In article ,
It's an interesting point as I've had my first ever solder failure using
end feed - and lead free for the first time. It was on an awkwardly
situated one where I couldn't heat it as evenly as I'd have liked - but
the solder was flowing freely on the bit I could see easily. On removal
the underside hadn't flowed.
Again, I'm not sure. There are some fluxes marked as for lead free and
some not marked for either.
Now that's where it gets really interesting. My soldering experience is
considerable in the electronics field. I have written magazine articles on
this hateful lead-free solder as used in electronics, and for the last one,
spent considerable time researching the current state of play. One area that
I had lengthy discussions over, with a doctor of metalurgy, working for an
industrial consultancy, was that of what the implications were of mixing
leaded, and lead-free solders. He told me that the general concensus was
that the two should never be mixed, as the likely result would be long term
compromising of the joint's integrity.
I'm not sure how that would stack up in the same situation in plumbing,
however. In the case of an electronic joint, the solder performs two
functions. One is to make the electrical connection between the component
wire and the printed circuit's copper tracking. The other is to provide the
joint with mechanical stability. The more ductile leaded solder seems to do
a better job on this score, as we now see many more 'stress' fractures of
joints, particularly those subject to mechanical vibration or expansion and
contraction, than we had when leaded solder was the norm.
In the case of a plumbing joint, the pipe is already a good mechanical fit
in the joint, so the solder has much less of a mechanical fixing job to
perform. I'm not sure how it will cope long term with joints on hot water
pipes though, where continuous thermal cycling of the joint, will subject it
to mechanical stresses not experienced by cold water or gas pipes.
Does anyone have any experience of plumbing joints made with lead-free,
failing ? I'd be interested to hear of any stories that anyone might have on
this score. In the meantime, a plumber I know quite well, is visiting me
later today to do a bit of gas fitting in my new kitchen, so I shall ask him
what his experiences are.
As far as making sure that a lead-free joint is good at the outset, if the
inferior wetting and flowing properties of electronic lead-free solder are
anything to go by, I think it would be essential that the jointing surfaces
are absolutely clean and grease free, and that an aggressive flux is used,
together with enough heat to get the rotten stuff to flow as well as it's
ever going to, which is nothing like as well as lead / tin solder ...
I've found that's the big drawback with lead-free solder, it just
doesn't flow as well as the leaded variety. Apparently the difference
is in the order of 10%.
It should be OK for 'new build; installations...for maintenance jobs
it's a lottery.
The solders marked specifically for lead-free will be more attuned to
the relevant melting point and are designed to increase 'wettability'.
Because of the issues mentioned above I'd be inclined to use this
matched flux - and I'd probably treat all the joints with a quick rub
with wire wool and a sloosh of lighter fluid ( as a degreasant ) to be
on the safe side. It wouldn't hurt to pre-flux the joints either.
You could always flash over the joint with leaded solder, just to make
This is what prompted my question: I'm making a prototype solar hot
water heater from copper tube (15mm). In my rummage box I found about
three *OLD* Yorkshire elbows (old, meaning at least 15 years). Anyway,
off I go to Focus to buy the pipe. While there I saw Yorkshire
fittings at around £7 for ten elbows), but I *also* saw the capillary
type at almost a quarter of the price (£1.99 for ten), which I've
never used before. So I bought them, as I still have some leaded
solder left from when I used to solder Maplin circuits and previous
home DIY plumbing work.
Back at home my first few capillary joints didn't exactly look very
pretty, so I got one of those old Yorkshire elbows (covered in the
accumulated crud from 15 years in the rummage box) and spent a good 15
minutes with wire wool giving it a thorough clean. The result was a
FAR neater joint, and also much easier to fit as I only needed to hold
the blow lamp on the elbow until the solder appeared at both ends,
rather than faffing about with adding the solder separately, as in the
Now I'm prepared to try the new, obviously unleaded, Yorkshire
fittings, despite the cost, but not if they are a pain in the rectum
to use. Unfortunately, Focus, and probably B&Q, only sell them in
packets of ten, so it's quite an investment to experiment with them,
only to find that I would really be better off using the much cheaper
capillary kind with my leaded solder and ancient tin of flux and more
practice to make the joints look tidy.
68 different kinds of lead solder alloys, all in stock.
