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Author Topic: Heat gun vs Blow Torch vs Soldering Iron?  (Read 38338 times)
Baron Von Ryan
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« on: November 05, 2009, 01:48:55 pm »

I want to get into the whole soldering/metal working thing, but I don't have any tools. I want to intially work with copper plumbing pipes and random bits of brass. I know that the blow torch is the traditional tool to solder these kind of things together, but I saw heat guns at the hardware store and they looked really cool

  Does anyone have a heat gun that can attest to its usefulness? Can you solder/sweat copper pipes with a heat gun? What can a heat gun do that a blow torch can't and vice versus? What do you  personally use your heat gun for? Can you do traditional soldering iron stuff with a heat gun if you have the right noozle? I can buy both a soldering iron and a blow torch for less than the price of one heat gun so i'm trying to figure out if I will get my moneys worth or not.
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Narsil
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« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2009, 02:26:28 pm »


Generally a heat gun gives medium heat over a fairly wide area and is used for things like stripping paint and heat forming of plastics, they are not really suitable for soldering because they don;t really put out enough heat and are not sufficiently precise.

Soldering Irons are best for precision work like soldering electrical connections and leaded glazing.

For sweat sldering, plumbing and jewelery type work with hard solder a gas torch is definitely the best option.
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« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2009, 03:32:57 pm »

Skip the heat gun and buy the other two.  Precision is indeed had with the iron, and the massive heat you need for pipes can be quickly accomplished with the torch.  they've even special tips that are "C" shaped and heat up around the entire part evenly at once.  Those are a must have when silver soldering copper pipes for air conditioning (pressurized) systems.  If you are into decoration only, the simple tips that come with the torch will do you nicely for a bit. 
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« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2009, 07:25:11 pm »

As the above posters say, blow torch for soldering pipes, soldering iron for electronics.
How to solder, from make magazine
By the by theres a video of how to solder with a soldering iron, you don't really need all the stuff they say in the video, I just have some corroded gnarly old iron and a bit of old heating element acting as a stand/cleaner for it Wink

Oh and another tip, when soldering big metal things (like pipes) sand the area you want the solder to adhere to, this makes it rough and clean and allows it to take the solder 20439875928465982635 times better/easier Smiley

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Baron Von Ryan
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« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2009, 12:56:31 pm »

Thanks for your advice. I got a blow torch with a c shaped nozzle and a soldering iron yesterday. I'm still getting the hang of the blow torch, but I was wondering how effective the pen style or mini cooking blowtorch is? It seems like it would be a lot easier to work with. Can you sweat cooper pipes with something like that or is it too small?

Also I had an issue with the blow torch when I tried to move it around. Whenever I held the torch with the tank higher than the nozzle, it emited a big flare out of flame; sorta like a mini fireball. Is that normal? Or is does it just have to do with the noozle i have, a c shaped noozle?
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Narsil
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« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2009, 02:04:39 pm »


The small ones can be useful for delicate work but don't chuck out as much heat so may not be effetive for soldering pipes. One problem with soldering pipes is that the pipe conducts heat away from the join quite quickly and if its dissipating heat faster than heat is coming in then it will never get hot enough no matter how long you wait.

Yeah its entirely normal for a torch to flare if you tip the canister. The 'gas' is actually mostly liquid becasue its stored under pressure so if you tip it cannister up liquid is forced out of the nozzel, instantly vapourises and causes a flare.
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Captain Quinlin Hopkins
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« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2009, 06:44:14 pm »

You might want to look into a flexible hose attachment.  That way the bottle can stay in one place, and you can maneuver upside-down if necessary.  Otherwise just take a bit of thinking(and necessary room) to be able to get  the bottle in it's upright position.  
If sweating pipe, remember that you're heating the pipe.  The solder, when touched to the pipe of proper temperature, will melt and instantly be drawn into the close gap or your two pieces.  Solder has no need to be in the flame.  You'll be surprised at how quickly this happens, especially with the c shaped tip.  Should take less than a minute to heat an empty pipe, and less than 10 seconds for the solder to completely run it's course. If it's taking longer than that you might need to switch back to a smaller tip and localize the heat source as you aren't getting enough flow from the small bottle to heat it up properly with the larger tip.  you'll probably notice the bottle is very cold, which drops the perssure availabel with it going out too fast.  Something like this.  
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« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2009, 08:18:31 pm »

Torch girl here. My husband who is the Electronics department uses an iron.
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« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2009, 08:33:12 pm »

Torches are more fun.  They're many times more destructive than the other tools you mentioned. Grin

I've typically used a heat gun only for forming heat-shrink plastics (such as heat-shrink wire insulation).

