Editor's note: This is the third and final in a series of articles addressing means manners, methods and tools that will increase employee speed and efficiency in the field.
If the majority of the piping materials you will be cutting are plastic and copper, you do have alternatives. Many years ago, while trying to increase the efficiency of a former employer's operations, we began using a conventional carbide bladed compound mitre saw. There are companies that sell high speed blades, Oldham, Diablo, DeWalt and others, and make them for use with thin non-ferrous metal cutting for use with conventional compound mitre saw manufacturers, without requiring any coolant. Always check with the saw manufacturer before applying the blade to make certain that it is compatible with the intended use, and always use full-face shield, eyeglass protection and appropriate hearing protection. Having fingerless, deaf, partially sightless employees is not conducive to higher employee efficiency. Work safely under all considerations.
The saw blade for non-ferrous can also be used occasionally for cutting of soft woods without having to change the blade, and it will work quite well for PVC and ABS plastic, up to four inches inside diameter pipe. I will caution you, that when used for cutting copper tubing, that the saw has a tendency to send small particles of very sharp copper cuttings flying everywhere, and that I would recommend the use of a saw cover/shield to keep the cuttings contained to a small area of production. I typically cover the floor and walls in the immediate vicinity of the sawing operation with rosin paper to make daily clean up much quicker and easier. There is also a device called a Fastcap Sawhood, www.toolking.com, that is a tent like device that covers your cutting operations and keeps flying chips even more contained. I still like to use a shoe cleaning door mat to keep the chips from being spread throughout the jobsite. Remember, you can’t use a magnet to pick up these small sharp copper shards.
Before I was introduced to a fully self contained copper cutting prep tool, I had adapted a 1-in. belt sander into a copper pipe sander. I took the platen off of the back of the sander so that the belt actually had a little forgiving spring behind it and avoided the possibility of creating flat spots in the copper tubing. This works great for small lengths of pipe, but becomes somewhat unwieldy for longer, larger pieces of pipe and may require two people to achieve a clean surface. What is nice about the sanded surface is that it leaves the copper with kind of an open pore, which allows for the placement of flux, and I suspect gives a better grab to the solders capillary attraction into the soldered joint.
For the cleaning of fittings, I will purchase extra hand held fitting brushes, and will cut the handle off so I can chuck the wire brush into a cordless drill to facilitate the quick cleaning of fittings. I will pre-clean all of the fittings I intend to use, and then store them in clean boxes to avoid the possible recontamination after the fact. This way, when I am ready to start fitting, I can confidently grab a fitting out of the cleaned fitting box, and flux and go.
While all of these tools are great for reducing the time necessary for getting to the actual soldering point, they do represent a fairly good amount of storage space in a transportation vehicle. The Ridgid Tool Co. makes a single device that will cut, ream and clean copper pipe and fittings up to 2-in. in diameter (Model 122 pipe prep tool) and up to 4-in. (Model 122 XL).
This is a true production type of tool for use with copper tubing only. It consists of a pair of counter rotating rollers that the tubing nests in, and a lever pressure cutter that cuts the tubing from above while the pipe is rolling between the rollers. Once cut, there is a conical shaped reamer for removing the ridge from inside the pipe, a rotating brush for pipe exterior cleaning and a removable/replaceable wire fitting brush to assist cleaning the copper fittings. This tool takes up a lot less space than the previously described cutting tools, but it is definitely limited to the use with copper tubing.
One disadvantage of this particular tool is its inherent weight. These tools can weigh in at up to 83-lbs. (excluding optional stand) and may require the use of a dolly to make it easier to move the tool from vehicle to worksite. One thing this tool is missing that is a definite must is a foot operated dead mans switch. This foot switch is available from W.W. Grainger. Make certain that the foot/pedal switch is rated for the amperage you will be dealing with, depending upon which machine you choose to use.
These tools, while not inexpensive, will increase production, and can increase profitability. They must be viewed as an investment, and will take time to recover their initial cost, but if properly applied will save time and labor money.
As with any power tool, the appropriate use of required safety clothing is a must, and always observe the tool manufacturers safety instructions.
Tune in next month as we review the changes in Colorado's laws as it pertains to Carbon Monoxide detectors. Until then, happy efficient hydonicing!
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Tools, methods to increase speed and efficiency - Part 1
Tools, method to increase speed, efficiency - Part 2