By Kelly Johnson

More than 4,400 visitors to the Fort Worth Convention Center Oct. 26-30 found themselves "Getting a Kick Out of Plumbing Engineering Education" at the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) 2002 Convention and Engineered Plumbing Exposition. In addition to exhibitor booths and educational seminars, attendees kicked up their heels at the Welcome Party at Billy Bob's Texas club, featuring indoor bull riding shows, country line dancing, and armadillo races.

In a more serious race, the society's election of officers took place on Mon., Oct. 28, during the ASPE Business Meeting. A primarily new slate of officers was elected, concluding in a runoff between candidates David Chin and Larry Oliver for the position of president of the Society, with Oliver winning the election after two voting sessions. Other new elects included John Norman Parks, vice-president, Education; William Hughes, vice-president Membership; and Ray Moore, secretary/treasurer.

J. Joseph Scott retained his position as vice-president, Technical, as did Julius Ballanco, vice-president, Legislative. Other notable actions at the meeting included the presentation of committee reports and several society awards; the ratification of Long Beach, CA, as the 2008 convention site; and the approval or rejection of several amendments to the Society's articles.

Following the business meeting, a moving keynote address was presented by Captain Gerald Coffee, a 28-year Navy veteran who was captured and held as a POW in Hanoi, North Vietnam, for seven years from 1966-73. Coffee shared his experiences, as well as the insights he gained from the adversities he has faced over the years. He noted that he felt faith was the key to his survival during his POW years--faith in himself, faith in others, faith in America, and faith in God--and recommended that the audience keep faith in their lives as well. He also suggested that it is important to maintain a sense of humor in the face of adversity. Coffee suggested that the audience might find inspiration in those mottoes under circumstances such as the terrorist attacks of 2001, concluding that as a people, our strength lies in unity.

At the conclusion of Coffee's address, President David Chin officially opened the convention and plumbing exposition. With more than 600 booths and 40 technical sessions, the show offered attendees the chance to see a variety of new plumbing products and technologies, as well as the opportunity to learn more about plumbing design engineering practices.

More than 290 exhibitors displayed the latest innovations in pumps, water heaters, boilers, fixtures, emergency showers and fittings, to name a few. (See the ASPE Product Overview in the February 2003 issue and at for more product information.)

Educational seminars were scheduled before and after the exposition hours, so that attendees would have time to take advantage of both opportunities. Topics covered included water fountain design, green building design, design of laboratories, domestic water pressure boosting, sanitary drainage and vent systems, application of emergency fixtures, LP gas systems, wastewater recycling and cast iron soil pipe cutting.

One of the highlights of the educational programs was a session on installing a copper system, presented by Andy Kireta, Jr., of the Copper Development Association, assisted by Robert Hall, Jr., Myron Havis, Dale Powell and Jim Weflen. This hands-on workshop demonstrated to plumbing engineers what a plumber has to do to join copper pipe, giving them the opportunity to visualize and then perform the installation of a copper piping system.

Kireta explained the differences between soldering and brazing, the two most common methods of joining copper tube and fittings, noting that soldering is a joining process that takes place below 840 degrees F, and brazing takes place above 840 degrees F but below the melting point of the base metals. In actual practice for copper systems, most soldering is done at temperatures from about 350 to 650 degrees F, while most brazing is done at temperatures ranging from 1,100 to 1,500 degrees F.

The choice between soldering and brazing generally depends on the operating conditions of the system and the requirements of the construction codes. Solder joints are generally used where service temperature does not exceed 250 degrees F, while brazed joints can be used where greater joint strength is required, or where system temperatures are as high as 350 degrees F.

Regardless of the process chosen, the same basic steps should be followed, with the only differences being the fluxes, filler metals and amount of heat used. The step-by-step process includes measuring and cutting, reaming, cleaning, fluxing, assembly and support, heating, applying solder, and cooling and cleaning.

After the presentation, the seminar attendees were invited to try their own hand at joining copper tube and fittings. Under the expert supervision of Kireta and his assistants, the engineers were given the opportunity to apply the knowledge they had just gained to cut, deburr and clean, flux, heat and apply the solder to create a copper joint of their own in a piping assembly cleverly designed to form the word ASPE.

The Basics of Joining Copper Tube and Fittings

Here is the step-by-step soldering process for joining copper tube and fittings:

  • Measuring and Cutting. Copper tube is manufactured in 20-foot lengths, and so must be accurately measured and cut, making sure the tube will fit to the end of the fitting cup. An appropriate tool such as a tube cutter, hack saw or chop saw, should be used for cutting, and the tube end should be cut square to the run of the tube and not on angle.

  • Reaming. All cut tube ends must be reamed to remove the small burr the cutting operation creates to prevent erosion, corrosion and disruption of water flow. A deburring tool or reamer should be used.

  • Cleaning. The outside surface of both the tube and the fittings must be cleaned of all oxides and surface soil to ensure the proper flow of the flux and filler material into the joint. A fitting brush, sanding cloth or scouring pad can be used, but steel wool pad should never be used, as the oil it contains will remain on the surface and prevent bonding of the flux and filler.

  • Fluxing. A flux compound should be used that will dissolve and remove traces of oxide from the cleaned surfaces to be joined and protect from reoxidation during heating. The flux can be applied in a thin, even layer over the end of the tube and the inside of the fitting cup.

  • Assembly and Support. The tube should be inserted into the fitting, making sure the tube is seated against the base of the fitting cup. Excess flux should be removed from the exterior of the joint with a cotton rag. The tube and fitting assembly should be supported to ensure adequate capillary space around the circumference of the joint.

  • Heating. The tube and fitting must be heated to the temperature where the solder will melt and flow. Copper conducts heat well, so the tube should be heated first so it will expand into the capillary space and fitting. Start heating with the flame perpendicular to the bottom of the tube at a position about 1 1/2 times the length of the cup. Move the flame along the circumference of the tube (from 3 o'clock to 9 o'clock) until the flux begins to bubble. Then move the flame to the joint and begin to heat on the bottom, again following the 3-9 o'clock pattern, making sure to get heat at the back of the cup so the solder will run back to the base of the cup. Touch the filler material to the cup off center at the base to test the temperature. When the solder melts, push the solder into the joint at that same point while keeping the torch at the base of the fitting and slightly ahead of the point of application. Continue this technique across the bottom of the fitting and up one side to the top, filling the joint until the solder runs out of the front. Return to the starting position, overlapping slightly, and proceed up the uncompleted side to the top, again overlapping slightly.

  • Cooling and Cleaning. Allow the completed joint to cool naturally, then clean off any remaining flux residue with a wet rag.