Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 2, Issue 1
September 2007
What Is It?

Lead Pipe Expanders

This tool/device appears with regularity at mechanical hobbyists' meetings and at various other tool-focused events. It's always at the top of the "mystery-tool" list at these gatherings, and is almost never identified correctly.

The use of lead in the manufacture of pipes has been documented since Roman times. Lead sheets were formed into pipes or square channels and used to supply water or remove waste products. Some of these early examples, which feature hammered joints, still exist today.

In use.

Until about 1900, many North American municipalities used lead pipes to supply domestic water. (These were gradually replaced with galvanized and black-steel pipes.) The National Building Code of Canada was amended to disallow the use of lead pipe and lead in solder in 1975. Canadian municipalities and provinces soon brought their codes into adherence. In 1988, under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the United States restricted the lead allowance in pipe and fittings to 8% or less. Solders and fluxes are required to have less than 0.2% lead content. In 1998, another U.S. ban was put in place regarding the lead content in plumbing fixtures. Lead was also used to make the transition from a fixture to cast or clay pipe for waste products. Because of the flexibility and ease of shaping, lead sheet and pipe were used in P-traps and closet bends. A variety of bobbins and other unique tools were used to size and create the necessary forms for these connections.

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