Toolipedia: Wheeled Pipe Cutter
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What is a Wheeled Pipe Cutter?
A wheeled pipe cutter (also called tubing cutter) looks similar to the letter “C” with a handle or knob extending from the side. Wheeled pipe cutters are used to cut pipes made from copper, brass, plastic and thin-walled electrical metal tubing (EMT). Unlike a saw, this tool makes a clean uniformed cut using a sharp metal wheel. Plumbers, electricians, HVAC workers, and use wheeled pipe cutters. Here are the basic parts:
- Knob or handle for tightening the blade
- Frame that threaded bolt passes through
- Blade-holder frame
- Pin and pin clip that holds blade in place
- Blade wheel
- Threaded bolt that connects knob to blade holder
- Roller wheels used to hold and allow the cutter to rotate around the pipe
Larger versions often have a quick release button to open the cutter once the cutting is completed
How is a wheeled pipe cutter used?
Mark the pipe, tubing or conduit to length. Open the pipe cutter by loosening the knob until the pipe can slip into the opening. Line up the blade wheel with the mark on the pipe, and turn the knob to tighten the cutter. Tighten the cutter so that the pipe is held firmly in place but not so tight that the wheel starts to pinch and misshape the pipe. Rotate the cutter a full revolution, and then tighten the knob approximately 1/4-turn. Repeat these steps until the pipe is cut through. Most pros keep replacement blades on hand because they do eventually get dull.
What are the different types of wheeled pipe cutters?
Pipe cutters come in a variety of sizes. Pipe cutters can cut a range of pipe/tubing sizes. For example, a small pipe cutter might be able to handle 1/8-in. tubing up to a 5/8-in. The next size up will often overlap; say 1/4-in. to 1-in. and so on. The mechanics of pipe cutters are basically the same but the from can vary. For example, smaller cutters tend to have a knob that turns, while larger pipe cutters could to have a T-handle instead. The frames are usually made from steel or aluminum. There are powered pipe cutters, but most wheeled pipe cutters designed to cut typical plumbing supply lines are manual powered.
Some wheeled pipe cutters have spring loaded wheels that don’t require a knob to make adjustments. These types of cutters work great in tight quarters because they don’t have a knob protruding out the side. The downside is that they can usually only handle one or two pipe sizes, which means a plumber would require to carry more of them. There are ratchet-style wheeled pipe cutters available that also work well in tight quarters.
What makes a good pipe cutter?
- Light weight but durable
- Sharp blades
- Fluid adjustment
- Ergonomic handle design
Wheeled Pipe Cutter Tip: Don’t over-tighten
When first starting out don’t crank down too hard on the knob. If you do, the wheel could pinch the pipe, which will make turning the cutter difficult, especially a small cutter.
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