Pipe cutter for copper pipes: types, selection tips, rules and nuances of use

Amir Gumarov
Checked by a specialist: Amir Gumarov
Author: Victor Kitaev
Last update: September 2019

Copper pipe cutter is a mechanical (manual or semi-automatic) device, the use of which provides easy convenient processing of copper pipes. Most often, a pipe cutter for copper pipes is used in working with climatic equipment, for example, in the repair of household air conditioners.

However, in addition to this area, the tool for copper pipes is also used in domestic plumbing. We will tell in detail about the design features of equipment for cutting copper pipes, types of pipe cutters and outline the main criteria for their selection.

Design features of the pipe cutter

The tool is designed to perform cutting operations in the same way as it has a similar purpose, for example, a hacksaw for metal.

But if it is impossible to get a cut made by a hacksaw exceptionally smooth, without burrs and metal sawdust, cutting with a pipe cutter shows a completely different result:

  • accurate trimming of faces;
  • strict perpendicularity relative to the axis of the pipe;
  • smooth ends of a circle;
  • lack of metal filings.

The last factor in the list is of particular importance in the case of the use of pipe cutters in refrigeration and climatic equipment. Small metal filings falling inside the refrigeration system contribute to the rapid wear of the equipment.

Copper pipe cutter
For all the time of using copper pipes, many designs of pipe cutters were invented for this type of material. But no more than five types are actually applied in practice

If the pipes are mounted in a plumbing system (e.g. copper plumbing), the presence of metal filings inside the water supply is a risk of congestion during operation.

Working with a tool for cutting pipes is characterized by low labor costs in time. From a locksmith (plumbing, mechanics) relatively small physical effort is required.

Products, as a rule, small-sized, having small weight, are placed in a working case.In general, devices manufactured in different designs look like convenient and practical devices.

Pipe cutting when installing air conditioners
Copper pipe cutters are very actively in demand and are used in working with climate technology. Particularly popular in this area are small-sized designs of pipe cutters

Overview of pipe cutter designs

It should be noted that the choice of a tool for constructive execution is relatively small, despite the apparent variety of proposals in general. This choice covers no more than five engineering solutions that differ from each other in some nuances.

It is under the cutting of copper pipes that, as a rule, the following structures are used:

  • clamps
  • telescopes
  • scooters.

Consider all types.

Option # 1 - Clamp Cutters

Clamps resemble a similar tool, widely used in plumbing and carpentry. The simple construction of the clamp consists of a bracket and a screw mechanism.

Copper pipe cutter clamp
An example of the design of the so-called clamp clamp of copper pipes. The pipe cutter consists of three main parts: 1 - a bracket, 2 - a supporting roller, 3 - a disk blade

Such a tool usually fixes any parts. But with respect to copper pipe cutters, the configuration of the devices has changed somewhat. In the working area between the claws of the staples, a thin disk cutter and support rollers were additionally introduced. So it became possible to easily and simply cut pipes, including copper, as a rule, thin-walled and small diameters.

The principle of operation of the pipe-clamp is simple:

  1. A copper pipe is placed in the area between the torch and the support rollers.
  2. With a screw mechanism, the roller block presses the pipe against the torch blade.
  3. The hands master performs 1-2 turns of the clamp around the axis of the pipe.
  4. The pipe is again tightened to the torch by the screw and item 3 is repeated.

With the help of a cutting clamp, a complete cut of a thin-walled pipe is obtained in two or three technological passes. However, do not strive to cut off the material as quickly as possible, with a minimum number of passes. On the contrary, the smaller the step of “pulling up” the support rollers is selected, the more high-quality the cut is.

Option # 2 - Telescopic Cutters

Telescopes are included in the category of the most common designs for cutting copper pipes. The principle of their action resembles the functionality of clamps. True, unlike the first designs, telescopes have a “tightening” of the cutter blade to the pipe body, while the module with rollers remains stationary.

Pipe cutter for copper pipes
An example of the design of a telescopic pipe cutter of copper pipes. Characteristic features of the model: reinforced bracket and the presence of a telescope automatic return mechanism

Telescopic cutters are usually used for working with pipes of small diameters (up to 52 mm). Therefore, structurally they are more compact, lightweight, comfortable.

Telescope application example:

There is a copper pipe with a diameter of 34.92 mm with a wall thickness of 1.2 mm. It is required to cut off part of the pipe for fitting installation.

