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My solder header tutorial *PICS*

By: Tim Doty

I have had numerous people inquire about making exhaust headers from solder, so I tossed together a set to show, step-by-step, how this can be done. This is the first set of headers I've made in over 2 years....so don't laugh!

Here goes.....




This an overall shot of the tools and materials for the job.
Some .062" solder, 3-4mm diameter rod or tubing (plastic, brass, aluminum), some heat shrink tubing, a sanding board, riffler and/or needle files, Super Glue, Krazy Glue or any CA adhesive, measuring tools, Xacto knives, jeweller's pliers (a great help for making tight bends) and some cutters.


Starting with the collector.....



I chose a piece of 3.5mm sprue, since the ends of the collectors will not show in my application. For race-type headers where the open collectors are visible, brass or aluminum tubing is a better choice. You can also use styrene tubing. Since I'm making a one-off header, I chose a fairly long collector length (around 12 scale inches). Cut the collector to length and clean up the cuts.




The primary tubes are 30mm long pieces of .062 solder. I recommend solid wire solder, though I have not had problems using rosin core solder either. I just seal the ends with super glue.




I lay the tubes out side by side and glue one end together, making 2 pairs. Laying them on a piece of transparent tape helps keep them lined up while the glue cures.




After the pairs have cured, lay both sets together and glue again.....also on one end - the same end as was glued before. This will arrange the pipes in a "square" as seen in the next photo.



Clean up both ends of the primary bundle with a file and/or a sanding stick........

..... and, glue the collector to the primary pipes - again, on the same end that all of the gluing has taken place.




Now for the finishing touch on the collectors! Slide a piece of heat shrink tubing over the collector and the last couple of millimeters of the primaries.


And, then, apply some heat to shrink it!



See how the heat shrink tubing shows the merging of the primary pipes? The excess heat shrink can now be trimmed off with a hobby knife.




Drilled holes in the exhaust port areas of the head allow the primary tubes to fit tightly. There are a number of options for the exhaust flanges, such as aftermarket photoetched flanges, your own photoetched flanges, flanges scratchbuilt from sheet plastic, modfied kit flanges or faking it. On this engine, the flanges are just going to be faked with paint. Once the primary tubes are glued to the heads, the fit will be tight enough to just paint the surface of the head to look like a flange, some Plastruct hex rod should do nicely for bolt heads.




Now, it is simply a matter of bending the primary tubes to meet the exhaust ports. While not show in the photo, I stuck the first tube into the exhaust port hole and bent it to shape. Then, the last tube was bent to shape, followed by the 2 remaining tubes.




This is the nearly finished product. The next to last tube has not been lined up perfectly with the exhaust port, but this will be taken care of during the final assembly of the model - still some time in the future. I didn't want to glue the tubes in place on the head until near the end of building the engine, after paint and other detailig are finished.



A coat of your favorite header color finshes things off nicely. Because the heat shrink tubing is usually black, the headers will need to be painted. I chose Krylon Semi-Flat Black. Other good choices include flat black, flat white or a metallic finish. Testors Metallizers or Alclad 2 can be used to replicate a chromed or coated header. Alternatively, just the collectors could be given a coat of Alclad or metallizer to match the natural metal finish of the primary tubes. If this method is chosen, clear coat the entire assembly so that the oxidation of the solder doesn't detract from the finished model.


All that is missing is a set of collector flanges. Again, these could be scratchbuilt ot purchased from the aftermarket. I'll be photoetching my own.


I hope this is useful,

Tim Doty