Although a propane torch doesn't get nearly as hot as an acetylene torch, and isn't used to weld steel, it produces more than enough heat to effectively solder copper pipes and is much easier to use than the more dangerous and powerful acetylene models. Adjust propane torches for nonsoldering uses, including thawing frozen locks and even caramelising food.
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A propane soldering torch is a simple device, consisting of a small, handheld propane tank connected to an adjustable exhaust valve. Some propane torches feature an automatic ignition button, making them easier and safer to operate than manual-ignition models.
To ignite an automatic propane torch, simply open the gas valve and press the ignition model. A manual propane torch requires the use of a striker for ignition; don't use matches to ignite a torch because they are too small to use safely. You should also have goggles, heat-resistant gloves and a heavy long sleeved shirt for wear when operating a propane torch. For soldering, you also need a tub-cutter to quickly cut pipes to fit, emery cloth to clean pipe-ends of burrs and oils, liquid flux to improve the flow of the solder and to remove any oxidation in the metal and solder.
Before you use your propane torch for soldering, prepare the joint to solder. A clean joint allows the solder to bond much more completely, creating a long-lasting connecting that remains watertight.
After cutting the length of pipe you need with a tube cutter, use the reamer attachment on the back of the tube cutter to remove any large burrs from the cutting from inside of the pipe. Insert the reamer into the cut pipe end, and rotate one full revolution. Remove any remaining burrs, dirt and oils from the pipe end with an emery cloth. Rub the pipe with the cloth until it shines, and refrain from touching the cleaned end with your fingers to avoid recontaminating the metal with oils from your hands. Apply a thin coat of liquid flux to all surfaces to join with a small paintbrush. The flux burns off when heat is applied, leaving a clean metal surface for the solder.
When the metal pieces are properly prepared, cleaned and fitted together snugly, you are ready to apply the solder with the propane torch. Light the propane torch, and adjust the flame so that the blue cone in the centre of the flame is approximately 1 1/4 inches in length.
Hold the solder by its spool with your non-torch hand so that the tip of the solder wire is against the joint. Direct the tip of the flame to the side of the joint opposite the solder, towards the thickest part of the metal. Generally, the thickest metal is found on the joint connectors, not the pipes themselves.
Do not direct the flame directly at the joint. When the joint connectors heat up, they conduct heat to the pipe ends and to the joint, melting the solder into the joint. Work your way around the joint until the solder has filled the joint area.
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