Bending and Joining Copper Pipe

When you are working with copper pipe, you will often need to create a corner bend. You can buy elbow joints to connect two straight sections of pipe at a right angle, but it is often better to bend the pipe into a smooth curve to aid water flow.

Pipe Spring

Pipe springs are available to fit all three sizes of copper pipe and are often sold as a set of three. The spring is inserted into the pipe to where the bend needs to be and acts as a support for the walls of the pipe and stops it kinking. If the pipe is longer than the spring, tie a length of string to the spring so you can lower it down the pipe to the correct position. Grip the pipe in both hands and gently and evenly bend it across your knee. It is a good idea to lubricate the spring before inserting it into the pipe as this makes it easier to remove the spring afterwards.

Pipe Bender

pipe benderPipe bending machines are fairly cheap to buy and a good idea if you need to bend a lot of pipe. The machine consists of a set of different sized formers to fit each size of pipe and a handle which you pull to bend the pipe around the former. Place the pipe in the clamp on the pipe bender and insert the correct sized former between the pipe and the handle. Gently pull the handle towards the other until the correct curve is achieved.

Joining Copper Pipe

There are two methods for joining copper pipe, Soldering and Compression. Soldering is perhaps the most difficult, but can result in a better joint. Compression joints use special nuts sealed with PTFE tape.

Soldering Joints

Before you start soldering a pipe, make sure you have everything you need close at hand. You will need flux (which is a chemical cleaner), a gas torch, solder wire (lead free if the pipe supplies drinking water), a pipe cutter or hacksaw and wire wool. Once the pipes are cut to length, your first task should be to clean the ends that will be soldered using the wire wool. Once the ends are clean and free from grease, coat them with flux. Flux is fairly nasty stuff, so be careful to follow the manufacturers safety instructions.

Bring the ends together and start to heat them with the gas torch. When the flux begins to bubble, remove the heat and apply the solder wire to the joint in three or four places. You will be able to tell if the pipe is soldered correctly if a bright ring appears around the joint. Allow to cool thoroughly before touching the pipe.

Compression Joints

The Compression method uses a nut (known as a slip coupling) to replace the damaged piece of the pipe. Cut out the damaged piece. Pull back the coupling so you can connect with the other cut end. Unscrew the compression nuts and slide them together with the metal rings (olives) along the pipe and clear of the screw threads. Apply the PTFE tape clockwise around the exposed screw threads and slide the metal rings and nuts back. Use two spanners to tighten the nuts and seal the joint.