pipe clean. A box of "Rags In A Box" with white terry cloth rags go a long time and I use them for cleaning PVC pipe. I've seen copper cleaned up with a wet water rag. There's still scuzz on the pipes.

    The first picture was soldered at the face, not wiped, has paste all over it, and leaks. The next two, were heated on the whole fitting, wiper off with  rag to get rid of all the grapes and solder slides, and has no paste staining. And not a single leak. If the camera had focused on the tee and not on the wall behind, the contrast would have been better.
  • jonny88jonny88 Member Posts: 1,139
    how about beading the pipe

    we just finished a large project with 3" and 4" copper.all fittings were soldered with lennox sterling solder.i found that after soldering a fitting ,i would change tips to a smaller tip and go aroung the fitting with less heat and bead the fitting,takes a lot more time but the result is worth it.icesailor im curious,how do you calculate your offsets for some reason i dont think you do it by eye,nyplumber,did you get that tip about wiping the flux away with a rag before soldering from troise,its great advice on how to avoid drips.
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265

    The most important number a carpenter or plumber can ever know. The square root of Two.  1.414. The stairway isn't a 45 degree angle. Hence the short nipples to the vertical and going to the horizontal. I call it fun in a closet. And you can remove the water heater without major removal of any piping.

    As far as the soldering of large pipes, that's a good idea using two tips. Once the firring is hot, it doesn't take as much energy to keep it hot. I always start at the top or bottom face, and heat it until a drop of solder forms where I am heating. Then, I move to the back of the fitting and heat from there. As I keep the heat going, I add solder to the face and watch it suck in. When it won't take anymore, I turn down the flame and wipe around the pipe. The back may be solidified but the face is on the edge.

    If any one of you out there know how and have "wiped" a lead pipe joint, you know how to handle that fine line between molten and solid. 50/50 solder melts at 360 degrees and lead at 620 degrees. That fact makes it so you are able to tin and solder lead. Too hot and the lead melts. But after tinning the lead, you take a pile of almost solidified solder and "wipe" it around the lead pipe. It was a talent that took practice.
  • jonny88jonny88 Member Posts: 1,139
    lead wipe

    they still require it on the plumbing test where i live,plumbers soil a good wiping cloth and a couple of burned fingers,worth it to get a nice rolled joint.we wiped straight leads,2 of which i used in my house,thanks icesailor for all the advice you have given me in the past whether you know it or not,when it comes to heating you guys are the best and thanks for sharing the knowledge
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,552
    Better than pictures...

    Attached please find a drawing of the device I use. Apply flux ONLY to the top most part of the sponge that will contact the pipe. The number of uses varies between refluxings, but I can tell by loooking at the pipe as I spin it in the cradle wether or not it needs replensihed. It doesn't dull the shiny finish. Usually about 10 times betwen refluxing.


    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • NYplumberNYplumber Member Posts: 476

    Picked the tip while working the trade.
  • icesailoricesailor Member Posts: 7,265
    Fine & Handy Things:


    That would be a fine and handy thing. But where I am often, it would be another PITA thing to remember to put in a box or basket for a long nasty crawl under a dusty house to get to something. I try very hard (at my age) to remember to put everything in a container for my journey where the spiders and meece's reside. A good day is when I don't forget something like sand cloth or a striker. A bad day is when I forget the above and make multiple trips to get them. That thing would be another potential forgotten tool for this aged brain. Then, dropping that thing in fine dirt, which will be deposited on the pipe and needed to be wiped off before soldering.

    I got into the habit shortly after I started doing this, a lot of years ago. Because I can be rather absent minded, I developed the habit of ALWAYS pasting the pipe AND THE FITTING. That way, if I forget one, I still did the other. There is no sicker feeling I experience than putting the heat to a fitting and seeing that when the solder should start to flow, it doesn't and I forgot to paste either part and means taking apart a hot fitting to paste it. With wrought copper fittings, not an enjoyable chore.

    And the sponge doesn't help with flux inside the fitting.

    But we are in 1000% agreement that too much flux is a waste of flux. And like I said earlier, judging from the amount of cans of paste I see being bought at the supply house, some must use a heck of a lot of paste on fittings. That's a lot of acid to put into a plumbing or heating system.
  • ScottScott Member Posts: 5,884
    Wet rag ??