Lead-bearing solders are widely - and legally - used for repairs to
items that were made with tin/lead solder. They can also used for new
items that are not "placed on the market" in the EU, which categorically
includes almost all forms of hobby construction.
Don't be misled by the fact that Maplin stock only unleaded solder.
Their buyers dumped tin/lead when the regulations were first announced,
and still don't realise that they got it wrong.
Although lead-bearing solders may not legally be used for repairs to
RoHS-compliant items that were "born lead-free", as a private owner I
wouldn't hesitate to use lead solder. IMO the highest environmental
priority is to make a successful and reliable repair, and thus keep the
whole item out of landfill for longer.
Taking Arfa Daily's point about not mixing alloys, in practice you would
probably use solder-wick to strip the whole joint clean, leaving only a
very thin "tinning" of the old lead-free solder. Re-making the joint
with leaded solder is then very similar to using leaded solder with
RoHS-compliant components and PC boards, which was happening for several
years during the changeover period.
(I do believe we've met, Arfa? Hope you're well :-)
I've found that the acid fluxes work just as well for lead-free as they
do for solder containing lead. I do find however that lead-free
Yorkshire fittings are a pain compared to older fittings. The solder can
simply run out of the fitting and seems to be much more finicky than
I'm very careful to clean tube and fitting with a wire brush/steel wool
and recently a deburring tool which deburs and brushes the tube in one
go. I still find lead solder much easier to use.
Yes and yes.
There are fluxes advertised as 'lead free' - presumably meaning for use
with lead free solders! I use Fernox or La-Co heat-activated flux since
much of my work is on gas pipework for which this type is mandatory
(though I do also use leaded solder on gas and CH pipework where lead
isn't prohibited, though TBH I don't notice much difference).
In article ,
"Dave Plowman (News)" writes:
My last major re-plumb was in 2002 when I completely replumbed a
house in copper with end-feed fittings. I did the central heating
with lead solder (which I already knew well) and the water supplies
with lead-free (which was new to me). I didn't notice any
differenence in ease of use. Both are 100% reliable in all soldered
joints so far.
For the flux, I started off finishing up my 20+ year old flux tin
(which was probably an acid flux), and then bought a non-acid flux
for the gas pipework, which in fact I used for everything afterwards.
Again, I didn't notice any difference in performance.
I am meticulous with cleaning pipe/fittings before soldering.
Also, I ensure the joint is well heated quickly so the solder is very
fluid and easily able to be sucked in by capillary action. It may be
that one can get away with being less careful more often with leaded
than lead-free, but if you do it properly, I don't think it makes any
difference. A small mirror to inspect all the way around a joint is
very useful. I had just stripped a wall of mirror tiles, so I had a
I recently did some soldering for a friend, and I didn't have any of
my plumbing bits and pieces with me so I had to buy a blowlamp, solder,
flux, fittings, etc. This included soldering 28mm fittings with
lead-free solder and a flux described as for lead-free (off-white paste
in a green tub). That soldered very easily.
In article ,
Right. I must admit my blowlamp might be marginal as well.
Even on a new build there will be awkward locations.
I was using an active one specifically for lead free.
I don't use wire wool anymore - fed up with getting bits stuck in me. ;-)
I use pukka cleaning strips. The sheds sell them.
Hmm. Lighter fuel around mixed with blowlamps? ;-)
Is there any other way?
I've gone back to lead solder totally.
Another tip is to get a small mirror - like perhaps a dentist's one - so
you can examine the back of such joints with the aid of a torch. It's
pretty obvious if the solder hasn't flowed.
In article ,
IHMO the best combination is an active flux - the acidic kind - and lead
solder. Both are still available from PMs, but probably not the sheds.
Just make sure you wipe down the outside of the pipe with a damp rag
I can't see Arfa's OP, so I'll reply to the quote!
My experience is in manufacture and maintenance of wind instruments -
so mechanical integrity is to the fore.
It appears that lead-free solder is rather more 'brittle' than leaded,
and that smaller surface-mounted self-contained fittings are more
susceptible to knock shearing when fitted with lead-free solder. It's
too early to tell what corrosion resistance is like but I have a
sneaking suspicion that's it's not as good.
I'd be surprised if mixing the two compromised a joint's integrity -
it seems to me that adding a more ductile alloy would bring benefits.
