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What’s Different About Soldering Ornamental Copper?

What’s Different About Soldering Ornamental Copper?

Ornamental copper is a decorative metal, used in historic buildings, as well as incorporated into slate roofs and used on luxury exteriors.  It is valued for its beautiful appearance, even as it ages and begins to have a greenish patina.

When soldering ornamental copper, it is approached differently than galvanized metal or other soldering jobs that you might encounter.  They heat at different rates and the cosmetics when soldering copper are more important.

Below are some tips on how to solder ornamental copper to get the best end result:

1. Make Sure Your Seams Are Tight and Clean

When you solder, make sure that the seams are tight and clean as soldering copper holds much better with a closer fit.  The lap seams should have an approximately one inch overlap.  The gaps should not be larger than around 1/16th of an inch. 

Dirty seams will take a lot longer to solder and by cleaning them beforehand, the process will be that much smoother.

2. Tack Solder or Rivet the Seams

Make sure to drill the right hole size that will hold your standard rivets. Then you need to install the screws starting at the bottom all the way to the top.  Next, remove each screw and replace it with a rivet for a stronger hold.

3. Heat Your Soldering Iron

Similar to other soldering, your soldering iron should be extra hot before you begin.  The best soldering is accomplished when the solder in the liquid stage and the solder is flowing.  The solder should look like you’ve put down a thick strip of liquid on the copper.  If you are getting ridges, slow down and turn the heat up on your iron.  Copper conducts heat faster than galvanized steel and therefore needs a hotter or slower soldering iron.

4. Add Flux

Add flux around the areas that you want to solder. Brush the flux carefully along the seams.   A zinc chloride or zinc- ammonium chloride liquid flux is the best type for ornamental copper soldering.  Make sure to remove any extra flux that remains.  Flux that doesn’t get heated will immediately start to corrode the finish.

5. Try to Solder The Seams in One Pass

It can be more effective if you can solder the seams in one pass.  Place the hot iron on the joint so the tip is folded or on the high side of the seam.  The heat is transmitted from the iron tip to the seam from the molten solder along the joint.  Keep an eye on your puddle and move along the seam to place the solder correctly.

6. Wash Off Flux Residues

When you are done soldering, wash off any remaining flux residues.  If the joints aren’t washed off properly, it will leave a greenish color on the copper.  Spray the joints with water and dish soap and wipe them down with a sponge to make sure they are properly cleaned.

While the process of soldering is similar to other jobs you might encounter, the ornamental copper is very sensitive to discoloration and needs to be soldered quickly and carefully.

If you have any questions or need the right solder or flux for your job, make sure to contact our technical support team.