    Mark I am supprised to see you recommend this ... Its a no/no as far as I am concerned. Just as pushing to hard on the fitting with the rag ... so is a wet rag as I have seen it cool the fittting to quickly and "crack" the joint.

    I guess we all have different ways.
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,552
    Different stokes for different folks...


    We come from two completely different worlds. Yours is a service and repair world, and in that case, I agree with you that this would be a PITA to haul around. Stick with your brushes. I spend most of my time in a nicely set up production environment, usually the mechanical room. There, my methods work fantastic and cut my installation assembly time by a significant amount. This is where this device really shines. Just like my use of a carbide tipped high speed cut off saw for cutting pipe. Not something that you;d want to drag through a crawl space, but an excellent tool for production assembly settings. Same goes for the 1" belt sander I use for cleaning the ends of the pipe.

    As I get older, I've adopted the modus operandi of working SMARTER, not HARDER, and that credo works quite well for me. ;-) I avoid crawl spaces whenever I can.

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,552
    I think you misunderstood me Scott...

    The joint MUST be completely solidified, and per the CDA, cool to the touch before cleaning with a wet rag. That's my method. But others, like Chris, like dabbing solder grapes off the joint while the joint is still molten. I use the wire solder to knock the grapes/dingle berries off the pipe while its still molten,

    A friend of mine who is a master electrician, whose father was a master plumber reminded me of another trick to keep solder from running down the outside of a vertical pipe. If you take a pencil, and draw a line on the pipe just outside of the fitting cup, the solder stops right there. Essentially the same thing that lead wipers do to soil the fitting and keep solder from sticking to it. I've not tried this method, but it makes sense based on lead wiping techniques.

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,552
    About squeezing pipes and fittings...

    I know this is a common practice, and I've had to resort to it myself under certain situations, but you have to be VERY careful to NOT distort the fitting. The pipe and fitting must have between .001 and .001" of clearance in order for capillary attraction to take place and draw the solder upwards. If the pipe is in complete and hard contact with the pipe, you lose the space necessary for capillary attraction to do its job, and although the face of the fitting may be sealed, the structural integrity (resistance to pull out) has been compromised.

    I was taught by a master pipe fitter many years ago. This guy had purchased some crimpers that electricians use to put a dent in EMT couplings back in the day when a screw clamp was not used. He used it on copper pipe, 1/2" and 3/4". It puts a small dimple on the fitting to hold the pipe in place. Worked fantastic.

    Per the CDA instructions, the pipe and fitting should be in its normal neutral position, free of stress, and not cocked in place to insure a uniform space all the way around the pipe and fitting for solder attraction. Just saying... If what you do works for you, then by all means, keep doing it. ;-)

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,552
    As MIchael Jackson used to say....

    Just Bead it, just bead it.... ;-)

    Actually, I call it face capping. And yes, on larger fittings it is acceptable, in fact recommended that it be capped.

    If you are doing a whole bunch of large bore fittings, you might want to look into the use of a ProPress tool. Oh sure, the fittings are significantly more expensive, but the labor savings is HUGE. 20 to 30 seconds to do a 4" joint... And a leak/failure rate of around 1 in 1000...or less.

    As I say, work smarter, not harder. The technology is here, and the customer is paying for it, and it is approved in most jurisdictions, so why not utilize it. Even if the net cost differential works out to be the same (material costs cancel labor savings) it at least frees you up to be doing other things...

    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • ScottScott Member Posts: 5,884
    Mark ... these are soldered joints

    That I soldered and wiped with a soft dry rag right after the joint was soldered.

    Neat and clean and no leaks ...

    As I say .. we all do things are own way and by no means am I arguing with you. Just showing you what I do.

    On vertical joints I will heat the tube first, then the fitting. I will heat the tube to dry off any flux that flows down the pipe, then heat the top of the fitting to draw in the solder ...

    Seems to work
  • STEVEusaPASTEVEusaPA Member Posts: 1,342
    What the flux?????

    This thread is a perfect example of how many people accomplish the same things in different ways.  I'm always interested in hearing different opinions.

    Any of you guys want to put up a you tube video of your technique?  I would think many would like to see the different methods you guys employ.
  • Mark EathertonMark Eatherton Member Posts: 5,552
    Nothing wrong with those joints...

    Scott, curious, don't you own a Propress tool? I thought I remember J Chris Aiello showing work with PP.

    Nice job. Also, is that a watts 36A vacuum breaker?


