DIY or Buy – Copper Hardware

Do you ever search the internet high and low for something you have in your mind…you are convinced this thing exists…but you never find it. This is usually how I start every project. I think to myself, “I’ll do X, Y and buy Z to save time”. Then I can’t actually find anything that I love or that is in my price range. At that point I give into the overwhelming urge to DIY it.
Today the subject in question is gate hardware. If you read this post you saw how we had a gate installed at our front entry and I painted it black.

So for the past month we have been reaching over the fence to unlatch the gate, while simultaneously using our foot to push it open. No bueno, especially since Andy had knee surgery two weeks ago! There is also no way for our five year old to get in which bothers me. I hate the idea of her accidentally getting locked out front. It would also help if she could open it for us as Andy crutches through or I carry a sleeping one year old.

I have always loved copper, long before it was popular. One of my first DIY’s, when I was 16, was creating a copper clock out of left over sheet metal my dad scored at a scrap yard. I then added a patina and finished it with a poly…I wish I had a picture of it…sad. I started thinking of all the amazing projects people have been doing out of copper and plumbing pipes. I have worked with plumbing pipes to build book shelves, but never copper.

So I headed to Lowes, supply/cut list in hand- and picked up supplies.

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My list consisted of:

  • 1/2″ diameter 4′-0″ long copper pipe
  • (10) -1/2″ diameter elbows
  • (4) -1/2″ diameter caps
  • Pipe cutter
  • Exterior grade adhesive
  • steel wool

The total cost for this came in just under $40. The biggest investment was the pipe cutter at $15. I have plans for a lot more copper projects around the house so I figured it was worth the investment. There are smaller cheaper options, but I wanted something that would last through multiple projects.

Step 1 – Clean the copper with steel wool. This is similar to sanding. It will take off all the markings and make the pipe look brand new.

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You and see on the bottom where the markings still exist. The top portion of the pipe has been sanded down.
This step only took me a couple minutes.

Step 2- Measure your first cut, orient the pipe cutter so the blade is perpendicular to the pipe and the pipe sits between the two metal rolling wheels on the bottom. Once you are at the correct location twist the pipe clamp handle down until your pipe cutter is snug and secure around the pipe.

So this may sound easy…until you tighten the clamp too hard and actually crush the pipe. You can see here I did just that. Oops- beginners mistake, hopefully I will save you from doing that too 😛

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Once you have the right pressure, start twisting the pipe cutter around the pipe. It will slowly cut into the copper pipe. I probably twisted mine 6-8 times around before it snapped off.

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Step 3- Make all cuts and lay pipe out in the shape it will be assembled into.

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Step 4 – Put gloves and safety gear on. Unlike me. Make sure you are in a well ventilated space. Also unlike me. Get ready to epoxy!

Sometimes I get so eager to move on with the next step of a project I disregard all the safety stuff and just jump right in. I end up running around opening doors and windows while my fingers stick together with run off epoxy #fail. I survived, although I am still picking epoxy off my fingers.

I liked that this adhesive project came in a tube and did not require mixing like other 2 part epoxies. It was easy to use, but it would not stop oozing out of the tube in between gluing. So watch that if you buy this product. With this E6000 adhesive it is similar to applying crazy glue to something. It dries fast and is super strong. Watch your fingers!

It is worth mentioning that I only used epoxy since this is strictly for decorative use. I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure normal plumbing pipes are required to be soldered together.

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Step 5- Make sure your project is properly aligned while it dries. In my case I need the top connections to be in alignment with the bottom locations, so it was crucial I adjust the alignment prior to the epoxy curing. Pushing my pipes against a flat surface worked. I was surprised by how easily you could adjust the pipes, or how they could accidentally end up out of alignment.

Step 6- Finish the copper pipe. In my case I wanted to keep that copper finish for a long time, so once the epoxy dried I applied a coat of spray gloss polyurethane. If I omitted the poly my pipe would patina a lot faster and turn a dark red color. Since I’m within a mile of the ocean the pipe would eventually turn greenish blue…not a bad look…I’m just not patient enough for the change.

So here we are, finished product!

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There are a few more steps before I can install these on the gate,

  • Wait for epoxy to cure
  • Spray Poly coating
  • Install

We are starting a new series asking the question whether or not to DIY or Buy this item:

DIY or BUY?

Buy: The closest I could find on Etsy was this copper pipe pull used for interior applications.

Pro-

  • You can buy it finished
  • No mess or planning required

Con-

  • This is 15″ long compared to the 36″ long
  • The connection is not as strong as necessary to open the gate
  • It is reasonable to assume a 36″ long pull would equal about $45.00 if you could put in a special request. This is the same amount I spent on all material and tools to build 3 pulls

Etsy Comparison

DIY:

Pros-

  • I was able to build the exact geometry I wanted
  • I get to keep the $20 investment of the pipe cutter and epoxy for future copper projects.
  • I get 3 pulls for the price of one

Cons-

  • Sanding and Cutting the copper pipe is messy
  • Epoxy stinks and is annoying to work with
  • Takes more steps to complete the project
  • Requires a shopping trip and pre-planning

I think this is an easy DIY and one I would happily do over again. The cost was about equal for one pull and the time commitment was about 2 hours total. The only instance where I would suggest buying this is if you are only going to make one pull. In that case you may not want to invest in the tools or time it takes to build it.

-Rocky

 

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