As a remodeler I have a lot of old material that often ends up in the land fill. I do my best to separate what I can for recycling. When it comes to plumbing there is usually a lot of copper and fittings left over. They've been building up in a pile behind my shed and it was time to put them to use.
This is a great project to experiment with sweating pipes if your new to plumbing. You can perfect your technique before trying it on pipes in use.
Step 1: What You Will Need.
This materials list is for my towel/coat rack. The options are endless. Use as many valves as you'd like, change the pipe lengths, by new material from the hardware store or recycle, etc.
- Six 1/2 inch globe valves
- Two 1/2 inch 90 degree elbows
- One 1/2 inch T (this may be omitted if using fewer valves)
- Three 1/2 Unions (use two if using fewer valves)
- Three to four feet of 1/2 copper pipe
- Two keyhole plates (I used these for ease of use. I'll explain more later)
- 4 rubber cabinet door pads/bumpers
- One piece of rough cut cherry wood.
- Two 1 1/4 long screws and washers
- Spray enamel (important if using for a towel rack)
Leather gloves, safety glasses, dust mask, a propane torch, channel lock pliers, pipe solder, paste flux and brush, emery cloth/sand paper, pipe cutter, 1/2 pipe brush, a vice is great but you could use a pair of vice grips to clamp pipes to a work table, bucket of water (to quickly cool your valves/pipes), old towel or rag, a drill and brass wire wheel, and a screw driver.
Step 2: Getting the Valves Ready
To get the valves ready to assemble remove all of the old pipes from the valves. I removed all of them so I was able to use new pipes of equal lengths. If your comfortable with the way they look as is and have enough length you can leave the pipe in place.
1. Get a bucket of water closed to your work area. It's probably a good idea to put on some leather gloves and safety glass at this point as well.
2. Clamp a section of pipe in a vice. You can also clamp the valve if the pipe section is to small. With your channel locks grab the piece your removing. Heat the soldered area until the solder softens by moving the flame back and forth on the pipe and valve. When it is ready to remove use the channel locks to twist and pull the pieces apart. Slowly dip the piece into the water to let cool. It should be cool to the touch very quickly. Give a minute or so just to make sure. Continue this process until you have all of the valves you need.
Remove the valve wheels and set aside for later. Put the nuts back on the valve stem so they are not misplaced. They will be easier to clean later also.
Step 3: Prepping the Pipes
To keep everything symmetrical make the T piece first. This will be the center support piece. It will be trimmed to length after assembly.
Cut three pieces of pipe no less than 4 inches. They don't have to be exact because you'll trim them later.
Clean 3/4 inches of one side of each piece of pipe with emery cloth. Clean the inside of the 1/2 copper T with the pipe brush.
Clamp one of the pipes in the vice.
Get a wet towel or rag ready to clean off the solder. This isn't totally necessary but makes the joint look clean.
Apply flux to the cleaned sections of pipe and T and assemble the pieces.
With the torch direct flame to one of the joints. Touch the point where the two pieces join with the solder. When the copper is hot enough the solder with start to melt into the joint. Move the solder around the joint until full. This will be approximately 1 to 1.5 inches of solder. Carefully wipe off excess solder with the damp rag. Be careful this is extremely hot. Repeat with the other two joints. When the solder has cooled off some and has set you can dip it into the bucket of water.
While the T piece is cooling cut four pieces of pipe to 5.5 inches long and clean the ends with emery cloth. When cool cut the T the same length with the copper T centered ( see the pictures above). Leave the one section long to clamp into the vice.
Step 4: Completing the Valves, Elbows, and Unions
At this point the T center piece will act as a bracket to complete the project. With the T clamped in the vice just start adding pieces.
The valves have some remaining solder in them so they must be heated to slide onto the pipes. Apply a generous amount of flux to the inside of the valve. Clean the pipe with emery cloth and apply flux.
Hold the valve close to the pipe with channel locks and apply heat to the valve and pipe. Keep trying to slide the valve onto the pipe. It will eventually slide on with some twisting. You may have to apply more solder when in place. Before the solder sets make sure to align the valve stem 180 degrees of the pipe in the vice. Clean the solder with the wet rag and repeat. I continued with three valves per side.
With the pipe cutter trim the last piece of pipe to a length your happy with. I left about 3/4 of an inch exposed past the last valve.
Using random lengths of pipe solder the copper 90s to the ends. Align the pipe with the pipe on the T.
Trim the pipe from the 90s and the T to leave around 3/4 of an inch exposed.
Clean and solder the treaded piece of the unions to the valve assembly. These will be used to mount the whole thing to your board.
When fully assembled its time to clean it up. You can use a wire brush if you'd like to. But, using a wire wheel and drill is the fasted method. I recommend a dust mask and glasses for this method. Work your way around the pipes and valves till bright.
If your using this for a coat rack, back pack holder, etc. you can leave the metal as is. It will slowly tarnish over time. I used mine as a towel rack in my bathroom. Wet towels could stain from the copper if not protected. Plus I liked it clean looking anyway. So to seal it apply a few coats of spray lacquer enamel to everything.
Step 5: Mounting Board and Assembly
Select your mounting board. I had the rough sawn cherry kicking around and it looks great with the metal. Sand it with 150 or 180 grit to knock off any rough spots. Apply finish of your choice. I used a satin polyurethane.
Mark the location of the mounting brackets. I knew where this was going on the wall and wanted the support of wall studs. I located two studs that fell within the length of the board and marked their locations on the back of the board. This seems a bit odd to have them off set from the center but it works great. You can even put the screws onto the wall first then mark their location on the board.
There are multiple methods for mounting this. I had some keyhole brackets that worked well for this application. While they can be screw directly to the back of the board I like to drill out some space. This allows room for a pan head screw for the wall. Using a 1 inch spade bit drill a shallow hole approximately 1/8 inch deep centered on your mount location marks. Center the keyhole brackets and screw in place.
Stick a rubber cabinet door bumper on each corner of the board to help from scratching your wall.
Set the pipe assembly where you like it on the front of the board and mark the center points of the unions.
Drill a 5/8 inch dia. by 1/8 deep hole to fit the unions into.
Using a 9/16 to 5/8 dia. washer and screw secure the other pieces of the union into the holes. Don't forget to slide the union nut on first! Make sure to choose a screw that will grab the most wood possible without sticking out the opposite side.
Secure the pipe to the board by joining the unions together.
Step 6: Final Personal Touch
Clean the valve wheels with soap and water.
When dry apply your choice of spray paint. The silver metal looks pretty good.
Reattach the valve wheels.
Hang on your wall and enjoy!