Flaring soft copper tubing allows you to connect tubes to each other or to another type of fitting. Tubing that has been successfully flared has a gradually widening profile. Flaring tools are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles. There are full range flaring tools, flaring tool kits, and flaring tools that also burnish. You will most likely arrive at your own personal favorite through trial and error. It’s important to note that flaring tools for tubing are different from flaring tools for piping. Tubing flares have a 45° angle while piping flares have a 37° angle.
45° Flaring Tool
The 45° Flaring Tool is designed for flaring tubing in tight places and can accommodate tubing sizes of 3/16” to 5/8”. The tool itself is made up of a hardened steel-flaring bar that is designed to grip the tubing. Butterfly nuts at either end of the bar provide the pressure for gripping the tubing.
- Slide the tubing into the correct size slot and place it at the height you want the flare. Some manufacturers recommend that you set the copper tubing at a specific height for R-410A, so be sure to check the manufacturer’s installation manual for specifications.
- Tighten down the bar’s grip on the tubing. One of the most common mistakes made with this type of tool is in tightening the butterfly nuts. Be sure to first completely tighten the nut that is located nearest the tube. Manually tighten it as much as you can. Now tighten the other nut and the bar should have a sufficient grip on the tubing. It is not necessary to tighten until the two bars touch. This is not about brute strength, it’s about technique. At any point if you use a device, such as a screwdriver, to aid in the tightening, you are misusing this tool.
- After securing the tube in the bars, the tool’s forged steel yoke slips over the bar and locks with a turn. Rotating the precision threaded feed screw clockwise draws the tip of the tool’s cone into the tubing and proceeds to drive the copper into the beveled mating surface of the flaring bar, gradually widening the end of your tubing.
- You may want to back the cone off once or twice during the process of driving the cone into the tubing. Doing this will help the copper seat nicely to the beveled edge of the bar as well as burnish the copper for a better seal.
It’s important to keep the flaring cone clean and the tool lightly lubricated so it continues to operate properly. There are many sizes and styles of bar type flaring tools, but the technique is always the same. In fact, there are kits available that include different size cones for a given flaring bar.
Deluxe 45° Flaring Tool
The Deluxe 45° Flaring Tool is a full-range model that flares tubing sizes of 1/8” to 3/4”. All of the mechanical parts necessary for molding the perfect flare are included. This tool automatically sets the flare height per manufacturer’s specifications including R-410A, and features a multi-faceted burnishing cone that compresses and polishes the flare simultaneously.
- To use, adjust both wheels for the size of tubing you are working with.
- Insert your tubing into the tool and rest it on the height stop shown here. This automatically sets your tube to the proper height, a benefit over the bar-type flare, which may require the use of a height gauge.
- Close the clamping yoke and tighten the butterfly nut. Note the height stop has now moved, making way for the burnishing cone.
- Start rotating the feed screw clockwise to activate the burnishing cone. Note the polishing effects when you are finished.
Eccentric Cone Flaring Tool
The Eccentric Cone Flaring Tool resembles the bar type tool, and even though the eccentric cone operates very differently it achieves the same result. First, the cone is positioned off-center in the tubing, which is unlike the cones in the previous examples. During the rotation of the large feed screw, the eccentric cone rolls around the inside diameter, creating uniform walls that make up the flare without galling. When flaring for R-410A, be sure to check the manufacturer’s specifications for flare height requirements, in which case you’ll need an additional height gauge.
One Final Note on Safety
It’s important to understand how each tool is designed to function and make sure you have all the right tools in your bag to do every job correctly. Attempting to use a tool in a manner it was never intended might result in personal injury, damage to the equipment or destruction of the tool. Also, always be aware of the refrigerant you are working with and the state the system is in when beginning your work. You may or may not be required to perform a lockout procedure before doing anything to the system. Finally, be responsible and always wear eye protection as well as a good pair of work gloves when it’s appropriate.