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Twelve out of fourteen sweated copper joints held perfectly. Two leaked with a tell-tale seep from one, and a fine spray mist from the other. In some matters twelve out of fourteen is a good score. In plumbing it doesn’t count for much.

This was my first serious attempt to solder copper pipes and brass fittings in order to install a new shower in our home. A skeptic had asked me whether I was a Dagwood Bumstead type of plumber. As you may recall Dagwood always managed to make a worse leak out of a minor one, and finally Blondie would have to call the plumber to repair the damage. I have had reasonable success with drains, and compression fittings and threaded pipes, but this application called for soldered copper pipes, which challenged me to try to do something I had not done before.

The home repair manuals and video guides make it look easy, and for the most part it is, if one can keep a flaming torch aimed in the right direction without staring a fire in the insulation and wood framing, and develop a sense of when the pipes are hot enough to melt the solder, and balance the torch in one hand while keeping a steady hand to skim the melting solder all around the joint to be fitted. In other words it takes some art and experience. So Jan awarded me some points for getting twelve out of fourteen, but the shower still was not functional.

In one case the water was easily drained and I could proceed with a second attempt to seal the joint. In the second the repair was more difficult, involving removal of a section, including a well-soldered joint, and starting over with some new tubing and fittings.

I suppose that I am about 12/14 of the way through my life’s expected days. There is still a lot to do, and some challenges seem intractable. Like my work with copper fittings this is no time to congratulate myself on finishing twelve out of fourteen, when the entire project is not yet complete. But when can life be considered complete? There are always more people to serve, including a new generation that is just beginning, and more problems that arise as people try to surmount the obstacles that come at each stage of life. Still there must be a time when one admits that one has done enough, at least in this situation, in this way of doing things, with what talents or time one has to do it. So I suppose I  am 12/14 of the way through, and the last two tests appear as hard or more so than the first twelve.

Some of what is left to do will mean simply continuing to do what I know how. But I will also have to take apart and redo in a different way some of the things done earlier in order to finish well. I have to keep learning right up to the last, for life changes as people and their expectations change, and there are more and different demands now than there were when I started. Still the fact that I have had twelve successful experiences gives me confidence in God’s grace that there will be at least two more.

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