Soldering irons are a must for electronics work.

A blowtorch is my tool of choice for welding (if you have the proper torch) and pipe soldering.

These tools aren't really interchangeable, although you could use a soldering iron for improvised heat gun duty.
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Baron Von Ryan
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« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2009, 09:01:07 pm »

Other than the actual blow torch and soldering iron, what accessories do you guys recomend? I already have a pipe cutter, flux, solder (though i'm not sure if i have the right kind), a sponge, and plan to get a vise and a metal file.
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Narsil
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« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2009, 10:19:05 pm »


There are two types of solder, hard solder (aka silver solder) and soft solder which is traditionally lead based although lead free versions are more usual now.

Soft solder is generally used for plumbing and electrical jointing and hard solder when a sronger joint is required. Hard solder also comes in a range of grades with different melting temperatures which allows you to do  aseries of joints in close proximity without melting nearby ones.

In terms of other accessories, heat-reflecting blankets may be useful, both to protect surrounding areas and to keep the heat contained for more efficient heating, firebricks can do a similar job. Abrasive tape, wire wool and acetone (keep away from heat and flames) are useful for cleaning joints. Pipe bending tools may also be useful depending on what you want to do. A simple way to bend a pipe neatly is to just fill it with sand to stop it kinking at the bend. Yellow ocre paint can be useful as a solder resist (stops solder going where you don;t want it) .

If you want to work with sheet metal as well then a jewellers saw, needle files, pliars,  and metal shears are the basic tools.
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« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2009, 01:43:15 am »

Aluminium can be brazed too, using a blowtorch, and a great deal of care. You need special flux and filler.

Avoid the heat guns unless you are heatshrinking or stripping paint.
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« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2009, 12:10:26 am »

Recently my soldering iron was having problems with heat conduction so I have taken to using a small spirit burner to solder thick wires or large bits of metal Grin
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von Adler
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« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2009, 10:41:17 am »

You can also gas weld aluminium and do without the flux and filler, depending on the kind of project you are doing; I've done it with just a oxy-acetylene torch using acetylene-rich flame to bring the temperature down a bit and to prevent oxidation, but it probably could be done with a butane or propane torch as well. But aluminium really is a bit of a bitch, because the melting point is so close to the point where the melt just runs if you're not extra-careful with the temperature.
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« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2009, 11:29:39 pm »

I am guessing most people are talking about electric soldering irons here. Don't forget that there are externally heated soldering irons as well. If you have not seen one, then typically, they have a wooden handle, from which sticks a rod of iron down to the business end where there is attached a large lump of copper. This copper bit can weigh 1 pound and more, depending on its use. The process is to shape and clean the bit and then stick it in a fire (normally a gas burner). As it comes up to temperature the colour changes from yellowy gold to red to black and then takes on a shimmery glow, just before sparks start to come off it. It is now as hot as it is going to get and the heat held by the mass of copper can be transferred to the joint. Skilled operators can get just the temperature they want and I have seen these tools used for a range of duties, such as soldering lightweight wires (=> 6 lb), running a seam down a couple of lead sheets, soldering lead came in leaded windows, etc. You find them all over at junk markets. Have a go.
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« Reply #15 on: January 12, 2011, 04:42:12 pm »

the blob of copper type soldering irons were also used for body filler work in the days before bondo was created . up thru 1960 or so it was The method of panel filling used by Ford on all there vehicles and still used untill '68 or'69 on mustangs and trucks, do not know for sure about any other maufacturers,but it is prodable that they continued until a similar time, my 63 dodge truck had some repair work done that way but i do not know when it was performed, as it spent twenty years in gov'ment service before being sold out to the civilian market.   Miles
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« Reply #16 on: January 12, 2011, 04:58:34 pm »

the blob of copper type soldering irons were also used for body filler work in the days before bondo was created . up thru 1960 or so it was The method of panel filling used by Ford on all there vehicles and still used untill '68 or'69 on mustangs and trucks, do not know for sure about any other maufacturers,but it is prodable that they continued until a similar time, my 63 dodge truck had some repair work done that way but i do not know when it was performed, as it spent twenty years in gov'ment service before being sold out to the civilian market.   Miles


