I need a torch to sweat copper pipes...

diyourselferMay 22, 2007

....I am new to this and I need a torch. Should I get propane or mapp? Do I get this:


or this:


The first one has the trigger but the second one looks like it may be easier to use in tight places since it has the hose...but no on off trigger so a flint is needed.


What kind of solder, paste and sandpaper will I need?

Thanks in advance,


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

As for propane vs. mapp, if you are working with 1/2" or 3/4" copper tubing, propane should be adequate. Mapp is hotter, and that can make the work go faster.
As for the hose or a nozzle attached to the cylinder, it depends partially on how much room you have to work in. With a hose, you can work in tighter places without as much restriction on movement and accessability. As long as my flint starter is within reach, I don't mind not having a trigger operated starter.
For water supply, use lead-free solder and solder paste that states it is for lead-free solder. I use a medium steel wool,or, alternatively, 'plumber's roll' (in the plumbing supply aisle, it's about a 120 grit wet-dry emery cloth about 1-1/2" wide and a few yards long).
There are also round wire brushes for preping the inside of fittings for soldering. Get one for the size you are working with.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2007 at 4:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Over the years I have managed to collect dozens of torches ranging from the neat little "Plumbers Kit" in a red steel box containing a Pencil Flame Propane torch, fuel tank, solder, flux, and acid brush (In my estimation useless for serious plumbing work) up to an air acetelene B-tank with a 10ft hose and even a portable oxy-acetelen Tote Torch but my all time favorite is the Bernzomatic TS-4000 Trigger start.

The trigger start is convenient but what I find most convenient is the instant off when you release the trigger. In this manner you can quickly set the torch aside without worrying about catching something on fire while your wiping joints or fluxing the next fitting. The instant off feature is also much more economical. When using a torch that we must turn off manually then relight with a striker we often just let it burn while we are wiping joints, making a final alignment and such. With that type of torch we typically use 3 to 4 tanks of full to do a whole house however with the instant off feature I find that I typically only use about 1 to 1.5 tanks of fuel for the same task.

Now consider the economics:
The Jet-Torch sells for $29 but it is a constant on type torch so to do a stackout we would typically use 4 tanks of propane @ $3 per tank for fuel thus the first stackout is $29 + $12= $41--Fuel cost on a second stackout is $12

The TS-4000 when sold separately is $39 and we would use 1 to 1.5 tanks of fuel so let buy two tanks of propane. Our total cost for the first stackout is now $39 + $6= $45. From this point onward our daily fuel cost will be approximately 50 to 60% less so it doesn't take long to makeup the additional $10 we spent on this torch.

Here is a tip. If you are working in a really tight area such as under a house in a tight crawl space instead of using the standard tall propane tanks use the fat stubby tanks that are sold for camping stoves and lanterns. Its the same fuel, same weight and balance on the torch but it reduces the overall length of the torch about 6". The stubby tanks are also wider so it is easier to get them to stand up when setting it down quickly.

One of the features of the TS-4000 that I really like is that the torch tip does not get hot while burning. You can release the trigger and the flame goes out and you can actually touch the tip immediately without getting burned. Now i will agree that no one with good sense would grab a torch tip but when working in tight spaces it is very easy to bump your hand against a hot tip, beleive me, I have permanent scars to prove it.

If you will examine the design of the TS-4000 you will see that the combustion air intake holes are at the base of the feed tube. Inside the tube there is a steel spring wire that causes the fuel and air to swirl together before it reaches the tip. By Comparison the Jet-Torch on the hose has the combustion air intake holes right at the base of the tip. The advantage of the TS-4000 is that the swirling action gives a much more efficient fuel air mixture which produces better combustion and a hotter flame. The TS-4000 produces nearly the same temperatures with propane as some of the other torches produce with MAPP and in fact, using MAPP with a TS-4000 on 1/2" & 3/4" copper often introduces problems because you can burn the flux which then leaves a carbon residue on the pipe making soldering very difficult.

The Plumbing Codes require that you use certified "Lead Free" solder. For plumbng purposes I would recommend you get a 1/2lb roll of 1/8" diameter solid core Lead Free Solder. We typically use about 1 to 1.5lbs of solder to plumb a house so a 1/2Lb roll should meet the homeowners needs for years to come. The good news is that it has no shelf life and will last forever.

Check your local code carefully before buying flux. Some codes now require that you use "water base" flux for potable water systems. Water base flux works fine but it is much more temperature critical than petroleum based flux. If your local code permits I would strongly recommend you use a petroleum based flux until you gain some soldering experience. In the trade we commonly use a 1lb plastic container of "Oatey Brand" flux but I would not recommend a homeowner buy flux in bulk unless you are building a home or working on a very large remodel. While flux does not have a shelf life it does become contaminated very easy if not careful so I would recommend you buy smaller containers and if you even suspect it is contaminated with dirt other liquids discard it and get fresh flux. One of the small container fluxes that i found in the home supply stores and had good success with is "Dutch Boy Petroleum Flux" in a small round white plastic container.

