Tips on Cutting PVC Pipe





Introduction: Tips on Cutting PVC Pipe

About: I'm a professional entertainer, mostly educational shows for elementary schools. I have one great wife and one great child, (3 years old). My proudest project is a Model of the Wright Brothers plane with a...

I love PVC projects.  Like tinker toys and Legos for adults.  Still learning and wanted to pass on two big lessons I learned in the last few months.

Three methods I've tried for Cutting PVC.
PVC Ratchet Cutter
Hack Saw/Miter Saw.
And Miter saw with a metal cutoff blade.

A cool site where I got the free plans for the end table.
This was a fun project, took a few hours.  But without evenly cut pipes that were exactly the right length it would have been a nightmare.

Step 1: PVC Ratchet Cutter

This is a great tool.  It cuts without any waste.  It's quick easy.  Costs about $10. 
Great for taking a 10' section at the store and cutting it down to fit into your car.  OR fixing pipe on the fly away from the shop.
BUT, they do not cut a straight 90 degree cutoff.
  If you are building a project that is creating rectangles and squares, or if you want it to hold together really well with cement.  You need the squared off cut.

The other problem is having several pieces exactly the same length.  I was using the method below.  But it is still off by about 1/64 to 1/32 of an inch.  A. you have to use the same sample measuring piece each time, or after 8 pieces you could be 1/4 inch off.

Step 2: Miter Saw

The next method I tried is a miter saw with a blade with teeth.  Fast and accurate, and squared off, BUT the teeth take out chunks of the PVC.  and there is a lot of wasted plastic.

I know many suggest a miter box, with and hand held saw.  I just like power tools so much more than sweat.

But you can get the miter box and saw for about $12.

Step 3: Metal Cutoff Blade

The BEST is a metal cutoff blade.  Less waste than a blade with teeth. More than the Ratchet Cutter.
But it is a clean cut.  and you can easily grind uneven ends on the side of the blade. 

WARNING!!! PVC is a dangerous toxin and shouldn't be inhaled.  The Metal cutoff expels a fine powdery PVC substance.  YOU MUST WEAR A MASK AND EYE PROTECTION!!! Vacuum up after your done.

Step 4:

Now to cut several pieces exactly the same length.  I built an extension to my miter saw.  Basically three pieces, one long board for a working area and two blocks that go underneath to raise it even with the miter saw cutting surface. 

Once the extension board is in place, figure out the exact length you want the pipes to be, place a bar clamp across the board, so the bar would stop the pipe exactly as long as it should be.  now you can simply load the pipe in, two maybe three at a time, hold it tight against the bar clamp and cut.  They all will be exactly the same length.

Interesting note, to make the blocks I stacked up three pieces of 5/8" MDFB.  I tried to screw them together for about a half hour, and then thought...Duh, I can just duct tape them together.  Worked perfectly.  Duct tape, is there anything you can't do?



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    I used a Triton workbench with a 12" table saw in crosscut mode with a reasonably fine blade (80T I think) and it cuts the PVC beautifully without even leaving any burring to clean/sand off at the end! Perfect 90 degree cuts. I just used a nice slow steady motion as I push the blade through.

    I've had to cut pipe out in the field a ways from the truck. A half hour walk because my cutters fell out of my bag. I used a piece of stranded string to cut the pipe. It actually cuts fast. The string I used was left over from the guys setting forms. As I was in a trench covered in mud, hiking back really wasn't an option. The string made a smooth and perfect cut I tied the ends around two smaller PVC pieces to give me a handle (scrap pipe) and then see-sawed the string until it cut through. Just in case anyone needs an emergency cutter. Here's a good YouTube video:

    Does that really work? When I was @home depot they told me that the pipe cutter wouldn't work on the pvc. I have the ratchet cutter which is super fast but has the angled cuts.  

    Yes it does.

    clamp it in, spin spin spin, tighten a bit more, spin spin spin, and poof! Very nice cut.

    the only issue is that it can only work well with the smaller pipe. Anything bigger than 1 half inch may not cut properly because the pipe flex.