  1. Turn the cutter counterclockwise to rotate the cutter 40 mm from the support rollers.
  2. Put the pipe cutter on the pipe body and tighten the cutter close to the pipe surface by turning the screw clockwise.
  3. When moving the tool along the pipe, set the cutter blade exactly on the cut line.
  4. Tighten the torch with the screw as far as it will go and another 0.1-0.2 mm.
  5. Scroll the pipe cutter around the pipe axis 1-2 times.

Then repeat steps 4-5 until the cut is complete.

Copper pipe cutter
Many copper pipe cutter designs are additionally equipped with auxiliary tools. One of these tools is the internal filler, which is often needed for pipe processing.

Both telescopes and cutting clamps - both designs are traditionally equipped with an auxiliary device - an internal filler. The device is used for additional processing of pipes after cutting or before soldering.

In telescopic pipe cutters, the puller is usually present as a retractable element, and in the construction of clamps the same element has a folding design.

Option # 3 - Roller Cutters

A relatively new type of pipe cutters can be described as rollers, which are more practical in comparison with the two previous designs. Rollers are intended mainly for processing copper pipes of small diameters (no more than 22 mm).

Due to the small size and disk shape of the case, the rollers fit comfortably in the palm of the wizard. The mechanics of the device are made to support automatically changing the pressure force on the cutter at the time of scrolling of the pipe cutter around the pipe axis.

A new type of pipe cutter called - scooter
This is a kind of innovation in the production of copper pipe cutters. A new type of pipe cutter called - scooter. It is characterized by pronounced user-friendliness and allows you to work in cramped conditions due to the small size

Reliable grip of the device by the hand of the master is provided by the curly ribs of the case. All the mechanics of the pipe cutter is enclosed in a strong metal shell. As the cutting disc wears out, this element is replaced.

Sufficiently wide support rollers and a sharp thin cutter guarantee the quality and accuracy of cutting.

Practical example:

  1. Push the device onto the pipe through the inlet groove.
  2. Correct the position of the blade at the cut point.
  3. Grasp the body tightly with the palm of your hand.
  4. Perform several rotational movements around the axis of the pipe.

There is no need to perform any additional actions until the cut is complete.

Pipe cutters with a cutting roller - the tool most in demand when assembling pipelines of heating and water supply systems:

Mini pipe cutters for copper pipe

Rollers are included in the category of compact mini-pipe cutters, which make it easier and more convenient to perform work in hard-to-reach places. In the same category of tools you can find several other mini-designs, for example, from the MiniCut Pro series of tools from the well-known company Rothenberger.

Mini pipe cutter for copper
The same small-sized tool as a roller - a mini pipe cutter of copper pipes. It is very popular in the field of installation of refrigeration systems, in particular, domestic air conditioners.

MiniCut Pro pipe cutters are available for processing copper pipes with a diameter of 3 to 22 mm. The working radius of the torch 38 - 45 mm allows you to work with pipes located in close proximity to the walls of buildings or in the presence of other obstacles.

With this type of pipe cutter, equipped with two guide rollers with a cutting groove, cutting is easily performed close to the flanging. The tool is equipped with spare cutting blades in an amount of at least 5 pieces.

On our site there are several more articles that are devoted to the choice of devices for cutting pipes from various materials, we recommend reading:

  1. Cutting polypropylene pipes.
  2. Cut steel pipes.
  3. Cutting plastic pipes.

Mechanism selection criteria

Trying to determine which type of copper pipe cutter is better, you should pay attention not only to the shape and material of the cutter blade.

Here it’s clear - the preferred choice is always:

  • alloy steel;
  • constant small working radius;
  • sharp thin blade;
  • the ability to replace the cutting element.

In many respects, the support-roller mechanism and telescopic guide also influence the quality of the cut of the copper pipe. The more there are supporting rollers in the design of the pipe cutter, the better and more reliable the device operates.

Support-roller mechanism of the pipe cutter
One of the main nodes of pipe cutters for copper is the support roller module. Provides a steady position of the pipe during its cutting. The number of support rollers of the pipe cutter determines its available range for the diameters of copper pipes

Also, for the design of the copper pipe cutter, the size of the width of the rollers and the presence of a cutting groove between them is important. With a wider width of the rollers, better stability of the position of the copper pipe during the cutting process is guaranteed, and the presence of a cutting groove enhances the accuracy function of trimming.

