We've been asked more than once how to cut copper pipe. If you're cutting a lot of copper tubing, the methods vary from the easiest way to what you want. Finally, plumbers need to consider budget, convenience, and ergonomics for the job.
Table of contents
- How to Cut Copper Pipe with a Copper Pipe Cutter
- using a hacksaw
- Cutting Copper Pipe with the Oscillating Multi-Tool
- Battery Powered Copper Tube Cutter
- We do not recommend tools for cutting copper tubing
How to Cut Copper Pipe with a Copper Pipe Cutter
Copper pipe cutters (also known as self-cutting pipe cutters for a reason) are the best way we know of for close work. It ensures straight, even cuts without distorting the shape of the pipe. These knives come in many shapes and sizes. They range from really small tools like the Milwaukee 1-Inch Copper Pipe Cutter to models with handles like the Lenox Pipe Cutter.
Copper pipe cutters come in a variety of sizes to cover a variety of pipes. However, the key size is between 1/2 inch and 1 inch. You can get copper pipe cutters that can get into tight, congested areas as well as into spaces where you can use more leverage. Plan to have multiple styles and sizes just in case (you can find kits too).
Cutting copper pipe with these tools has served plumbers well for decades. They need to be replaced frequently, but some models have begun to have the wheels replaced. However, the internal mechanisms also wear out over time. Many professional plumbers simply consider them a one-time (eventually) and cost of doing business.
Pipe cutters can range in price from a few dollars to a premium. Even the less expensive pipe cutters are usually good for simple weekend warrior jobs. The bottom line is that you want the quality of the tool to match your expectations for the amount of work you have to do. If you're planning on getting more life out of the tool, or if you're a plumbing professional and looking for a top that will last you for years, it's worth spending more money.
using a hacksaw
If you use a bow saw, you'll probably cut the pipe well outside of the installation area. A hacksaw will leave a jagged edge that you will need to clean up before you can use it.
People use hacksaws to cut copper pipe because they usually keep the hacksaw close by. This tool works great if you have one and you don't need to touch the pipe in place or under the sink. Just hinge the pipe or use a copper pipe cleaner before doing any soldering.
Some of the best oscillating multitools include vibration controls, which give them a lot of control. Since many of these also run on batteries, this makes them the new go-to power tool for cutting copper pipe. Oscillating multi-tools cut best with fine-toothed metal blades. The idea is that you can cut close or even flush to the wall.
When you can't find a copper pipe cutter or similar tool lying around the pipe, the oscillating multi-tool starts to seem like a very handy tool. We keep one for multiple uses, but this one is probably the most "life saver".
Battery Powered Copper Tube Cutter
The Milwaukee M12 Copper Tube Cutter remains one of the most innovative products we've seen. This $199 kit allows you to quickly and easily close and cut copper piping with little effort. If you can hold a cordless copper pipe cutter in place, you can cut copper.
The only challenge in knowing how to cut copper pipe with a battery powered tool is making sure you have adequate clearance. Once you do, the tool will effortlessly cut 3/8" to 1" copper tubing. A 1.5Ah M12 battery should give you about 200 cuts, while a 3Ah battery pack should give you over 400 cuts.
Before we wrap up this article, we can't fail to mention some tools that we don't think are appropriate when making these cuts. Reciprocating saws top our list. While you can get a nice short metal blade for these cuts, they rarely cut straight. Slanted cuts are usually left, and the reciprocating saw can really make a mess of the copper pipe. We've found that if you feel you have to get in with a power saw, a multitool that controls the swing is much easier.
Needless to say, we do not recommend using any circular or miter saws for this type of cut. While it is technically possible to do the prep work, other tools, such as the Milwaukee M12 Pipe Cutter, work much better.