How to Use Swaging and Flaring Tools for Copper Pipe and Tubing
Time Required: Under 2 hours
When applied to copper pipe or tubing, flaring and swaging are two similar processes used to gradually widen the end of a tube to allow new connections. Learning how to use a flaring tool or a swaging tool can give you more options in projects that involve joining copper pipe and tubing.
- Flaring tools use pressure to make a fabricated mechanical joint for joining or sealing copper tubing with a flare connection. Flaring allows you to connect tubes to each other or another kind of fitting.
- Flared ends tend to have an approximately conical shape.
- The most popular flaring tool for copper tubing is the bar-type tool, which include multiple bits to accommodate different pipe or tube sizes.
- Tubing and piping flares are not interchangeable. Tubing flares have a 45-degree angle while piping flares have a 37-degree angle.
- Swaging tools use pressure to expand or stretch the end of a piece of copper tubing so it can fit over another of the same diameter and make a permanent brazed connection. Tube swaging seeks to increase the inside diameter of tubing, eliminate the need for additional fittings (which can potentially save money) and reduce the opportunity for leaks.
- Swaged ends tend to have a cylindrical shape.
- The types of swaging tools for copper pipe include spike-shaped punch tools, manual tube expanders and feed screw tools comparable to flaring bars.
- Often a flaring tool kit will come with swaging bits or die blocks to convert a flaring bar into a swaging bar.
- When flaring, begin by choosing the tool accessories that match the diameter of the tube to be flared.
- Place the tubing inside the die block or clamp of the flaring tool. The end of the tube should extend about 1/8 inch (about the height of a nickel) from the flaring tool.
- Tighten the wing nuts to secure the tubing in the tool.
Tip: Place a drop of oil on the flaring cone to smooth the process.
- Center the flaring cone over the tubing.
- Tighten the flaring tool to lower the press into the tubing until it forms a flare. Do not over-tighten, which risks splitting the copper.
- Loosen and remove the flared tubing.
Tip: If you have a kit with swaging accessories and want to swage a tube, follow the same steps, replacing swaging bits for the flaring bits.
A punch swager is among the simplest and least expensive tools available for swaging.
- Secure the tube in a vise or hold by hand in a firm grip.
- Matching the diameter of the tube to the appropriately sized punch, put the narrow end inside the tube. Make sure that it’s aligned perfectly straight.
- Strike the end of the punch with a hammer until the tube meets the stop.
A tube expander makes it easy to swage tubing of different sizes.
- Attach an expander head that matches the diameter of the tube to the end of the tool.
- Fit the head into the end of the tube and gradually squeeze the handles.
- Release when the end of the tube is fully swaged.
Learning how to use a swaging tool or a flaring tool is effective for shaping a relatively soft metal such as copper, and can give you more control over your home plumbing and other projects.