When buying flux also be sure to grab a half dozen acid brushes to apply the flux. Here is a tip. Flux brushes have an uncanny habit of dropping on the floor when you least expect it. At appr. $.10 each if you happen to drop a brush grad a new one. It is much cheaper and easier than reworking solder joints that didn't hold because your flux brush fell on the floor and was contaminated with dirt.

The preferred method of cleaning the exterior of copper pipe is with emery cloth or a stainless steel OD wire brush. As Randy already mentioned above you can buy a ready cut "Plumbers Roll" of 1.5" emery cloth. Here is another tip...they make the Plumbers roll with both a solid backing and a sandscreen open weave type. The open weave type is a bit more expensive but the advantage is that it does not load up with debris nearly as quickly as the solid backing type so while the open weave may cost twice as much, in the end you will get 3 to 4 times more service out of a roll of open weave.

They make a number of different types of ID brushes for cleaning the inside of fittings. Some have fancy plastic handles while others have just a bent wire handle. I prefer to buy the cheap open wire handle type and here again, get a couple for each size of fittings you will be using. Here is another trade secret- if you have a large number of fittings to clean you can cut the wire loop off the handle of an ID brush, then chuch the shaft in a cordless drill and you can clean a fitting in seconds with no effort.

If you do not already have one you will need a tubing cutter. Absolutely do not attempt to cut copper pipe by any means other than a tubing cutter. Using a hacksaw or other method will result it distorting the pipe slightly out of round and making it nearly impossible to fit it later. I prefer to use a "Mini cutter" because you can use it in a very tight spot whereas it is very difficult to use a conventional tubing cutter in many locations. When buying a tubing cutter bite the bullet and buy a good quality cutter. Those cute little red cheapies found in most hardwares are next to useless. Look for Rigid Tool, Imperial-Eastman or Superior Tool-Pro-line.

Last on the list, get a cheap carpenters cloth nail apron. You can put your solder roll, tubing cutter, tape measure and OD Brushes, a spare clean flux brush and even some cleaned fittings in the apron and have them handy when your are working copper lines overhead such as in a basement.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 3:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I just bought a new TS4000 kit and started using MAPP. I'm not getting a good, sharp flame. Should I be expecting a nice blue center flame or do these torches vary? My flame is blue, but nondescript.

I bought some Oatey lead free solder, but I don't recall seeing the word "solid core" on it. Can I presume that's what I got?

I'm suddenly confused about techniques. I learned to heat one side, mainly the fitting, and touch the opposite side edge with solder. When it gets sucked in, remove flame, run some more on the open joints, dry wipe and move on. Right? ....But what about waiting to see the flux boil? I am sweating without seeing the flux boil (Oatey tinning lead-dree - green). Something major wrong here?

I have to sweat a couple adjacent 3/4 elbows to the baseboard, including a brass elbow for manual venting. These are near the floor. I'm probably going to put a piece of sheet metal behind the work area. Any advice on heating a complex multi-joint deal?

Can a very "near" joints be wrapped with a damp rag to keep them cool while, for example, as an assembly is sweated in? I wonder if I could do the multi-elbows (3 of them) on the bench before I sweat it to the baseboard. Maybe it's too close, anyway. Hmmm.

With my TS400, after reading lazypup, I'm now inclined to go back to my propane for this. Anyway, the benzomatic charts show that the heat difference for the two gases is much closer than I was led to believe.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 8:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

On the subject of propane tanks...does anyone have source for an adaptor that allows a small tank to be filled from a larger tank? Or can I pick up fittings and hose somewhere to make one?

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 8:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Good to hear from lazypup - he got me onto the TS4000 when I started plumbing my new house with (up to) 1" copper. I also have a TS3000 propane.

Coolvt - refilling small hand-size tanks can be accomplished but Federal law then does not allow them to be transported in a motor vehicle. IMO, it's safer to just buy a new tank when needed.

Homebound - You won't get the thin blue flame as in other torches because the 4000 is a turbo torch - the gases are swirling to wrap around the piping to be heated. Your solder sounds fine. About your technique, I don't watch the flux to boil, per se, I'm testing the joint for heat with the solder - that to me is the real test. I also use the Oatey tinning solder and the solder with a small amount of silver in it - I find it easier to use. Using heat shields are common, there are non-asbestos ones available. I also use wet rags to keep from overheating adjacent fittings and pre-soldering assemblies at the bench is allowed (lol).

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 9:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks much. I'm gaining confidence this morning joint by joint.

When you think about it, there's a lot of fear and apprehension that goes into sweating. Half the battle is conquering the fear. The other half is learning to do it right and getting yourself some torch time.

...and the OTHER half is not to be a victim of your own stupidity. (my 5 gal. of water is real close.)

I have to say one more thing. Of all the plumber's I've observed, none have done it exactly the same. For example, the guy who did my bathroom group rough-in (32 yrs. experience) always wiped around the sweated joints with his flux brush immediately afterward. He used Utility self-cleaning flux. ...now that I think about it I'm inclined to wipe down all his work.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 10:26AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for all the great replies.....

Now....The TS-8000 is out now so I assume that's the one I should get. Can I use both propane and mapp with that torch head?

