Introduction: Making Perfect Pipe Saddle Cuts With a Bandsaw or Chopsaw

Picture of Making Perfect Pipe Saddle Cuts With a Bandsaw or Chopsaw

True "experts" of a trade know those little "simple tricks" that make a job much easier. This is one of those tricks that makes working with pipe MUCH easier. I learned this wonderful way of making saddle cuts years ago, but only recently learned very few people know about this. So, I thought I would share. I know the first time it was shown to me, I said "That's amazing!" I can only hope your feel the same!
All you need to make wonderful looking and fitting saddle cuts is a bandsaw or chop saw.

I've made a video for this, and it's the last step. I think it's a bit easier to understand than photos. 

Step 1: Setting Up for the Cut

Picture of Setting Up for the Cut

I'm gonna show all this being done on a bandsaw, only because it is much easier to photograph.  A chop saw or  cold cut saw  works just as well.
First, set the saw to 35 degrees.  This does not have to be exact.  33 to 37 degrees should work, it will just change how much is cut off.
Get some scrap pipe, and set the pipe in the saw.  Then adjust the length to be cut off.  The cut will NOT be made in the center of the pipe, in this example, the blade is about 3/16 of an inch from center.   One could use math to figure out the offset, but it doesn't take too many cuts to begin understanding how cutting off more or less of the pipe affects the saddle.    But for now, don't worry about where you make the cut. 
Once the pipe is tight in the vise, I use a C-clamp as a stop.  When the pipe is turned half a rotation, the clamp will ensure the same length of cut is being made.   On every chop saw I've used, it's impossible to use a C-clamp, so I use a sliding square, and measure in from the end of the vise.  However, when the pipe is turned,  the square will be in the cut.  If precision is not needed, just eyeball across the end of the pipe to the end of the straight edge.  Or, lay a strap iron across the end of the pipe.  A bit more complicated and time consuming...

Step 2: Turn and Cut Again

Picture of Turn and Cut Again

Now, rotate the pipe half a turn, and cut again.  With 35 degree cuts, there should be a "flat spot" between the two cuts, not a point.  The width of the flat spot depends on the angle of cut, and the size of the pipe.

Step 3: A Saddle, and Two Vicious Pieces

Picture of A Saddle, and Two Vicious Pieces

After the second cut is done, that's it!  You will have a wonderful saddle cut, and two vicious pieces of metal.  I say that because these cut offs will go right through a shoe, or tire, air hose, extension cord....basically anything you don't want them ruining. Make sure they get put in the scrap barrel immediately!

If one cuts too MUCH off the pipe, (end up with a bigger scrap piece) the result is a "pointy" cut.  This point will hit the pipe being saddled, and create a gap.  If it's not too bad, a quick touch up with a grinder will correct it.

If one cuts too LITTLE off the pipe, (small scrap), the result is a wide flat spot that does not touch the saddled pipe.  Sometimes this is acceptable, depending on the welding process, and use of the pipe.

But, what if the pipe is NOT of the same diameter?  Well, on to the next step!

Step 4: Larger Pipe Saddled to Smaller Pipe

Picture of Larger Pipe Saddled to Smaller Pipe

35 degrees work great for pipe of the same diameter, but saddles are often done on various size pipe.

If the pipe being cut fits over the pipe being saddled, then set the saw to 45 degrees.
Set the blade to cut on the center of the pipe.
Turn, and cut again, just like before, except the pipe will be pointed.
It will fit right around the smaller pipe!

I've showed you the basics, but this idea can be expanded upon. This works for non 90 degree saddles, too. Cut one side 30 degrees and the other 45 degrees, and see how it saddles.

Step 5: The Video for Making Saddle Cuts

Sometimes, a video is the easiest way to explain things.  So, I made a video!  


Christianv108 (author)2017-11-05

My workrest has a rib under also, so I get a chunk of short 2x4 which is taller than the underside of the rest which allows me to position my C-clamp farther out.

Christianv108 (author)2017-11-05

The tip for doing the reverse end using a chunk of angle and chalk is very useful. Thanks.

ForgetMyProfile (author)2010-01-28

Cant tell you how many hours I've spent trying to drill a hole in the mating pipe and cutting it in half.

or taking a grinder and making a perfect (ha ha) half-round to articulate with the other pipe.

One question . . . do you personally use the saw to back bevel the pipes when you cut the angles, therefore making the cuts sharper on the exterior, narrower on the inside to them fit even better?

Really GREAT IDEA. Thanks,

Grand Rapids, Michigan

use a grinder to do thar

I'm not completely sure I understand your question.  Just 2 cuts are made, and if the angles are correct, the fit will be correct as well.     Does that help answer your question?

No,  you didn't answer my question. Probably poorly framed on my part.

