They're great if you have to make one (maybe two) solder-ring
connection, on clean pipe, in a cupboard full of firelighters and
Otherwise they take an age to heat up, and they've got just enough
oomph for one well-behaved connection before you're waiting for them
to get back up to temperature.
They do reduce fire risk though. Last time I used one was on a pipe
embedded in sheeps' wool insulation (posh hippy house). It wasn't a
good idea to put a flame near that stuff, even when we'd been building
it, certainly not after it was decorated, sparkling and fragrant.
"It does not burn, but instead singes away from fire and extinguishes
itself (Wool has a very high inflammation point of 560°C due to its
high Nitrogen content of ~16%) Wool is self extinguishing because of
its high Limiting Oxygen Index (LOI=25.2), which means to completely
burn wool an oxygen content of 25.2% is necessary whereas air only has
Pretty much everyone smells it singeing before they OK its use -
otherwise the usual response is "we can't use that, it's not fireproof
like rockwool!" As you point out, it singes and won't sustain burning,
but no-one ever believes it until you torch a piece in front of them.
My soldering blanket is made of wool (fireproof Melton, from the
Bristol fireman's jacket factory). It's less conductive than my Kevlar
one, so there's less damage behind. The Kevlar one can get hot enough
to scorch paint behind it. I tend to soak the wool one with a bit of
water anyway, but the middle is pretty scorched now and no longer
smells as much.
Never tried one - but that's what I'd heard too.
However I recently bought a Rothenberger SureFire2 blowtorch. Uses MAP-
Pro gas rather the propane or butane.
If you're going to do more than a little bit of copper pipework, doing
28mm pipes, or reworking wet pipework - then a professional torch
makes a *world* of difference in terms of easily making quality
I have a cunning plan to open a DIY school one day & run very basic, but
hands on courses in basic plumbing, carpentry, fixing stuff to walls etc.
Books & the interweb are great, but practical hands on is much better at
suppling that vital part - confidence.
Dave - The Medway Handyman
Plenty of good advice already, especially about buying books. Some books
are free and although they're not by any means textbooks they're very
useful sources of basic information - trade catalogues. Toolstation's
catalogue has pretty good illustrations of most tools and fittings and
Screwfix online has much the same thing. You can also browse freely in
Wickes, B&Q, etc. and handle most items to get an idea of how they're
As far as the course is concerned I think that the money would be far
better spent on buying appropriate tools (tube bender, special spanners
etc.) which can be quite expensive; you'll need to buy them anyway so you
might as well buy them and practise in the comfort of your own home.
Most of the skill of plumbing is probably related to using your tools
properly but the specialised skill of soldering is best learned by
practice with some basic instruction readily obtained by Googling or
Using Ubuntu Linux
It's one of those skills that require many. Like accurate measuring when
cutting or bending pipes, etc. Soldering. Having a 'feel' for screwing
things together. Knowing how to fix to walls. General carpentry. And so on.
If you already have all those, the specifics could be gleaned from a
decent book. Of course designing your own heating system would take more
I'm very glad I was keen on Meccano as a kid.
*Succeed, in spite of management *
Dave Plowman email@example.com London SW
I wouldnt waste the money or time. Whatever you need to know is
available free online, and to get some practice you just need a few
tools and fittings, which cost a fraction of that. Plumbing sinks etc
is fairly basic. The issue with plumbing imho is unexpected issues
along the way, that add time and curses to sort out.
FWIW I did an electrical course there last year, C&G 2377.
Able is a well set up establishment with loads of trades (or wannabe
trades) people getting their training and certs; all different
nationalities as well, particulary the eastern europeans workers getting
proper UK qualifications for their trades. Friendly atmosphere.
My course was just 2 days and mostly paperwork, but the other courses I
could see going on had a lot of practical content - ye had to certainly
walk about the site with safety boots, but luckily I saw no ambulance... :-)
IMHO, there are two sorts of plumbing:
* New installations. The components are new, the right size, the same
size and they go together without problems. They also arrive empty and
dry, so you don't have to add water until the work is finished.
* Repairs. Some time in the late Victorian / Eocene, some cack-handed
badger installed the wrong part, upside down, and soldered it to a
piece of lead left over from the Romans. Then they built a wall in
front of it to make access even worse. It's already leaking, so you
_must_ fix it now. It would be easy to do so, except that the
component you need is only available from a plumber's merchant 20
miles away, which in 5 minutes time will close to celebrate Kwanzaa
for the next week. One piece of pipe is sized in cubits rather than
mm, and plumbers all swear that such a component has never been made
in such a size, or with the necessary connecting part - despite their
shelves being full of them (the piece you already have, not the one
you need). When you've finally installed the three new pieces you
needed to get them to work together instead of just the one that was
actually broken, you discover that your pushing and pulling on the
pipe has then caused something else six feet away to start dribbling.
If you want a really good read on the theory and detail of plumbing
(i.e. which bits to use and how to install them), Treloar's "Plumbing"
is a great NVQ-level textbook. Obviously the hand skills will then
need some actual hands-on time.
Oh, I have the wiring too. 240V running to microswitches above
cupboard doors as a lightswitch, with just a bit of shrinkwrap over
the terminals. There's hardly an (exposed) junction box here that
still had its lid in place.
Hence my total rewire...
Search out your local building trades college and compare prices.
This is vastly more than my local one used to be, but it may be
they are no longer subsidised like they used to be.
Watched my dad initially. Was quickly on to things like descaling
ballcocks and even servicing the cast iron gas boiler (brushing
off the soot, cleaning all the burner jets, etc. as a teenager.
I can't recall for sure, but I think I did some basic plumbing too.
For soldering, I was already compitent at electrical soldering (self
taught), and transfering that skill to plumbing is not a big step.
I recall firing up dad's parrafin blowlamp on several occasions for
soldering, but I can't recall exactly what I was soldering with it.
Actually, one thing I recall - I made up a new exhaust pipe for
the lawn mower with soldered copper pipe when the original one
rusted into a pile a dust. Looked really good. About 30 seconds
after starting the mower, all the soldered joints melted apart.
Still, that's how you learn things...
Two courses I did because I wanted the skills myself and had no
one to teach me were plastering and bricklaying. Each was 2 or 3
days, and well taught. I've also done electrical courses and got a
couple of C&G, but in that case I already knew most of the material;
it was a question of getting the certificate to make me happier about
doing electrical work at work, and work paid for the courses (after
which I designed and installed a computer room, amongst other things).
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