Tips for Quality Pipe Cutting

Good pipe connections begin with good pipe cuts. Here’s some advice to consider.

Tips for Quality Pipe Cutting

Larry Feskanich

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Quality plumbing connections start with quality pipe cuts. Whether you’re working on a groove-type fitting or a threaded connection, a poor-quality cut can make the job more difficult and hurt overall project efficiency — especially if extra time is needed to remove excess burr or square the end.

Getting a quality cut often comes down to the type of pipe cutting tool you use: Is it built for the jobs you do most? Is it easy to use and operate? What kind of versatility does it deliver? If you are considering investing in a cutting tool, here are a few things to consider: 

Displacement Cutters

The best option for a square cut is to use a displacement cutter. They rotate around the pipe, pushing the material away from the cutter. With each rotation around the pipe the wheel rides in the groove. 

For basic pipe cutting, the ideal option is a single cutter wheel manual tool that works for up to 2-inch-diameter pipe. There are also manual cutters for larger pipe that work on the same principle as the smaller tools.

For projects with clearance issues due to pipe or other obstructions, tools with multiple cutter wheels may be a better option. This configuration only requires a short rotational arc versus a complete rotation around the pipe. 

If you’re planning to cut a lot of pipes and can take the pipe to the tool, consider a powered displacement cutter. There are two common powered options. One is the cutter in a threading machine, the other is purpose-built powered displacement cutters. Single-wheel displacement cutters are usually standard equipment on most threading machines. The threading machine turns the pipe against a fixed cutter and requires only that you advance the cutter wheel into the pipe wall. Other power pipe cutters are stationary. This style cutter usually has a high-size capacity with the rotation provided by a power drive and wheel feed controlled by a hydraulic pump. 

Circular Saws

If you need to quickly cut larger pipe and do not want to deal with gas tanks, consider a circular style pipe saw. This design utilizes a clamp system to hold a powered circular saw onto the pipe, but it requires the operator to advance the tool around the pipe. The circular saw produces a cool-to-touch burrless square cut in minutes. 

Other Methods

Other cutting options such as portable band saws and torches have their benefits and drawbacks. A portable band saw has a limited pipe diameter capacity and is dependent on the operator to make sure the cut is straight. The torch requires oxygen and acetylene tanks, introduces heat into the pipe, and — again — is reliant on the operator to ensure a straight cut.

A method commonly used is the cut-off wheel and grinder. This method is the most labor intensive compared to all the other methods and requires the operator to control the tool. In addition to control, the cut-off wheel and grinder produces a significant mess with the dust produced. 

Here are a few additional tips to enhance the quality of a cut, regardless of the tool:   

  • Make sure the cutter and cutter wheel are in good condition to prevent excessive burrs on the inside of the pipe. Follow the instruction manual for maintenance best practices. 
  • Let the cutter wheel do the work. Do not feed the wheel into the pipe too quickly or aggressively. This will help prevent excessive burr or damage to the wheel.
  • For an optimal cut, mount the cutter on the pipe and advance the cutter wheel until it engages the pipe. Then advance slightly into the pipe and rotate around the pipe. This will create a groove to guide the cutter wheel.

Investing in the right cutting tool, following best practices for use and maintenance, and combining these with your own on-the-job experience will produce quality cuts on every project.

About the Author

Larry Feskanich is a senior global marketing manager for RIDGID, a global manufacturer of more than 300 dependable and innovative tools, trusted by professional trades in over 100 countries. Learn more at


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