Sculptures made from copper pipe and copper fittings create distinctive items to place in the yard or garden. The versatility of combining hard and soft copper pipe allows the sculpture to take on a geometric or curvilinear design. The soft copper bends easily into unusual shapes. The line created by the combination of both hard and soft copper draws the eye into the sculpture, creating a visually pleasing appearance. Copper pipe and fittings are available in diameters from 1/4 inch to 8 inch. The most common sizes of copper available in hardware stores are 1/2 and 3/4 inch pipe.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- 1/2 inch by 20 foot stick of copper pipe, 1
- 1/2-inch copper 90-degree Street Ls, 8
- 1/2-inch copper Ts, 16
- Tubing cutter
- Emery cloth
- 1/2-inch fitting brush
- Paste soldering flux
- 50/50 unleaded solder
- Bench vice
- Safety glasses/goggles
- Leather gloves
- Wet rag
Create a cube sculpture from the 1/2-inch copper pipe by first cutting the 20-foot stick into 16 pieces, each 15 inches long. Measure and mark the pipe at 15-inch intervals. Use a tubing cutter to cut the pipe. Slide the tubing cutter around the pipe and line the blades up with the mark. Screw the rollers to the cutting blade. Turn the cutter around the pipe. Continually adjust the screw so the rollers stay tight on the pipe. Continue the process until the pipe is cut. Repeat the process for all cuts.
Clean the inside of both ends of the eight 90s with the 1/2-inch fitting brush. Insert the brush into the end of the 90 and turn the brush ten revolutions. Immediately flux the inside of each end and set aside.
Clean the small ends of all Street 90s with emery cloth. Wrap the cloth around the pipe and rub until the pipe is completely shiny. Immediately flux the Street 90 from the small end up the shaft 3/4 inches.
Insert the fluxed end of the Street 90 into a fluxed T. Lay the connected pieces on a flat surface so the bottom of the T is pointing straight up. Adjust the Street 90 so the open end is on a perfect 90 degree angle from the T. Push the two pieces tightly together. Repeat the process with the remaining Street 90s and Ts.
Position the T and Street 90 in a bench vice so the Street 90 is on top. Carefully secure the T in the bench vice just tight enough so it is held in place. Remove any flammable items from the area. Put on the safety glasses and leather gloves. Light the torch. Unroll a length of 50/50 unleaded solder 12 inches. Heat the T just below the joint. Move the torch back and forth along the T to evenly heat. Touch the joint with the tip of the solder. Move the solder around the entire joint. The heat of the pipe will melt the solder and draw it between the two surfaces. Turn off the torch. Immediately wrap a wet rag around the joint to cool and set the solder. Keep the rag on the joint until the pipe is cool to the touch. This takes from 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the soldered pieces. Repeat the process with the remaining Street 90s and Ts.
Clean the inside of the two open ends on all Ts with the 1/2-inch wire fitting brush. Flux the inside of each T. Set aside.
Clean the ends of the 16-inch pipe with emery cloth. Wrap the cloth around the outside of the pipe and hold in place. Turn the pipe back and forth twelve times. Remove the emery cloth and look at the end of the pipe. A clean pipe is completely shiny. Repeat the process until the pipe is clean. Immediately flux 3/4-inch of each pipe end. Repeat the process with both ends of the 15 pieces of pipe.
Assemble the cube by placing a 15-inch pipe into the open end on the 90 and an open end on the arm of the T. Repeat the process three more times to create a square. Place this square aside. Repeat the process for a second square.
Place one square on a flat surface so the bottom of the Ts are pointing up. Insert a 15-inch pipe in each T. Position the top of the square so the bottom of the Ts are pointing down. Line the openings up with the vertical pipe. Slide the top of the cube on the pipe. Push all joints together.
Solder each joint together following the same soldering process as connecting the Street 90s to the Ts. Move the cube to the necessary position to achieve a solid solder on each joint.
Tips and warnings
- Use the same process to create any type of sculpture from copper pipe and fittings.
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