    It's not so much a case of "You got what you paid for", as it is a matter of "You DIDN'T get what you DIDN'T pay for, and you're NOT going to get what you thought you were in the way of comfort". Borrowed from Heatboy.
  • ScottScott Member Posts: 5,884

    I do own a couple of pro/press machines but I felt like soldering this one.

    No that's a N36 vacum breaker .. that's probably what you meant right ?

    We install them, per code, on every hot water heater, That job was four Hybrid Eternal on demand hot water heaters for a restaurant
  • Stephen MinnichStephen Minnich Member Posts: 1,743
    edited February 2013
    Steve Minnich

    Nice work, Scott; and I like the idea of your flux sponge, Mark...assuming it's right for that particular job. : )
    It's all in the details.
  • rick in Alaskarick in Alaska Member Posts: 601
    warm flux

    A lot of the time when I am doing a solder job, my flux is still somewhat cold. The solution that I use to keep from having to smear too much flux on is to put my torch head in the fitting for a second or two to heat it up, and then apply the flux. I carry a small (3 ounce I think ) can of flux that I work out of and can do most boiler jobs using about 1/4 of it. As it gets used up, I refill it out of a bigger container I have.

     I hate those jobs where you see green pipes and when you touch it your hands are all greasy, so i clean all my joints with a wet rag after soldering. Like others said, you need to wait for the joint to cool so it doesn't crack before wiping, but if you wait too long the flux is harder to wipe off.

  • heatpro02920heatpro02920 Member Posts: 991
    Everyone has their way..

    I notice for something so simple like soldering a joint, a lot of people do it different... I clean the joints with emry cloth, wipe a small amount of flush around the inserted piece, heat it, push the solder in the fitting, wipe it with a dry rag {I use baby socks, you can keep them over 2 fingers and just wipe fast...

    Now some joints that are trouble, like a resoldered joint or a wet joint, I will wipe it with solder then flux to cool it if all else fails, and Ive been doing it a while with no bad results... Just make sure it looks rite when its done.... Experience has taught me how to solder, I can not remember who first showed me a torch and roll of silver but Im sure I don't do it the same way..
  • Bob HarperBob Harper Member Posts: 730
    misc techniques

    Mark, I was expecting you to refer to using those cheap throw away foam paint brushes. I guess the main idea is to use the minimum flux that does the job and wipe off excess.

    One thing I have not heard here was to scratch the thin face of the fitting cup so the solder bonds to it, too forming a cupped meniscus. I lay the abrasive cloth on a flat surface and lightly scrub the fitting face a few strokes. It makes for a nice curved fillet of solder. Pros vs. cons?

    As ME said, reaming is required. This gets esp. important on smaller diameter tubes such as AC linesets because a little turbulence goes a long ways. Just remember about burrs: when you reduce a diameter by half, you reduce the flow by the CUBE function.

    I work with home inspectors a lot and they find tons of corroded joints from the Flux Monster. I recommend a simply scrubbing with a Scotchbrite pad soaked with a mild bicarb bath. Be sure to wipe with a clean cloth because mixing the alkaline wash with the acid flux forms salts (acid + base > salt + water from your Jr. High School chemistry class). Don't trade one corrosive for another.

    Lastly, do any of you use copper polish like used for kitchenware? I like to really shine up everything for the homeowner reveal and they love it. Again, rinse and wipe well.
  • JohnNYJohnNY Member Posts: 1,798
    15 years ago?

    When I took the class for my NYC Master Plumber's license, the first thing the instructors said was "To pass this test, you're going to have to learn how to solder." Then everyone in the class looked at each other as if to say "Who the heck in this class doesn't know hot to solder"?

    Then they went on to say, "We know you think you know how to solder, but you don't know how to solder to pass this test. And I can guarantee you this: you use too much flux."

    From that day on for the next 5 months, we soldered pipes to fittings and cut and peeled them open to see how the use of flux affects capillary attraction and penetration.

    After that, my soldering got pretty darn good. Just sayin'.
  • GordanGordan Member Posts: 891
    Yikes, that...

    ... is PURRRRTY.
  • Stephen MinnichStephen Minnich Member Posts: 1,743
    1/16 or 1/8?

    Very clean! What size solder were you using?
    It's all in the details.
  • JohnNYJohnNY Member Posts: 1,798
    If I had to guess, I'd say 1/8th.

    It never actually occurred to me there are different sizes of solder. I would think the thinner stuff is for electronics work.
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