It looks like you have made your cuts at   90 degree angle to the pipe. I would think that if you set the saw angle so that the the angles were "undercut" meaning that there ends up being a bevel on the pipe cuts, you would have an even tighter joint at the connection.

If I could, I'd send you a sketch to show you what I mean. Maybe this  crazy drawing will help  ;

                                        outside of pipe
PIPE  cut  on an angle  _ /                                  rather than  |_
                                        Inside of pipe

Why am I asking this? Cause I'm a lousy welder with a cheap as heck rig. I need all the advantages I can get.

Robb, Michigan

tmedlin (author)ForgetMyProfile2011-06-16

You don't want a perfectly angled fit up on the pipes. You should cut it at 90 degrees and the bevel that is left allows penetration for the weld. It creates a natural bevel; otherwise there would be less penetration.

I spent some time messing with this over the weekend, and couldn't come up with a way to create a beveled cut.  All the ways I tried only made for dreadful fitting saddles.  If you figure out how to set up the saw to do such, let me know, as there are times when it would be useful. 

Goedjn (author)samson30002010-10-27

I don't think you can do it with a bandsaw. The other side of the pipe would
get in the way.

stitch 2 u (author)2011-04-21

looks like a pretty tight saddle will it work for a 14" trunk and 8" branch

it's a great way to join metal tube, I have been doing it this way for years. I've got a chart giving joints between many different size tubes, it's so simple

Poppy_Ann (author)2010-01-21

i make many saddle cuts in aluminium tube up to 3 inch and i  just usa a hole cutter/saw.
the easy way is to set the drill in the center of the hole saw just before the end of the tube then cut through the hole saw neads to be the same size as the tube you want to conect to not the size of the tube you are cutting ie if you are wanting to join a 1 inch tube to a 2 inch tube then use a 2 inch hole sawthat way you get perfect jointsif you want to have the joint at an angle then just drill through at the required angle. very easy to do.

richardde (author)Poppy_Ann2013-01-20

A hole saw would work good on Aluminium since it is soft and easy to cut, you wouldn't want to use a chop saw on aluminium.

Poppy_Ann (author)richardde2015-03-24

Yes I was making new rails for my sail boat out of aluminium and due to the wind blowing away the gas for the MIG set I wanted the best fit available to reduce the amount of welding to fill the gaps i first tried to use a grinder to shape the cut out but was always getting to many gaps to try and fill in but then had the brainwave of using a hole saw which worked out great it cut the time of creating a connection from around 30 minutes to just 2 or 3 and the result was so much better than before i went back and replaced all the ones I had done by just cutting out a 90 degree cut and grinding to (semi) fit, if you are working on steel then just get a HSS hole cutter if you want the best fit do not try and use the cheap type of hole saw that has lots of different blades that fit into grooves and are held in by a screw they are only good for soft wood and only a couple of cuts at that.

Regards Poppy Ann.

gkendall (author)2014-05-23

Just made my upcoming projects a little easier. .got any tips for coping small pipe to larger pipe...say 4" to 6"

Poppy_Ann (author)2013-01-21

i was an engineer all my life and when i went to build a new set of davits and hand rails on my boar i had been using the hole saw to cut some holes in some aluminium plate and then i needed to join some pieces and just reached for the hole saw straight away as it seamed the easiest way of making them, i never even thought of any other way of making them. most people who know me saw if there is an easy way of doing something then i will know it as i do not like to wast energy working.

richardde (author)2013-01-20

Can't believe how simple this is, did you discover this by trial and error or did someone show you how to do it.
Made my first saddle cut on 2 3/8 production tubing using a chop saw. set it on another piece of pipe and tapped it with a 4 lb shop hammer. 3 hours later it was still standing. I couldn't believe it after all these years of trying to cut them with a torch and having to grind them down to fit and giving up.
I tinkered with an end stop on my chop saw, ended up using a piece of 1inch angle 1/8 inch thick and screwed it down to the deck two self drilling hex head screws, works great. I am building a hay feeder and will be making a lot of saddle cuts. Previously I had been taking a sledge hammer and flattening the ends of the pipe so they would be easier to weld. Now I can make the fittings to look like I know what I am doing.
It is too bad the government can't come up with a simple solution as this is.
I thank you very much for taking the time to show such a great idea.

Desolationism (author)2012-07-17

I just created an account to thank you for this, you just saved our shop a TON of time! I am our cad designer, thank God I don't need to make cope templates anymore!

samson3000 (author)2011-11-05

I've added a video. I just put a link to YouTube in the last step.

lhj414 (author)2011-10-26

im not sure i understand what you mean when you say use the c clamp as a stop

samson3000 (author)lhj4142011-11-02

In the first step, I have a close up photo of the clamp and the pipe against it. The clamp is used so the same amount is cut from each side of the end of the pipe. Maybe another way of wording it is, The clamp is set so the pipe can only slide so far into the machine.
I hope I helped a little.

