How Dumb Can A Guy Be?
So... how did I manage
to burn through this big cable?
Bruce W. Maki,
Well, it was kind of stupid, actually. I was doing some plumbing
work... running a new pipe to replace an old section of supply pipe
in the basement of the old house we've been remodeling.
I had to solder some joints up close to the floor joists, right
where the joists rest on a wood beam. So there was wood all around
the area. I employed several pieces of thick sheet metal for heat
shields. With these shields, I found that I could let the torch
flame touch the metal for a few minutes with no burn damage to the
wood. In the back of my mind I was thinking about how many times I
have heard of major house fires being started by a plumber's torch.
Now, there are heat shields made for this purpose. But I don't do
that much soldering work, so I figured I could get by with my steel
scraps. I have done a few dozen soldering jobs with these, with no
In one place, there were a couple of wires above the joint I had
to solder. I stuck my L-shaped piece of steel above the pipe, so it
propped the wires up, away from the heat.
I soldered the joint, and just as I was finishing... KAPOW...a
big flash right before my eyes. My first thought was that my propane
torch blew up. Then I somehow stumbled backward from the small
step-stool I was standing on. Miraculously, I didn't trip or fall
backwards, nor did I drop my torch.
My mistake immediately became apparent: The L-shaped heat shield,
positioned like a tent with the cable resting on it's peak, had
gathered heat and funneled it to the top. The heat had concentrated
at the top, which melted the cable insulation, causing the live
wires to contact the metal heat shield, and then short out.
And there was not one flash, but two, about one second apart. The
circuit breaker did not trip with the first arc. Since I was
installing new copper pipe, it was not yet connected to the system,
nor was it tied to the electrical grounding. So the new pipe may
have been momentarily energized, which could have caused another
person to receive a shock if they were touching the pipe. But there
was nobody else in the house (which is yet another hazard).
There are many things I could have done differently, including
purchase a proper heat shield.
I'm getting more knowledgeable all the time. I hope you are too.
"Experience is something you
don't get until just after you need it" (Steven
Hey, just for kicks, you should read
our disclaimer. Just in case you get hurt, we want you to blame
yourself completely. It's the "in thing" these
Back To Top
What's New Project