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How To Solder Brass To Copper

Good soldering results from appropriate heat, a clean medium and the right equipment.

Extreme heat is needed to solder brass to copper. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Extreme heat is needed to solder brass to copper.

How to Solder Brass to Copper

Knowing how to solder brass to copper is a useful skill in plumbing, metal art, jewelry making, electronic circuit boards and craft projects. Soldering can save valuable time and money when it comes to many types of projects. A variety of solder materials and equipment are available, but, as explained by the Oregon State University School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, a good solder always comes down to the right amount of heat, a clean medium and correct equipment.

Soldering Basics

The New Mexico State University College of Engineering describes soldering as using a medium (solder) and heat to semi-permanently adhere one metal to another. When the solder cools, the two metals are joined together. The bond is a strong one that usually conducts an electrical current.

Copper is a good metal to solder with since it melts into the solder after heating, thus creating a strong bond. Brass is also a good conductive metal for soldering, though it's not as easy to work with as copper.

Solder is a metal alloy that bonds two types of metal together. In copper pipe and brass valve soldering, the most common solder composition is half tin, half lead.

Materials Needed for Soldering

The basic soldering equipment for household jobs and circuit board repair can be purchased at any hardware store for a reasonable price. Basic soldering materials include:

  • Propane torch or soldering iron (to heat solder)
  • Emery cloth (to clean pipe)
  • Solder (metal wire to seal joints)
  • Flux (to clean copper while heat is applied)
  • Tube cutter (with up to one-inch capabilities for soldering household pipe)
  • Flame protector cloth (to avoid fire or injury)
  • Heavy or fireproof gloves
  • Goggles

Wearing a long-sleeved shirt, a hat and a neck scarf add an additional level of protection by covering the skin and reducing the chance of burns.

Brass to Copper Pipe Soldering Technique

The most common application for soldering brass to copper is pipe fitting. In most cases, pipes are composed of copper, while the fittings to secure one piece of pipe to another are often made of brass. The following steps represent general instructions for soldering brass to copper:

  • Cut copper pipe to required size using tube cutters.
  • Use the reaming tool on the side of tube cutters to clean the inner ridge of cut copper.
  • Rub the end of copper with an emery cloth until shiny and clean.
  • Ensure other pieces of copper pipe are also cleaned with emery cloth before fitting.
  • Coat both pipe ends with flux (tinning flux is best).
  • Place the brass valve onto the pipe ends and push together.
  • Turn on the propane touch and adjust to a blue flame setting.
  • Hold the torch in one hand and hold the soldering wire against the pipe joint and valve with the other.
  • Touch the tip of the flame to the wire and slowly and carefully wrap around the seam.
  • Continue all the way around the pipe before repeating on other side of the brass valve.
  • Allow to cool.

Patience is sometimes necessary when soldering brass to copper, as the brass valve can be resistant and may need more heat than a simple copper-to-copper solder.

When and How To Use a Soldering Iron

Using a propane torch is just one way to solder. The soldering iron is used for smaller jobs, including the soldering of circuit boards. It offers a more concentrated heat source than the propane torch. According to TechNick.net, most soldering irons have a power rating between 15 and 25 watts and often plug into a standard household electrical outlet. The tip of the iron must connect with the solder and be kept clean and free of excess solder for a smooth job. Holding the tip of the iron at a slight angle to the board or pipe makes soldering easier.

Safety First

In addition to wearing goggles, gloves and long sleeves, it is a good idea to solder in a well-ventilated area, away from flammable furniture and carpeting. Outside in good weather or in a garage or hobby room are generally safer work areas than inside the home. If inside the home is the only choice, hobbyists should work on a clean, flat, fireproof surface as far from fabrics as possible. Wash hands with soap and water after soldering.

Soldering Tips

Keeping the tip of the solder iron or cut pipe clean is necessary for a tight, permanent solder. Dirty pipe coated with insufficient flux will not bond to molten solder. The soldered joint or pipe must be allowed to cool completely before testing for rigidity or leaks. If after soldering there is burnt flux visible on the surface of the pipe or the solder has formed into a spike or point, the solder has been overheated and will have to be redone.

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