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Old 29th April 2012, 10:51 PM   #150
Saate Thread Starter
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Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Canberra, Australia
Posts: 398

Copper Pipe Update (otherwise known as the great copper fiasco)

For those that havent been following thread chatter here's a rundown on the copper pipe story so far. In the very early stages of planning my first mod I read a LOT of worklogs - everything I could find. As ideas were swimming about in my head there were two worklogs in particular that inspired me to go for the copper:Project White by Alain and Corsair 600T by Evocarlos.

For me the copper pipe is the ultimate statement in attention to detail - a water cooling build using copper pipe means everything must be considered. Everything has to be specifically measured and every degree in every bend carefully considered. Stuffing up a cut or bend or measurement will mean wasted copper, money and time - and I really like that kind of risk, especially on my first water cooled build. Wouldnt be going 'massively' if not eh? :p

Finding the right fittings

So after reading over all the copper-pipe related build worklogs I could find it seems I had the option of either modifying refrigeration/plumbing fittings or going with the Bitspower C47 crystal link fittings that are intended for SLI and just happen to also fit 12mm copper tube. I'd seen a lot of interesting builds with custom fittings before and, besides my lack of welding ability, knew the finish wouldnt be right for my build.

I decided to go for the Bitspower fittings route - but first I wanted to make sure the right kind of copper pipe would be available. Re-reading all the copper piping worklogs I came across comments from folks in the USA to the effect that their imperial measurement copper pipe was too large for the fittings. No problems I thought, we use the metric system in Australia so shouldnt be any issues! Just to be on the safe side I went to my local Reece Plumbing supplies to confirm I really could get it.

As a non-tradesman it wasn't a great experience walking into a plumbing supplies place. I think they basically get two types of walkins - tradesmen who know their stuff and what they're after, and hopeless DIY morons. I approached the counter with that in mind, keen to avoid being pigeon-holed in the later class of customers but fearing it already the case. I asked if they had 12mm OD copper piping and was told they certainly did - a length (6m) was about $52 so figuring that'd be more than enough to account for stuffups I bought one.

The guy was pretty helpful, and offered to cut it up for transport home. I said that 6 x 1m lengths would be perfect but asked if he could double-check it was 12mm OD before cutting it. He whips out his measuring tape and double-checks; "yep its 12mm!", he says with a smile. I'd find out much later that it was actually 12.7mm and too big for the fittings. Apparently when Australia switched to the metric system we hung on to the imperial plumbing measurements.

Blissfully unaware of the odyssey this mistake would later set me upon I set about tracking down the Bitspower C47 fittings. Should be easy right? right? Apparently not - nobody in Australia stocked them at the time and after several rounds of emailing and calling I gave up and ordered them via FrozenCPU. The pricing on the fittings was actually pretty good and the service great, but the postage ended up running at around $50! I figured that was an acceptable loss given I had the copper pipe already, pieces falling into place!

Here's what the Bitspower C47 fittings look like, they're the 18 fittings in the back. I also grabbed some of the single o-ring C48 fittings just in case, they're the 6 fittings in the front row.

Here's picture of the 12.7mm Aussie copper pipe along with the the bender I bought off eBay for around $50. Works as advertised!

Jumping into it I decided to see how easy it was to work with. At the time I still thought it was the right pipe for the fittings so proceeded to fill off the sharp edge to help get it into the fitting. Those with experienced eyes may also be pleased to hear I've since invested in a large flat file as well as a deburring tool to make this easier next time!

The pipe didnt fit into the fittings! Disaster! I wasnt yet sure why, but since the acrylic tube was a pretty tight fit I wondered if I just needed to apply more force to the copper pipe. Here's a shot of one of the fittings with the acrylic tube it's intended for.

In need of advice I emailed Alain and EvoCarlos, both had great advice but it was EvoCarlos' keen eye that picked out the faint '12.7' markings on the pipe photos I'd taken. Scroll back up and have another look, you'll see it too now that I've told you :)

A few more shots of the fittings.

Now that I knew I had the wrong copper pipe I set about trying everywhere I could think of, and everywhere people posting advice in the worklog could think of! I went through Tradelink, Blackwood, HVAC, Kembla, Reece Industrial, Swagelok..the list went on! ..and it was always the same routine on the phone. As soon as I'd finished clarifying I was after "twelve-point-zero outside diameter pipe, not the twelve-point-seven Australian stuff but rather the BS EN 1057 European standard stuff" I'd usually get dead air followed by an uncertain "nope sorry".

After exhausting all my options I started talking to overseas places to get quotes. That was slow going too, most places either didnt response at all or responded and said they wouldnt ship internationally.

Finally one afternoon recently I thought I'd call Crane Copper's head office directly. Their website was careful to advise they don't sell direct to the public, but I figured it was fine since I was calling for advice on anyone in Aus who might have the 12mm stuff. I mentally prepared myself for the same old routine when a girl, Lauren, answered the phone. I was blown away with how comprehensive her knowledge was and although, she confirmed, Crane doesnt make the 12mm pipe she gave me a few ideas of places to try.

With a background in call centres - I managed in call centres around Sydney for 10 years before moving to Canberra - I was pretty impressed with the customer service experience I'd had. I took the time that afternoon to mail off a compliment email, providing some background on my copper pipe hunt, and going on to talk about how refreshing it had been to talk to someone who knew their stuff.

I got a call from Crane the next day regarding the compliment, and regarding my copper pipe search. My email had done the rounds and they wanted to help out! They asked some additional questions about how I was using it and wall width/etc and went away to see what they could do. I got a call the next day and this email:

They'd made me the copper pipe and were GIVING IT to me! On the phone I asked how it had been possible - apparently they heated up the 12.7mm Aussie stuff and drew it through a 12mm die. I was amazed! Somehow another dead-end call had been turned into a solution! For me the copper pipe hunt has been one of the more enjoyable parts of this build - and to have it closed out like this was the best feeling ever.

I've held off posting about the above for a few extra days because I didnt want to tell you I'd found my copper without also being able to share an alternative source for other interested folks. That's also solved now - after lots of to-and-forth with a UK eBay seller (spesonline) I've also secured a second order of 12mm copper pipe just in case. It's costing me $100 including shipping for 7 x 750mm lengths which I think is a pretty good deal. If anyone is interested in further details around that let me know and I'll supply them in a later post.

That's it for this update! Was a bit wordy but it's been a big obstacle for me so I wanted to make sure I spoke about it in detail. Next time I'll show you how I've taken the 800D case apart :)
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