Have you recently purchased or acquired a pipe cutter tool for a home improvement project?
Let us help you get the best out of this useful tool for all of your DIY activities.
What is a Pipe Cutter?
A pipe cutter is an instrument used most often by plumbers or electricians for cutting or slicing through pipes and tubing. These tools are very popular with professionals because they are exceptionally efficient in providing clean cuts with greater ease, more so than, for instance, the common hacksaw. They are also incredibly reliable and durable as tools.
One of the advantages of using a pipe cutter is how cleanly they cut. A cut made with a pipe cutter will usually need very little deburring to none, meaning you also save time. And the pipe cutter is safer than many alternative tools used for cutting.
What does a Pipe Cutter look like?
What a pipe cutter looks like will depend on the type of cutter for a specific kind of piping. They can be acquired in lots of shapes and sizes. You can find small thumb pipe cutters to larger tools used for cutting big pipes. Basically, the work using a similar method of the tool gripping the pipe and some type of blade cutting through the pipe surface.
Types of Pipe Cutters and Pipe Materials
Keep in mind that pipe-cutting tools will vary depending on what kind of pipe they were designed to cut. Specific styles include:
- Automatic pipe cutter – a highly efficient and compact cutter, it is often called a splice and is shaped like a “C”.
- Duct pipe cutter – resembling a type of pliers, this tool is used for cutting ducts and ventilation.
- Hose and tube cutter – resembling a pair of garden shears, it is ideal for cutting soft tubing such as rubber.
- Midi Pipe Cutter – a compact adjustable tool with a cutting wheel in the tool jaws.
- Plier Pipe Cutter – resembling a pair of pliers, despite squeezing for the cut it has minimal risk of deforming or damaging your pipe.
- Ratchet Pipe Cutter – resembling a larger pair of pliers, it uses ratchet action to cut your tubing cleanly and efficiently.
- Pipe cutter with spring load – also resembling pliers or garden shears, it is adjustable and can work with a variety of pipe sizes.
- Snap Cutters – include a chain that is placed around the pipe and then tightened. It will “snap” the pipe at the desired cut point. This tool may resemble scissors or a ratchet pair of pliers and is usually heavier.
You can find pipe cutters with the correct blade for:
- ABS plastic
- Aluminum pipes
- Brass pipes
- Cast iron pipes
- Copper pipes: both rigid pipes and flexible tubing
- CPVC plastic
- EMT – Electrical Metal Tubes
- Pex pipes
- PVC pipes
- Steel pipes
How to Use a Pipe Cutter
Consider how a pipe cutter functions. They will generally contain a sharp wheel inside the cutter. When the pipe is inserted into the cutter, and the cutter tightened to hold the pipe securely, the tool will be rotated. As it rotates, it cuts into the pipe’s surface, initially scoring it but gradually cutting deeper. The number of rotations requires to cut through a pipe entirely will depend on the pipe material, its diameter, and the thickness of the pipe.
- Chosen pipe cutter
- Measuring tool
- Crayon, chalk, or marker
- Thick paper or bendable cardboard
Step 1: Preparation
If you wish to cut a previously installed pipe, you will need to shut off the water supply before attempting to do so.
Step 2: Measure and mark
For cutting and removing older installed piping, you will have to measure and mark the piping to cut in place. To cut new piping place it on a flat table or bench surface. Measure the necessary length of the pipe and mark it. To mark a straight line, roll cardboard or heavy paper around the pipe and mark your line along the edge of the paper.
Step 3: Position the Pipe Cutter
Adjustable pipe cutters will require being adjusted to achieve the correct fit. Turn the tool’s knob counterclockwise to open the cutter tool. Position your pipe in the jaws and turn the tool’s knob clockwise to tighten the tool and allow the cutter’s wheel to clamp down onto the pipe. If you have a cutter that does not require size adjustment, just make sure it grips the pipe sufficiently. The cutter wheel or blade should be in line with your cutting mark.
Step 4: Scoring the Pipe
With the cutter wheel touching the pipe, rotate the pipe cutter completely around the pipe 360°. The cutting wheel or blade should not be moved as you could end up with an uneven cut or a damaged pipe if it is new.
Step 5: Cut through
To cut, turn the pipe cutter knob clockwise and proceed to rotate the cutter around the pipe. After each rotation check to see if you need to tighten the tool’s knob. Repeat until the cutting is complete and your pipe splits into two pieces.
Step 6: Deburring
Use a deburring tool at the end of cutting to remove any burrs and ensure that the cut is smooth.
Step 7: Clean
Clean your pipe cutter before storage to maintain its efficiency.
How to Use a Pipe Cutter on Copper
- Pipe cutter for the correct pipe size
- Crayon or marker
- Measuring tool
- Thicker paper or cardboard
Step 1: Measure and Mark
Measure the necessary length of pipe and mark it. To achieve a straight line, roll cardboard or heavy paper around the pipe and mark your line by tracing along the edge.
Step 2: Positioning the Pipe Cutter
Open the pipe cutter tool by turning the tool’s knob counterclockwise. Position your copper pipe in the tool and 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 cut, turn the pipe cutter knob clockwise and proceed to rotate the cutter around the copper pipe. After every single rotation tighten the tool’s knob. Repeat until the cutting is complete, and your pipe separates into two pieces.
How to Use a Tube Cutter
Before considering how to cut tubing, know that the terms tube and pipe are often interchanged, but there are differences. The primary difference is in the shape, tubes can be round, square, cylindrical, oval, or even rectangular, while pipes are round, and they are used in larger applications. Dimensions, wall thickness, tolerances, strengths, and even the time necessary for manufacturing pipes and tubes differ.
- Tape measure
- Tube Cutter
- Deburring tool
Step 1: Measure and mark
Measure the necessary length of the pipe and mark it.
Step 2: Position the Tube in the Cutter
Place the tube in the cutter tool and tighten the tool blade enough to create a snug fit. Do not overtighten as the tube may bend.
Step 3: Scoring the Tube
With the cutter wheel on the tube, turn the cutter completely around the circumference of the tube. This should create a cut groove on the tube.
Step 4: Cut through
To cut, rotate the cutter around the tube. Repeat until the cutting is complete, and your tube separates into two pieces.
Step 5: Deburring, Sanding, and Rinsing
Use a deburring tool at the cut end of the tube to remove any burrs and ensure that the cut is smooth. Sand the tube until smooth. Rinse away any remaining particles.
For any type of home improvement that requires new pipes or tubing, a pipe cutter tool is a convenient tool that will save you time and frustration when preparing your new pipes for installation.