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Tips on Cutting PVC Pipe

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.
www.eplansets.com/free_furniture_plans.htm
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.





 
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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.

chesterdad2 years ago
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!
unpro4 years ago
My dad taught me to use this to cut pvc. No dust, nothing, just a nice finishing.

www.trygrs.com/image-files/pipe-cutter.jpg
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.
aeray3 years ago
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.
crowtrapper4 years ago
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.
hardlec4 years ago
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.
Phil B4 years ago
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.
Obediah (author)  Phil B4 years ago
Nylon string, was someone trying to break out of a PVC prison? 
theRIAA4 years ago
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.
Obediah (author)  theRIAA4 years ago
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. 
ve2vfd4 years ago
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.
Obediah (author)  ve2vfd4 years ago
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.
Obediah (author) 4 years ago
Jim,
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")
jimofoz4 years ago
 I usually use a band saw with dust extraction. The PVC dust is a major pain when cutting a lot. The stuff is cheap enough so that I can cut a piece a bit long (longer than 14" won't fit in the bandsaw) then square off the end.

Always use your first cut piece as a template for the remaining pieces and then you won't add up the tolerances. This is true for wood as well as PVC. 
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