    Hi Obediah:

    You recommended using a metal cut-off blade, but the picture shows a masonry blade. Since they are two distinct types of blades, which one is best for cutting PVC? Thanks!

    2 replies

    I bought that blade after asking the guy at Home Depot, "Het! I need a blade to cut metal." And that's what they gave me.
    I always assumed it was a metal cutting blade. But it's been a long time.
    The key is a blade that cuts off at the side AND with small sand paper like teeth on the edge. But teeth blade like on a wood blade for chop saw will bite and rip the PVC.
    After cutting through the course ness on the side of the blade smooths out the ends for a nice flat 90 degree cut.

    Thanks for the reply. Earlier yesterday, based on your instructable, I went to home depot to look for a cut-off blade. I forgot to write down which kind, so when I saw the metal cut-off blade and the masonry blade right next to each other I was not sure which to buy. They looked almost identical to me, so I came home without one so I could check your info again and get the right one. I might try the one made for metal since I would probably have more use for it. Thanks again.

    If you are having difficulty with the ratchet type cutter, may I suggest that you sharpen the blade and heat the pipe. Putting in irrigation pipe, I learned that pieces that had been heated by the sun usually cut like a dream whereas when I cut cold pieces, they would splinter and sometimes crack. It's not foolproof, even a sun warmed piece of pipe can cut irregular, but it does help.

    Note that I am not advocating heating pipe in the wife's kitchen oven!

    When I am forced to work with vinyl siding or soffit, I use a circular saw (like a Skilsaw or compound miter saw) but with a regular wood blade turned backwards. It cuts quickly with no chipping or cracking.

    I've been cutting pipes since before PVC was invented. The pipe cutter as used by unpro is the best - for steel pipe and copper as well as PVC - but most of the PVC pipe I have cut is too big for most pipecutters to handle. I just use an ordinary handsaw, just a cheap one that I will not be using for fine woodworking projects. A hacksaw is OK but always runs away from a right angled cut; cutoff wheel is OK, fast and messy and reasonably accurate.

    I have used the plumber's cut-of with excellent results.  The cut is nice and straight.  I have two, a small one that is 0 to about 12mm, and a bigger one that is about 6mm to 25mm.  The problem is it is smaller than most of the pipe I need to cut.

    I use a hand saw and miter box, clamping the pipe to the side of the box.  I have to leave a bit of "excess" so I can sand off the burrs.

    Historical Note: Canon, or rule, derives from making a single template to measure from.  This is a hint that goes back to before the pyramids.

    I may get a ratchet cut off tool.  I always thought it would leave a horrible edge.

    I have heard of slipping a piece of nylon fishing line around the PVC pipe and working it back and forth until the PVC is severed.  I have not tried it.  I usually use a hacksaw.

    1 reply

    Nylon string, was someone trying to break out of a PVC prison? 

    I use a miter saw with a big ripping blade. The only way you take chunks out is it you force it down. You have to go slow!

    and PVC cutters do cut square, you just need to fineness it.

    although you can always just use a sawzall and rip it to shreds, no-one will notice once the fitting it glued on, and the way the fittings are made makes them always align square.

    1 reply

    I tip my hat to you and your PVC cutter.  I can't do that two times in a row.
    I have found with projects i use over long period of time, moving here and there, that the cement doesn't hold unless you have a really solid connection.  And if it's not exactly straight when measuring you have to go to the long side. 

    I often use a normal plumbers pipe-cutter (for copper pipes) to get the cut started straight and either snap it off when in a hurry (which is most of the time) or finish the cut with a hacksaw or carpet knife.

    1 reply

    This tutorial is more for the perfectionist projects, when you're not in a rush.  but I've never tried thsoe methods, and I can't be the PVC King until i do.  It just seems like the hand held devices always lack exactness.

    I've never tried a band saw.  A dust extractor should help alot, but I'd still wear a mask.  with my miter saw extension board I can cut anything as long as ten feet.  and with he clamp set as a template, they are all they same length with extremely minor tolerances. 
    (Oddly the spell check here does not know "Miter")