It might make the joint more arbitrary in terms of stress/strain
distribution, but then if that's an issue I would say that soft solder
is probably the wrong material for the job.
That remains to be seen...but in the case of sleeved joints I doubt
there'll be too many mechanical issues. I feel it still hinges on
corrosion resistance. Time will tell - we might end up with less lead
in the scrap bin but more copper...
More cleaning, more heat, more flux - that's seems to be the order of
the day. Environmentally that means the use of degreasants, probably
about a third more gas, and about twice the amount of flux....and
maybe twice as often as before?
In theory the primed fittings should be more reliable. Nothing wrecks
a soft soldered joint faster than moisture being allowed to sit in it
- and the primed joints are far more likely to throw a wall of solder
around the internal interface. Such luxuries are unknown in my trade,
so I rely on tinning the joint to ensure maximum cap. flow.
I hope you don't mind me hijacking this thread.
I have a friend with a cornet (yes really) that he bought off ebay. He
says that the tuning slide has been soldered in place, but would like to
free it up.
Can you suggest how to go about doing this, and what the hazards to the
instrument might be.
I'm just an engineer, and occasional DIYer including plumbing, but my
first suggestion was heating the smallest component including the
offending slide in the oven to see if that got it free.
I'm sure that I can separate the two with a blowtorch, but would like a
little advice on what to watch out for.
Obviously the lacquer will burn off and it will need re-polishing.
The other question that springs to mind is why did they do it in the
Has it been soldered in place ( i.e. visibly ) or is it just stuck
fast? I assume you mean the main ( largest ) tuning slide.
The standard method of freeing a stuck slide is plenty of freeing
agent ( Plus Gas ) and heat. The Plus Gas will have to be dribbled
down the bore of the mouthpipe tube and in through the third valve
casing, which is a tiresome but necessary process.
More will need to be applied from the external joint...and I tend to
use one dose of Plus Gas followed by a dose of heavier oil ( Hypoid
gear oil works well ) because this doesn't burn off quite so readily.
Use the flame to draw the heat and oil along the tube.
Repeat as necessary...and preferable leave the whole lot to sit for a
couple of hours.
If the slide has been soldered in place then you'll have to hope that
the solder is confined to the last few millimetres of the
tube...otherwise it's going to be a hell of job.
It might well be the case that the tube is stuck, as well as soldered
( highly likely, in fact ) in which case it could be a very nasty job.
The big problem is getting both tubes to temperature at once, and
maintaining it long enough to grapple with the ( very hot ) tube.
Be careful - too much heat and the surrounding fittings will drop off!
Use plenty of soldering flux...it'll help the solder to flow out of
the joint ( it won't do the lacquer much good though ).
You might need to rig up a 'cord pull' - this is a two foot length of
stockinette with the ends wrapped ( to spread the load ) around the
top and bottom of the tuning slide bow ( or around the stay if there's
one attached to the bow ) and the middle portion secured in a vice.
Use masking tape to hold the cords in position. You will then be able
to 'yank' the cornet. You have to be extremely careful though...one
tug too hard and you can cave the whole lot in!
It might be necessary to knock the slide out, and you do that with a
bit of hardwood placed against the tuning slide ferrule ( the larger
bit of tube that the slide tube itself fits into ). Used like a
chisel, you place the edge of the wood against the rim of the ferrule
on each tube in turn and very carefully tap the wood with a small
hammer. It's very much a 'knack'...too little force and not much will
happen - too much and you'll cave the tube in. You should do this
while the tubes are hot.
If at all possible, fill the tube up with vinegar ( stand the cornet
up so that the vinegar only covers the portion of tube you're working
on ), then heat it to near boiling point. Leave to stand, heating
occasionally...then leave overnight. This will dissolve any calcium
carbonate deposits and may help to free things up. I'd be inclined to
start with this method anyway.
Either way, the job is typically 60% heat, 10% sweat, 5% oil...and 25%
Very satisfying when it works...usually a complete disaster when it
Depends...it's possible to get the lacquer to the melt-point of soft
solder without burning it...but you only get so many goes at it.
Could be any number of reasons; a botch job, a split inner slide, an
idea that once tuned the slide would not need to be moved again...or
even a belief that the slide should never have been able to move in
the first place.
Hope he didn't pay too much for it, or that it's a particularly good
one...you can pick up a decent new one for around £100 these days, if