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Old 11-27-2011, 04:15 AM   #1
cjang
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Default Soldering stainless steel couplings

I thought I should contribute to HBT in return for some great advise. Here's a more detailed description of my attempts to solder a stainless 1/2" coupling as part of a hopback. It's a practice run before I do it on a precious keg. It turned out really well and was super simple once I got it all together. My first run was a little sloppy but I figured it out on my second one.

Here's my first attempt. The solder was a bit sloppy I was not level and the solder pool ran so I did not have enough solder and I did not heat evenly enough.



Step 1: Assemble your flare tool (This was inspired by the soldering stainless steel thread. They call it a keg tool)



grind your mandrel out of a 1/2"x3/8" coupling. (Grind the 3/8" side) I used a bench grinder but I think holding the coupling on a vise and using an angle grinder should give fair results.

Parts:
1/2" x 4" full thread machine bolt
1" x 1/2" coupling or 1"x1" coupling
1/2" nut
various washers



Step 2: Drill your hole (make sure it's just barely large enough to fit your mandrel)

Step 3: Assemble flare tool.


Step 4: drive mandrel into wall.

Step 5: Disassemble tool.

Step 6: remove mandrel with hammer (rubber or deadblow so you don't ruin anythink)

Step 7: Clean coupling and hole. Fit coupling into hole.

Step 8: Drive coupling into position (I want it flush with the interior.)

Step 9: Place onto a stable surface with the coupling pointed down and PLUMB. This is critical so the flux and solder pools stay in place.

Step 10: Apply flux. (You MUST use flux designed for stainless.)

I use stay clean. I got it from an air gas dealership.

Step 11: Bend a ring of solder using the coupling as a form and lay it on top
of the flux.





Step 12: Solder. Heat the coupling from the outside using a propane torch. Don't heat the thin metal. Heat until the solder flows and forms a nice pool around the entire coupling.



Step 13: Allow to air cool. Don't quench with water since this may weaken the joint.

Step 14: Clean! You must clean off the flux since it is a strong acid and will cause corrosion wherever it sits. Rinse with water and scrub off all the slag.







Hope this was useful. I plan on doing the same to my keg when I have time. I like this alternative to welding since it's so accessible to most average homebrewers. The equipment is cheap. The tool was ~$10 to build. You don't have to be particularly skilled to get things nice and smooth.

Charles

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Old 04-03-2013, 07:04 PM   #2
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thank you. just what a non-welder needed. subscribed.

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Old 04-04-2013, 12:26 AM   #3
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Great guide, very helpful! Have you done any "stress testing" on the joints? Do they feel reasonably strong when compared to welded couplings?

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Old 04-04-2013, 12:35 AM   #4
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I've used the same technique on all my kettles. The joint is very strong. I've never come close to dislodging it while torquing down on the couplers.

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Old 04-04-2013, 04:58 AM   #5
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No stress test per se but I'm confident that it's stronger any damage you can do with basic hand tools. Honestly, your kettle walls are likely weaker than a properly soldered joint.

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Old 04-04-2013, 05:48 PM   #6
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ANything specific you should use to clean the flux off?

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Old 04-04-2013, 05:52 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by naga77777 View Post
ANything specific you should use to clean the flux off?
Barkeeper's friend works great for cleaning the whole area up.
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Old 04-04-2013, 06:39 PM   #8
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Do you plan on grinding the joint down to smooth and flush it so it is "sanitary"? I'm not making a suggestion, really asking if that is the thing to do or not. Unfortunately I've already gone threaded on all my bulkheads or I think I'd do this.

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Old 04-05-2013, 03:49 AM   #9
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I neutralize the flux with a baking soda & water solution (I keep a squeeze bottle filled with a baking soda solution whenever I work with this flux just to be safe.) Then just scrub with a brass or stainless steel brush. If there's still discoloration, then I turn to barkeeper's friend or oxyclean.

I'm not planning on grinding it down. I would not consider these as clean as sanitary welds. If I were to do this on a fermenter, I'd keep the solder on the outside since the flare is pretty smooth.

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Old 04-05-2013, 02:04 PM   #10
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TOtal noob question here, but just wanna make sure.

THis stuff is safe to be in contact with boiling wort for an hour, right? Like food-safe? I'm assuming so, since my copper plumbing pipes are soldered, but they aren't getting boiled.

reason I ask, is I bought a stainless mash paddle that has a small hole in it, and i want to plug it with solder. But i leave the paddle in the boil to keep it sanitized so i can stir while chilling with an immersion chiller.

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Last edited by naga77777; 04-05-2013 at 05:46 PM. Reason: damn you, autocorrect. "soldered" not "slumbing"
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