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  1. #1

    Cool how to solder brass

    I have done simple plumbing soldering "sweat joints"
    But now I am interested in building a simple art object with brass strips, rods and sheets.
    Is soldering brass with solder similiar to soldering copper joints??
    Is soldering brass done best with a propane torch?
    What is the best solder composition and size to use?
    Also what solder paste type is used.
    Any guidance with be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2

    Default Re: how to solder brass (RE: FredWJensen)

    Fred;
    When I solder with brass, I use Tix solder and Tix flux. I find that when the flux boils away, it is usually hot enough then at the joint to melt the solder. Tix comes in small sticks in a tube, melts easily and makes for a strong joint. Melted Tix solder will follow the heat of the flame, just like in soldering copper.

    I have done some silver soldering with brass, but find the temps get pretty high before melting the solder, which leaves the brass discolored, and you also have to use a white paste-flux to get the silver solder to adhere. It DOES make for a very strong joint, but I'd rather not do it much because of the discoloration. I used to silver solder all the time when I did refrigeration work, so am used to it.

    I don't use plumbing solder at all because I've seen what it looks like years later on some of the clocks I get in to fix. I don't know its' composition, neither the Tix. But, I like the Tix very much......................doc

    Post Script: I use a propane or butane torch. Mapp gas, oxy-acetylene or propane with oxygen are way too hot in my opinion.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: how to solder brass (RE: doc_fields)

    Unless you're building a really big object, I recommend you steer clear of the standard propane torch, and go for one of the smaller butane models. Easier to control the spread of the heat.

    Aside from that, Doc's advice is right on.

    Remember: if the joint is to hold, the solder must be melted by the heat in the items to be joined, not simply by the torch or other heat source. Heat the target to solder-melting temp, then turn the torch away. Best soldering is done by placing small bits of solder against the joint, then applying heat, rather than applying heat and poking solder at the joint. When the temp gets right, the bits of solder will melt and wick into the joint.

    bangster
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  4. #4
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    Default Re: how to solder brass (RE: bangster)

    I can't add a lot more, FRED. If you've soldered pipes, you know the drill - how it all works, etc. Different now, will only be source of heat, type of solder, and flux. Common electrician's solder with a rosin core could work just fine for you. It's clean, stays bright - non corrosive. As BONG mentioned, I'd "TIN" the two surfaces to be joined first - apply heat, and watch the joint to see that the solder "flows". I still use electrician's solder for simple clockwork soldering but have added the LIQUID flux that comes in a small bottle with "Stay Bright" soldering package. It seems to add a catalyst that makes flow better by preparing the surfaces better, prior to applying heat. Preparing and conditioning surfaces to be joined is utmost important for a solid joint and uniform flow of solder.
    Last edited by Scottie-TX; 02-05-2009 at 11:14 PM.

  5. #5

    Default Re: how to solder brass (RE: Scottie-TX)

    The main problem with plumbers joints is not the solder itself, but the acid flux used, which corrodes copper if not completely cleaned off.
    In the last few years, the solder composition and flux used by plumbers has changed in the US, in a legal effort to get all the lead out of the drinking water supply. The new solder melts at a higher temperature. I'm not sure what the new flux is, or how it would affect brass long-term.
    Roofers still use lead-tin solder for copper roofs; it's sold in short bars about 1 X .5 cm, but the dealers act like it's plutonium. Lead-tin wire is still available in Mexico- does anyone know about Canada? Roofers use sal ammoniac cakes for flux, usually.
    Lead-tin solder suffers easily from metal fatique, but is fine for static objects.
    Tix solder is usually thought of as synonomous with silver solder, but the company actually makes a wide range of products.
    As always, the requirments of the use dictate the materials.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: how to solder brass (RE: Bill Ward)

    As someone who uses solder a lot, with my electronics hat on, lead-free solder is an absolute PITA! Forget it.
    I never use it - it will not tin properly, and joints become "dry" after a time.
    Plumbers' solder has a different ratio of zinc to lead than the sort used in radio and the like - it has a more "pasty" phase as it's heated - radio solder goes from solid to liquid instantly.
    As to your original question, Fred, brass is up to 70% copper, so no different; whether you use an iron or a blowtorch depends on the size of the job.
    Multicore solders have flux in them here - dunno 'bout USA.