I remember Discovery channel had a show with Hotrod manufacturer Boyd Coddington. I have seen his crew using soldering tin to fill the panels. I'm not shure why they used this in stead of bondo, but it had to do with a specific project.

On topic: I would go for a torch and an iron. A heat gun is for paint stripping. If you use copper piping on regular basis, you might want to buy some bending irons.
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« Reply #17 on: January 18, 2011, 03:42:13 pm »

Best advice is , use the biggest. Those tiny pen torches are good for tiny little pipes, but a big touch will do it too. I got a big propane torch and gas bottle and it lasts for ever!
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elShoggotho
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« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2011, 08:49:35 am »

Replying in German.
Ich antworte mal auf deutsch.

Zum Löten von Kupferrohren sollte man auf eine größere Lötlampe aus dem Baumarkt zurückgreifen. Geräte in passender Größe schlucken Gaskartuschen und sind für 15 bis 20 Euro in allen gängigen Baumärkten erhältlich. Als Zusatzanschaffung bietet sich eine kleine, mit Feuerzeuggas betriebene Lötlampe an. Eine erwärmt das Rohr an anderer Stelle, mit der anderen wird Detailarbeit erledigt. Immer daran denken: Kupfer ist das am besten leitende Metall, die Hitze fließt praktisch sofort ab.

Sollen andere Metalle hartgelötet werden braucht man Silberlot und Flußmittel, bei Kupfer benutzt man Kupferlot und braucht kein Flußmittel.

Da im Eröffnungspost einige Übersetzungsprobleme herrschen, hier ein kleines Glossar:
to solder = weichlöten
to braze = hartlöten
to weld = schweißen (hier fehlerhaft mit "to sweat" übersetzt, was wie ein Babelfisch klingt)
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sebastian Inkerman
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« Reply #19 on: January 20, 2011, 10:28:47 am »

I wouldn't say never use a heat gun for soldering pipes together. As long as they aren't for gas tight joints there is absolutely no problem at all with using a heat gun for this purpose. It takes a little longer to get the pipes up to temperature, but the result is the same and you aren't working near any potentially explosive gases  Wink. That said however, if you are buying for the purpose, I would suggest a blowtorch as I used my heat gun simply because I needed to solder some pipes for my backpack and couldn't afford a blowtorch at the time and I had no problems using it for that purpose.
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« Reply #20 on: January 27, 2011, 03:53:28 pm »

Quote from: bicyclebuilder

I remember Discovery channel had a show with Hotrod manufacturer Boyd Coddington. I have seen his crew using soldering tin to fill the panels. I'm not sure why they used this in stead of bondo, but it had to do with a specific project.

It was lead, not tin. Lead is the traditional method for detailing bodywork on classic and retro vehicles. When applied properly, it lasts well beyond bondo. That is the trick though, proper application. It takes a long time to learn how to do it right. If improperly applied it will lift off the metal after awhile.
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« Reply #21 on: February 08, 2011, 05:06:49 am »

Heat Gun:  Not much use for solder/braze/welding, useful for many other applications

Soldering Iron:  Specialty tool, either the electric type that is use for electric or electronic work, or the externally heated type, often used for copper flashing on roofing.  Useful but limited.

Torches:  Many types, many uses.

Oxy-fuel:  you can weld with this. 
MAPP: pretty good for brazing
Propane:  Inexpensive compared to MAPP, not as hot.

Torch type, many, many.  I have a butane pencil torch (F-for very small jobs), a propane "bernz-o-matic" which is probably the one I reach for most often, a MAPP mini-torch with a hose, good for jewelry, and a small oxy fuel.  I use them all, but not all at once.   

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