How to Cut Copper Pipe

Copper pipe can be cut relatively simply with the proper tools. Copper plumbing pipe is joined through soldering, so the ends need to be perfectly round to get the best join, plus a nicely trimmed end will slide into fittings easier. That is why it pays to get the right tools if you will be working much with copper piping lines.

Most copper pipe is used in water supply system lines, which means it will be Type M, the lightest thinnest wall type. The tool you want to get for getting this material is the Ridgid #151, which is essentially a cutting wheel mounted on a C-clamped screw. It cuts copper tubes from ¼ inch to inch diameter, as well as brass tubes. For bigger tubing and limited access areas, the Ridgid #104 comes in handy. Reed also makes good quality tubing cutters. These tools are designed especially for cleanly and quickly cutting copper pipe without deforming the ends.

Safety warning: Sharp edges and metal scraps. Always wear protective eyewear and gloves when making cuts.

Heres how to cut your copper pipe:

1. Mark the pipe using a small hacksaw where you want to make the cut.

2. Place your tubing cutter tool on the pipe, turning the screw handle until the cutting wheel sits right on the cutting mark.

3. Turn the handle a further half-turn, then pull the tool 360 degrees around the pipe, two turns.

4. Tighten the screw one more half-turn, then pull the tool two turns around the pipe in the opposite direction from the first cut.

5. Those first 2 cuts should establish the cutting wheel in the cutting slot, and you can continue making the rest of the cut in one direction until the wheel breaks through the tubing wall

6. After the cut is done, it leaves a small sharp burr on the inside of the tube. This can be removed with a tapered reamer tool inserted inside it. The tube will have a sharp edge still, and this is one reason you want to wear protective gloves.

One you’ve made your cut, if the pipe is going into a fitting, you should polish the end of it with a piece of plumber’s sandcloth. This is a fabric-backed fine grit abrasive that is water resistant, which comes in handy when working on repair jobs. Take a length of the sandcloth in your fist and wrap it around the end of the pipe, polishing with a circular motion. The tube should then be ready for joining.