Tim Temple (author)2011-06-16

You're cutting an ellipse, but the welding rod can make up for the difference. This is faster than laser-marking a circle on the side of the pipe and cutting it with a torch. Cheaper than a cast iron fillet.

With equal diameter bamboo, the joint has to be a cross section of a circle or the joining piece of bamboo will tend to split.

NorthFire (author)2010-07-08

Excellent, excellent, excellent! Thank you, we have a pipe notcher at work but it is only for 1.25" handrail. This is a neat trick.

erik_mccray (author)2010-04-30

 This is an old fabrication shop trick. But it is better to do this on a fiber chop saw because doing that cut on a horizontal band saw shortens the life of the blade & bearings. I don't know if you covered it but if you are doing an angle less then 90deg. all you need to do add the difference from 90 your trying to get on one cut & subtract the same amount from the other. Like if you are trying to get 80deg  your cut angles would be 25 & 45. Awesome job!! 

samson3000 (author)erik_mccray2010-05-04

 I definitely agree it shortens the life of bandsaw blades.  They have a tendency to "follow the curve" and stretch  out.     Thanks for the compliment!

timgray (author)2010-01-24

Instead of "about 35 degrees", try 31.6!

chakra (author)2010-01-22

just in time for my project. thanks for the help!! its the most useful tip for a guy with a hand saw wondering about fits!!

hjartland (author)2010-01-22

Can't wait to try this! I have pipe, a chop saw, and welder ... hum ... now all I need is too much time on my hands. :)
Too cool!

yopauly (author)2010-01-21

Samson3000, thanks for the great instructable! I've been researching tubing notching without buying any more stuff for my already crowded garage. Here's a calculator for different angles that can be used with this cool technique.

samson3000 (author)yopauly2010-01-21

Thanks for the link to the calculator!  It's now bookmarked and it will get used!

yopauly (author)samson30002010-01-21

I have one more. I don't think it is as practical but someone might think so:

Greg Pless (author)2010-01-21

Thanks for the quick and dirty tip. Great for field work. Probably not good for bicycle frames, but good for fencing, and railings for sure. Although a $50 Harbor Freight tube notcher and some cheap holes works surprisingly well and you can get all the angles so perfect and so sexy. Can you tell I love fabricating? Keep the tips coming.

rejectcarp (author)2010-01-21

Ugh.  Who wants to trade a good drill press for their extra band saw? 

caribooharry (author)2010-01-21

Thank you!  I am starting a project making a gate of salvaged thin wall tubing.
You just made me look good and finish sooner.

GingerMonkey (author)2010-01-21

 Thank-you! I am a new shops teacher, and for the first time I had to help a couple students make just such a joint just yesterday. Wish I knew then what I know now.

billytwix (author)2010-01-21

you have just changed my universe. always wondered how to cut that way. loads easier than trying to use a special drill. this method seems safer/more safe as well

fslade (author)2010-01-21

Nice tip. I have messed with this for years trying to get a decent saddle cut. This looks to work nice. Thanks for the post.

bill2009 (author)2010-01-21

That's great - thank you very much.

djr6789 (author)2010-01-21


jimmybawa (author)2010-01-20

 nice ,  simple and elegant solution.  thanks for the post.

paganwonder (author)2010-01-18

Thanks for a great method for making my amateur hacking up look more professional!

tkjtkj (author)2010-01-17

Your method would save lots of time, yes, but its especially time-saving for those who need to weld such a T-joint .. Working the cut end of the metal pipe with a half-round file, etc, would form the joint to be in full contact.  Also, the 'points' of the cut piece wojuld need to be 'rounded out' cuz of how the heat of welding would otherwise have great potential for destroying that part: the 'fish-lips' ...  Heat could not be conducted away, the the points would melt off without care.

Thanks for your idea!

kelseymh (author)2010-01-15

Very nice!  Well present, good clear photos (at least for someone who's familiar with band saws :-), and what a great, practical trick.  Thank you!

samson3000 (author)kelseymh2010-01-17

LOL!  Yes, bandsaws and cameras function a bit differently!!  I'm glad people are finding this instructable useful.

AmericasDarkSide (author)2010-01-17


ironsmiter (author)2010-01-16

As long as the tubing isn't too large(or, if you have better equipment than I) you can use a v-grooved board, and a hole saw. When prepping Bicycle Frame pieces, I slap the v-groove board onto my drill press. Chuck up a carbide hole saw, the same dia as the mating tube, clamp, and drill. slowly.
When it's done, it'll fit PERFECTLY. For jewelry scale saddle joints...1/8" and under, small round files work wonders. couple quick strokes, and you're ready to solder.

For industrial scale(aka Bigger than 1" pipe?) this is an EXCELLENT trick that's going into my makers book.

goodgnus (author)2010-01-16

Awesome. I will absolutely use this instead of purchasing a tube notcher. And yes, great photos.

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