The telescopic guide, traditionally part of the design of torch-telescopes, must provide accurate travel without the slightest transverse shifts.

More convenient and practical is the design of the telescopic rail with automatic rollback. True, again, the reliability of such a system depends on the quality of execution of the automatic rollback mechanism.

Telescopic pipe guide
The telescopic guide is also one of the main parts of the copper pipe cutter. The quality of the telescope design allows us to talk about the quality of the pipe cut and is an important criterion for choosing a tool

Supplementing with accessories - this moment is adopted by many manufacturers of copper pipe cutters. Technical characteristics of the design such an addition, of course, does not change.

However, the availability of spare parts at hand is also an important argument for the user in case of determining the best designs. Accessories (usually a spare cutter) are usually located in the inner area of ​​the screw handle.

Pros and cons of electric models

Many professional craftsmen prefer manual pipe cutters if it becomes necessary to work with copper pipes. Meanwhile, in addition to manual models, there are more technically advanced devices with electric drive.

In this case, the electric drive receives energy either from the built-in battery, or from the network. That is, the tool does not lose the properties of mobility, which is already an attractive point.

Electric pipe cutter
Another novelty for the group of copper cutters is an electric pipe cutter. The design is quite convenient, significantly reduces the cost of physical energy of the user. For a quality result requires experience

The cordless tool is equipped with an automatic material pickup mechanism. The range of pipe diameters available to the cordless pipe cutter is 12-28 mm. There are backlight elements on the device’s body, which ensures the convenience of cutting in conditions of poor visibility.

An electric pipe cutter, of course, significantly reduces the user's physical load. All that is required for the owner of such a device is to hold the device weighing 1.5 kg in the desired position in the cut-off mode for several seconds. For example, the MILWAUKEE C12 model, at an operating speed of 500 rpm, cuts off a portion of a 12 mm diameter pipe in three seconds.

But the high cutting speed, and even in automatic mode, somewhat limits the quality indicators. So, the device is not allowed to cut copper pipes shorter than 12-15 mm, according to instructions.

Short cuts of copper pipes with a pipe cutter
Such short pieces of copper pipes are not allowed to be cut with an electric pipe cutter. Failure to comply may result in damage to the instrument and the user is at risk of injury.

In the absence of experience with an electric pipe cutter, it is rarely possible to get the perfect cut due to the presence of vibrations from the engine. Finally, the working mechanism of the electric pipe cutter creates noise at the level of 70 dB (the norm of permissible noise according to SNiP is 55 dB).

Therefore, for craftsmen (especially in the field of refrigeration), manual pipe cutters look like the best tool for all the advantages of electric models. Manual cutter gives the master the opportunity to "feel" the progress of the blade, to establish the optimal speed and depth of penetration into the pipe body.

As a result, the cut is smooth and of high quality, ideal for creating rolling or soldering.

Conclusions and useful video on the topic

In a short video, the process of cutting a copper pipe is graphically presented, as well as tips for the correct execution of actions.

Choosing the right tool from the existing range of copper pipe cutters is easy. The market offers a lot of models of different designs, among which the best option is always found. The main thing is to have an idea of ​​what criteria to select a device for and with which pipes a pipe cutter is needed.

You still can not decide on the choice of pipe cutter for copper pipes? Or are you already using similar equipment? Please tell us about the advantages and disadvantages that you noticed while working with the device. Leave your comments, ask questions in the block under the article.

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Visitors Comments
  1. Gennady

    I rarely deal with copper. I had to somehow repair the heat exchanger in the gas column. Of course, you can cut anything with a grinder, but it does not roll with copper, you need the right cut there.
    I did not go broke on an expensive tool, there is no reason for one or two times.
    I bought a Chinese roller mini, a little more box of matches. Interestingly, it cuts with a bang, very evenly due to the fact that the knife is sharp and does not make an oval. Nevertheless, the calibrator does not hurt, sometimes the geometry is broken.

  2. Danila

    Can you recommend any specific pipe cutter for copper 15 mm.? I bought some nonsense from Leroy Merlin, so he bent my pipe inside, which is a cross section of 15 mm. became 12.

    • Semen

      Take well-known and well-proven brands - Rems, Rothenberger, Reed. But in general, any roller pipe cutter bends the pipe in one way or another.