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 11:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The TS4000 is still sold at teh box stores, but usually in a separate bin/area from the TS8000 (since it's cheaper).

I lucked out last week and picked up a TS4000 kit with MAPP and a free pair of small vise grips - $18 total. The packs without the vise grips were $39 - go figure.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 12:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


Where did you find the $18 deal? Best I've seen is the TS4000 w/ 2 MAPP bottles for $39 @ Home Depot.


    Bookmark   May 26, 2007 at 4:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Homebound_ in regards to the non-descript flame characteristics of the TS-4000. If we examine the flame in a common propane torch we see a very descript teardrop shape inner flame, surrounded by a pale outer flame.

If you will look down the bore of your TS-4000 burner tip you will see a flat disk that has 6 slots and each segment is then twisted slightly forming a pitch similar to propellar blades. Not only does that diverter increase the swirling effect it also divides the flame into 6 separate but equal flames. Now try this experiment. Pull the trigger and light the flame, then very slowly release the trigger a bit and you will see the flame drop down a bit. With the trigger only slightly depressed you will actually see the 6 points of flame are very distinct but when the trigger is held fully open all six points blend together in what appears as a flat top on the inner flame.

In regards to wiping the joint with the flux brush. Many plumbers do that to insure their is a clean line of solder all the way around the joint however I have two reservations against that practice.
1. Wiping a hot joint with the flux brush results in burning the bristles in the brush. When the brush is then placed back in the flux it tends to contaminate the flux with carbon and burnt bristles.
2. Plumbing Flux is acid based and should be wiped off the joint while it is still warm. I prefer to wipe the joints with a clean damp cotton cloth.

Coolvt asked about refilling the small cylanders from a larger tank. The reason you cannot find an adapter hose to do so is easy to explain, it simply would not work. Propane is a liquid which boils to a gas before leaving the tank. In order to refill the tank you would need a compressor system similar to a refrigeration compressor to compress the gas to the condensing pressure in order to refill a tank. (While the actual pressures are different the handling characteristics are the same as handling a refrigerant and in fact, propane is listed as a refrigerant.)
By example at 30degF the temperature of vaporization of Propane is 30degF while at 70degF it is 128psi and at 110degF it is 197psi.

While it is not really prevalent on the small tanks used for hand torches if you have a propane grille you will often see a frost line forming on the outside of the tank after the burner has been burning a while. That frost line on the exterior of the tank is a visible indicator of how much liquid propane is left in the tank.

Diyourselfer stated that they now have the TS-8000 out so maybe he should buy that one. I really can't comment on the TS-8000 simply because my old TS-4000's refuse to die...LOL.

I bought my first TS-4000 in 1985. About 6 years later I was connecting water lines to a condensate return tank in a boiler room and accidently dropped the torch in the tank. When i fished it out and shock it off the ignighter was not working. I managed to manually light the flame and continue my project. The next day while at the supply house I grabbed a new TS-4000 to replace the original one then a few days later i was in an ACE Hardware store and discovered that they carry a full line of replacement parts. I grabbed a new ignighter assembly and the original was back in business. In fact, that 1985 model is still in the top of my tool box and working fine.

Last year someone gave me a new TS-4000 for Christmas and it sat on the floor beside my desk for months, occassionally being used as a cigarette lighter...LOL. One day the pilot went out on the water heater so I went to gtab my torch by the desk to light the pilot and the torch was gone. I asked my wife if she knew where it went and she replied,"Yes, I have it in the kitchen and I am keeping it there!" I said, what do you need a propane torch in the kitchen for" and was i amazed at her reply, She says, "I use it when i am making pies. I saw a chef on a TV cooking show use one to brown the peaks on the lemon marangue pie topping so I tried it and it works great. If you need a cigarette lighter I will buy you one, but I am keeping the torch!"

    Bookmark   May 28, 2007 at 10:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

For anyone interested in the fine details of installing or handling copper pipe you can download the complete 56 page "Copper Tube Handbook" in PDF format for free at;


    Bookmark   May 28, 2007 at 6:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Last week I finished my basement heating job and it's all tied in and tested fine. I only had one leak, and that was a coupling I forgot to sweat. That TS4000 is a great torch to work with.

Mike13 - I found the $18 deal at one of the local Home Depots in Fairfax VA.

I figure it was clearance price, since there were only a couple dusty packets left of the "MAPP + TS4000 torch + vise grip" combo. And it had a different packet number from the ones without the vise grips - those others were $39. So I'd suggest looking around the bottom shelves and behind the boxes at your local HD's.

Lazypup - thanks for that info. I'll take a closer look at the flame tomorrow.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2007 at 11:47PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Fleck 5600SXT 64k Setup
Well I recently had a new water softener installed...
Fed up and ready to tackle my well water issues
I've been reading posts trying to educate myself for...
Quality of what general contactor is providing
I don't feel qualified to inspect my new home currently...
Larry Lotter
Electric Water Heater Problem
I have an electric water heater; about a month ago...
Doable...European sink & US bathroom pop-up drain and faucet?
if I purchase a small Belfast sink fron England to...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™