Water systems of ancient times relied on gravity for the supply of water, using pipes or channels usually made of clay, lead, bamboo, wood, or stone. Hollowed wooden logs wrapped in steel banding were used for plumbing pipes, particularly water mains. Logs were used for water distribution in England close to 500 years ago. US cities began using hollowed logs in the late 1700s through the 1800s.8 Today, most plumbing supply pipe is made out of steel, copper, and plastic; most waste (also known as "soil")11 out of steel, copper, plastic, and cast iron.11
The straight sections of plumbing systems are called "pipes" or "tubes". A pipe is typically formed via casting or welding, whereas a tube is made through extrusion. Pipe normally has thicker walls and may be threaded or welded, while tubing is thinner-walled and requires special joining techniques such as brazing, compression fitting, crimping, or for plastics, solvent welding. These joining techniques are discussed in more detail in the piping and plumbing fittings article.
A plumber's snake is a slender, flexible auger used to dislodge clogs in plumbing. The plumber's snake is often reserved for difficult clogs that cannot be loosened with a plunger. It is also sometimes called a toilet jack or electric eel.
Plumber's snakes have a coiled (helix-shaped) metal wire with a broader gap between the coils at the terminal end. The operator turns a crank to rotate the helix as it moves through the pipe.
If the clog is caused by a dense, but shreddable obstacle, such as tree roots or glass wool, the auger might break it up enough to enable flow. A small, lightweight obstruction might be snagged or corkscrewed by the auger, enabling the operator to pull it away. As the auger rotates, it also flails against the interior walls of the pipe, scraping off minerals and oil.
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