    HTH
    Mike - banned member of the throwaway society.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: how to solder brass (RE: Mike Phelan)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Phelan View Post
    As someone who uses solder a lot, with my electronics hat on, lead-free solder is an absolute PITA! Forget it.
    I never use it - it will not tin properly, and joints become "dry" after a time.

    Plumbers' solder has a different ratio of zinc to lead than the sort used in radio and the like - it has a more "pasty" phase as it's heated - radio solder goes from solid to liquid instantly.
    As to your original question, Fred, brass is up to 70% copper, so no different; whether you use an iron or a blowtorch depends on the size of the job.
    Multicore solders have flux in them here - dunno 'bout USA.

    HTH
    I learned a whole bunch about soldering from my grandfather, who was an engineer for Westinghouse, from 1919 until1 963. Here's what he taught me: First off, the stuff to be soldered has to be clean!! THAT MEANS CHEMICALLY CLEAN, NOT JUST VISUALLY CLEAN. Second, use the right kind of solder for the job.
    Radio solder is - or used to be, before all the hype about breathing lead fumes - 60/40 lead/tin, with a rosin core. It has a pretty low tensile strength, which can be problematic in clock work. Also, I find the rosin a PITA to remove.

    Plumber's solder, is - here again, with the same caveat - 50/50 lead tin. It requires an acid flux, which can never be completely removed from the brass - the acid causes a molecular change in the brass. It. too, has low tensile strength. Tix solder contains antimony, which raises the tensile strength, while only slightly raising the melting point. But, like silver solder, the flux is kinda a pain. Your best bet, however is Tix solder. Buy the "antiflux" also - it keeps the flux from running around where you don't want the solder to go. For heat, depending upon the size of the parts, use either a small butane torch or a 150 (or more) watt Weller gun. Save your propane torch for heat treating things like special wrenches, and springs and such. Also, for those youngsters out there - watch farm auctions for old gasoline blow torches. They have enough heat capacity to heat treat and anneal stuff you'll go nuts trying to do with a Bernz-O-Matic propane torch. But use your gasoline blow torch outdoors; sometimes they can be a little recaltricant lighting, and create a WW II flame thrower until they warm up to temperature.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: how to solder brass (RE: Dave B)

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave B View Post
    It has a pretty low tensile strength, which can be problematic in clock work.
    I would never use soft solder as a replacement for mechanical strength.
    Remember - most wheel collets were soft-soldered on their arbors in longcase and bracket clocks since the 1600s.
    Mike - banned member of the throwaway society.

  9. #9

    Default Re: how to solder brass (RE: Dave B)

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave B View Post
    But use your gasoline blow torch outdoors; sometimes they can be a little recaltricant lighting, and create a WW II flame thrower until they warm up to temperature.
    Yikes! The very mention of that thing brings back gut-wrenching memories- picture blazing drops of gasoline dripping down the walls. They can also explode.
    These days, higher temps are attained with MAPP gas. It's a bit more expensive than propane, and requires the professional torch.
    But Fred didn't say he was soldering clockwork; he said artwork. That implies larger objects. If it's to be left outdoors, the rainwater (assuming it's in a place with rain) will eventually wash off acid flux, and the patina will cover up any stains. Roofers use very large soldering coppers (not irons) which are easier to tin, and they heat them in a charcoal or propane stove (which is easy to make from a piece of 5 or 6 inch pipe with a circle of heavy screening in it to support the charcoal, and an opening in the side to insert the coppers. One needs several coppers, bcause they're only hot enough to use for a few seconds, but take several minutes to heat up. It's very difficult to get sheet copper, or brass, to just the right temperature for soldering with a torch.

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