The use of copper pipes in homes and buildings is much more frequent than one might imagine. It is most often used for the supply of water, hot and cold, to showers, sink faucets, radiators, and centralized heating systems.

The great thing about copper pipes is their antimicrobial properties which impede the formation of bacteria and germs, keeping your water clean. However, it is a more expensive type of piping. This explains its substitution more recently with PVC pipes that are less expensive with easier installation.

PVC pipes in the wooden frame

If you need to substitute copper piping in your home or on your property at some point, it will require cutting. Is cutting through copper pipes easy? Here are the principal tools and methods used when cutting copper pipes. 

There are several tools that are often employed when specifically cutting copper pipes.

  • Hacksaw
  • Pipe cutter
  • Pipe slice
  • Oscillating Multi-Tool

The use of each of these tools will bring with it both advantages and disadvantages.

What can I use to cut copper pipes? The Hacksaw

This is a very common tool for cutting copper pipes because it is inexpensive and most of us have one in our toolbox. This is especially true for the occasional DIYer who many do not feel the need to invest in a specific tool.

The hacksaw cutting of copper pipe, however, may not be so simple due to its location and how much space you must cut in both for the saw positioning as well as the sawing movement. 

The hacksaw cutting of copper pipe

Another consideration is pipe vibration during sawing that can compromise fittings and cause leakage. Saw blades that have teeth will also not provide a smooth cut. Final filing for smoothing in may be necessary and equally not as easy in a limited space. 

A Hacksaw for Cutting Copper Pipe

Necessary Tools

  • Hacksaw with the correct blade
  • Measuring tool 
  • Crayon or marking instrument
  • Thicker paper or cardboard
  • Clamps
  • Sandpaper or file
  • PPE

Step 1: Measure and Mark

Measure the desired length of pipe and mark it. To mark accurately in a straight line, you can roll cardboard or heavy paper around the pipe and mark your line along the edge.

Step 2: Tools and PPE

Make sure your hacksaw has the correct blade. To cut finely use a blade that has 32 teeth per inch. Wear a pair of PPE gloves and safety glasses.

Step 3: Position and Secure

Place the copper pipe on your workbench and clamp it so that it is secure.

Step 4: Score the Pipe

Using your hacksaw, position its blade onto the cut line. Push gently in a forward and backward motion to score the pipe. The score groove will help the blade remain correctly positioned during cutting.

Step 5: Cut

Taking your time, cut the pipe through.

Step 6: Refine

Using a file or sandpaper smooth the cut edge to remove burrs or rough spots.

Using a Pipe Cutter to Cut Copper Pipe

 A pipe cutter is a tool that is much easier to use when cutting copper pipes.  It features a cutting wheel and rollers that grip the pipe while it rotates 360° scoring the pipe. By increasing the grip with the cutter’s knob, this tool will cut deeper into the pipe until it cuts through completely.

copper pipes install the wall

Necessary Tools

  • Pipe cutter for the correct pipe size 
  • Crayon or marker
  • Measuring tool
  • Thicker paper or cardboard

Step 1: Measure and Mark

Measure the desired length of pipe and mark it. To mark accurately in a straight line, you can roll cardboard or heavy paper around the pipe and mark your line along the edge.

Step 2: Positioning the pipe cutter

Open the pipe cutter jaws by turning the tools knob counterclockwise. Position your copper pipe in the jaws and know to turn the tool’s knob clockwise to tighten the tool and allow the cutter’s wheel to clamp down onto the pipe.

Step 3: Score the Pipe

With the cutter wheel touching the pipe, rotate the pipe cutter completely around the copper pipe 360°.

Step 4: Cut

To enable cutting, turn the pipe cutter knob clockwise and proceed to rotate the cutter around the copper pipe. After each rotation tightens the tool’s knob. Repeat until the cutting is complete and your pipe splits into two separate pieces.

Using a Pipe Slice or “Autocut” Tool to Cut Copper Pipe

How do you cut with a pipe splice? Actually, the pipe slice is similar to a pipe cutter, and it is also very easy to operate., probably more so.  The difference lies in that this tool cutter is spring-loaded, so you won’t be turning and tightening a tool knob to cut. 

The only drawback is that you will need a different pipe splice for each pipe diameter. Pipe slices may be designed differently. Some will clip directly onto the pipe thanks to an open design, while others will have a type of latch that you need to open and close.

Necessary Tools

  • Pipe splice 
  • Crayon or marker
  • Measuring tool
  • Thicker paper or cardboard
  • Clamps

Step 1: Measure and mark

Measure the desired length of pipe and mark it. To mark accurately in a straight line, you can roll cardboard or heavy paper around the pipe and mark your line along the edge.

Step 2: Position the Copper Pipe

Clamp your pipe into position if you feel more secure, although it is not necessary.

Step 3: Position the Tool

Slip the pipe slice onto your copper pipe. Place the cutting wheel onto the cutting mark you made previously.

Step 4: Cut

Your pipe slice will have an arrow. You should turn the pipe splice in the direction of the arrow. Continue turning the pipe slice until the pipe splits into two pieces.

The Oscillating Multi-Tool for Copper Pipe Cutting

Many of these tools have vibration control and allow you to cut if the pipe is stationary and exceptionally close to a wall. It is particularly appealing if a pipe splice will not fit around a pipe that is flush against a wall. 

Necessary Tools

  • PPE
  • Oscillating Multi-Tool
  • Crayon or marker
  • Measuring tool
  • Thicker paper or cardboard
  • Clamps if your pipe is not stationary

Step 1: Measure and mark

Measure the desired length of pipe and mark it. To mark accurately in a straight line, you can roll cardboard or heavy paper around the pipe and mark your line along the edge.

Step 2: Position the Copper Pipe

Clamp your pipe into position if it is not stationary.

Step 3: Position the Tool

Wear PPE. Check to see you have a finer tooth blade installed on your oscillating tool. Turn on the oscillating tool and position it along the cut line.

Step 4: Cut

Cut along the line until the pipe has been cut through completely.

Tools to Avoid Using for Copper Pipe Cutting 

Not every tool in the toolbox is right for cutting through copper tubing. We recommend avoiding the use of:

  • Reciprocating saw
  • Circular saw
  • Miter saw

While these can potentially cut pipes, they will not necessarily cut straight and may damage the tubing in the process.

Conclusion

So, what can you use when cutting copper pipes? A pipe cutter or a spring-loaded pipe splice are great options.

Cutting Copper pipes can be quick and easy with the correct cutting tool. However, if you don’t possess a cutter or splice, fear not, there is a tool in your toolbox, the basic hacksaw, that will get the job done.

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