What do you generally think of when you think of copper? A lot of people will say the first thing that comes to mind is that pennies are made of copper. But maybe you didn't know that welding copper is an option, too.
You might wonder why anyone would want to weld copper. The truth is that there are many applications that have very likely affected your life. You'll probably be surprised to know about some of these.
Plus, there are many ways to weld copper. The one that the welders use depends on the specific situation. Before we get into the specifics of welding copper, what is welding in general?
What Is Welding?
Before you learn about welding copper, you might want to be sure you know exactly what welding is. In short, welding is a way to join two pieces of metal permanently. In fact, it's the only known way of making two pieces of metal into one.
There are many different welding methods. Most of the time, the process requires heat and the melting of the metals involved. However, this isn't always the case.
A weld joint, which is the intersection between the two metals that are joined together, needs to be designed in such a way that it can withstand whatever forces are going to be applied to it. Basically, the design of this joint is determined by the type of load that it's supposed to carry.
You probably use things that were created using welding techniques on a daily basis. Airplanes, cars, and skyscrapers would all likely not be around if it weren't for welding. Even smaller items within your home, such as coffee pots, were likely created using welding techniques.
There are two major categories when it comes to welding. These would be pressure welding and fusion welding.
In pressure welding, the welders apply external pressure to create welded joints at temperatures below the melting point of the metal. The pressure that is being applied actually effects the metals on an atomic level.
For the process to be effective, the two pieces that you are joining together need to be very clean and have no oxides or other non-metallic substances on the surface. Welders use these techniques mostly on metals that are very ductile.
Pressure welding can involve heat. However, in most cases, it doesn't.
Fusion welding techniques create welded joints using heat. Welders will heat the edges of the base metals above their melting points. They don't need to use external pressure.
Sometimes, they'll use filler metals to create a stronger weld joint. They may also use inert gases in the process to enhance the quality of the joint.
For welders to use techniques that involve fusion, the metals that they are joining need to be somewhat mutually soluble. That means you need to be able to mix them. For example, water and alcohol are mutually soluble, while water and oil aren't.
If two metals are completely mutually soluble, these will be some of the easiest ones to weld. If welders want to join two metals that have no mutual solubility, they will have to use an intermediate soluble metal. That's a metal that will have some mutual solubility with each of the two metals that the welders are trying to join together.
Different Methods of Welding Copper
Now that you know certain conditions need to be met in order to weld two metals, you might be wondering: Is it even possible to weld copper? The answer is yes, it is indeed possible.
Welding copper is a practice that manufacturers use to create a variety of items. These can include crown moldings, door casings, furniture, jewelry, and much more.
When it comes to welding copper, there are a few different ways that manufacturers can go about it.
TIG stands for tungsten inert gas. It's a type of arc welding that uses a TIG machine. Specifically, welders use the machine's tungsten electrode directly on the metal pieces to join them.
Copper is an excellent conductor of heat. Because of this, during welding, the copper will behave as a heat sink. The welding process needs to be quick and hot to work.
You should keep in mind that with this type of welding, thin copper material will warp. If you want to use this technique, it should be on thick material or thin material that doesn't necessarily need to maintain its shape. If you're welding thin material and want to preserve its shape, you should choose a different technique.
When it comes to welding copper, silver soldiering is the method that requires the least amount of heat. Also, it carries the advantage of not deforming the copper the way other types of welding generally will.
It's an excellent choice if you're working with thin material and want to maintain its shape.
However, you should keep in mind that the soldier material will leave a silver color at the seams of the copper. You can do things to alter this silver color after you've finished the welding process. However, it's unlikely that you'll be able to hide this effect completely.
SILICON BRONZE WELDING
This is a type of MIG, or metal inert gas, welding. In MIG welding, welders use gases, such as argon or carbon dioxide, to surround a type of metal wire. That prevents contamination of the metal during the welding process so that it appears as a part of the finished product.
Silicon bronze welding involves the use of silicon bronze welding wire and MIG equipment. The temperatures that the welders need to attain in order to melt the silicon bronze wire are not as high as the temperatures that would melt copper.
That makes it possible for welders to join thin sheets of copper without changing their shape.
With this technique, you will have a yellowish filler material between the pieces of copper. However, manufacturers generally polish it, so it ends up being a similar color to the copper base material.
This welding technique is popular among the makers of metal jewelry. It doesn't melt the base copper, and there are different filler wire materials that can match the copper.
Copper brazing requires very high temperatures. Welders will need to be able to take the metals up to between 1,100 and 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Weld Copper Yourself
If you want to weld copper yourself, you can do so, given that you actually know what you're doing. If you don't, this could be a very dangerous project for you. It would definitely be worthwhile to learn this skill since copper has many home improvement applications.
Before you undertake this project, make sure you know everything about how to do it properly. Learn about the copper alloys you're using, and try the process in small pieces before you try your hand at the final project.
Most importantly, make sure you're completely safe. You're dealing with some extremely high temperatures here, and you want to make sure to protect yourself completely.
1. GET EVERYTHING TOGETHER
In order to do this project, you need to make sure you have all the necessary equipment. That includes a welder and welding rods.
You'll also need plenty of protection for yourself. You'll need a filter mask, welding gloves, jeans with no holes, eye protection, strong non-conductive leather shoes, a welding helmet, and jacket. Make sure you put on all of this protective equipment before starting the welding process.
You should also make sure that you're using a proper filler. The filler material should be stronger than the base copper. Most of the time, if you're welding at home, you'll be using a copper alloy instead of pure copper.
Copper alloys typically contain around 70 percent copper, so you can use a filler that contains 70 percent copper and 30 percent nickel. The amount of nickel in the filler will make it stronger than the base material.
You also want to make sure that you know the composition of your alloy and that all the metal pieces you're using are compatible with one another. You can contact a welder or hardware store if you have any doubts.
2. CLEAN EVERYTHING
You want to make sure that there are no foreign substances on your copper before starting the process. Believe it or not, these can compromise the quality of your weld. Paints, oil, and grease can cause the weld to crack if they happen to be mixed in with the welded metals.
3. CUTTING THE METAL
You should make sure to cut the metal properly before you actually weld it. If it's 3 millimeters or thinner, you should use a square-butt preparation. That means you should cut it at a 90-degree angle to the surface.
If the sheet of copper is thicker, however, it would be better to cut it in a beveled fashion.
4. POSITION MATTERS
The recommendation for copper welding is that you do it in a down-hand position. In other words, place the sheets of copper on a horizontal surface and weld them from above.
It's easier, and there is less of a chance that you'll end up making a mistake and ruining the entire project. Down-hand welding is definitely the best choice for a beginner.
You Can't Wait to Weld Now, Right?
Now that you know more about the welding process in general and welding copper specifically, you know just how fascinating the processes are. Because of all of the applications of welding, you also know just how important they are. Your life literally wouldn't be the same if it weren't for welding.
If you decide to try welding copper yourself, make sure that you take all the proper precautions. Remember that it involves a lot of heat. The process may be fascinating, but it can also be quite dangerous.
Welding copper can be very useful and likely played a part in the making of many of the things that you use on a fairly regular basis. And it always helps to have a better understanding of how things are made.
What do you think of everything you've just learned about welding copper? Let us know by leaving a comment!