Need to cut copper pipe? This vital plumbing skill is actually very straightforward. In this easy to follow guide, we’ll go through the three different ways to cut copper pipe and give you some tips along the way.
How to cut copper pipe
Cutting copper pipe with a pipe slice
Without a shadow of a doubt, the easiest way to cut copper pipe is to use a pipe slice. This simply consists of a wheeled blade and a couple of rollers set into a clam-shell like tool which fits around the pipe. You simply put the pipe in the slice, turn the slice around a few times while squeezing tight, and voila. Their compact design makes them ideal for cutting pipe in tight spaces.
Where to buy
While branded pipe slices may set you back £25 to £35 each, you can get a basic one from your local DIY store or plumber’s merchant for a tenner. This will be perfectly adequate for the average DIYer. However, you will need to purchase the correct size(s) for your needs, as pipe slices are not adjustable and are designed for specific pipe bores. Standard sizes are for 15, 22, and 28 mm pipe.
If you’ll only be cutting pipe occasionally, you’ll probably only ever need 15 mm and 22 mm slices. For that reason, we recommend Tooltime’s set of 15 and 22 mm slices (Amazon link). They’re good value for money with plenty of good reviews, and also come with spare blades. If you do need a 28 mm slice as well, Silverline do a three piece set which you can view here. On the same page, they also sell them individually (15, 22, 28) and at a very fair price. For those on a budget, the 15 mm one is less than a fiver at the time of writing.
How to use
It’s really easy – simply pop the pipe inside the slice, taking care that the blade is lined up where you want to cut it. Squeeze firmly on the slice and rotate it around the pipe. It only takes a few turns and the job is done. You’ll have a nice square, smooth pipe edge without any need to get rid of burrs with a file or steel wool.
One thing to make sure of though, is that the rollers inside are well and truly on the pipe. If not, the pipe may slip and you’ll end up with a slanted edge. Or, even worse, the slice will cut the pipe in a spiral pattern. Not ideal. For this reason it can be awkward to trim small amounts off the end of a pipe, as you need some extra length beyond where you wish to cut
Tip: if you need to cut a section of pipe from a longer, uncut section, use your pipe slice or pipe cutters to trim off the very end. This will leave a nice tapered edge – perfect for a snug fit into a compression fitting.
Cutting copper pipe with pipe cutters
Pipe cutters are the old-fashioned way of getting the job done – tried and tested. They effectively consist of a small vice with a blade, which is clamped onto the pipe and rotated. After each rotation, the vice is tightened with a small nut on the end. The process is repeated until the pipe is cut.
Pipe cutters are not quite as practical as pipe slices – as mentioned, you have to tighten the blade manually. In a confined space, this may be easier said than done. Nevertheless, since they are adjustable, you don’t need a different pipe cutter for each pipe bore.
Where to buy
Pipe cutters are great for cutting very small bores. This tool by Rolson (Amazon link) will cut copper pipe as small as 3 mm in diameter, and it costs about the same as a supermarket sandwich/drink/packet of crisps meal deal. Pretty good. Stanley also produce a 3-22 mm pipe cutter tool which is slightly more expensive but from an established tool manufacturer.
Cutting copper pipe with a hacksaw
A junior hacksaw is definitely the least favourable tool for this task. It’s not a big deal if you’re cutting a new piece of pipe, but if you’re doing it on pipework that’s already been plumbed in, the backward and forward motion of the saw will put pressure on the pipe and any nearby fittings. In the worst case scenario, the joint may fail and you’ll have a leak. Plus, even you do manage to cut the pipe squarely, you’ll still have a burred edge which needs filing. Knowing that there’s tools out there specifically designed for cutting copper pipe, you’re much better off leaving the hacksaw in the toolbox.