Undoubtedly one of the special metals is copper. It is not only used frequently for coins – but it is also used in heating systems, in the sanitary area, or, for example, in pneumatic systems. You may need a copper pipe at home and have to cut it. The question that often arises is whether you should saw or cut the copper pipe?
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What is copper, and where are copper pipes used?
Copper is an orange-reddish semiprecious metal named “Cu” in the elements’ periodic table.
It feels extremely smooth and, like other metals – very cool. Copper is a very good conductor of heat and electricity (it is more conductive than gold). The wires in power cables should be mentioned as a practical application example that everyone probably knows.
The softness of copper makes it easy to process and stretch. A big advantage is that it does not become brittle even in cooler temperatures.
Copper alloys usually extend the durability and stability of the material associated with copper and protect it from rust.
Usual areas of application can be found in construction, communication technology, medicine, supply engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.
What are the options for cutting a copper pipe?
There are three realistic scenarios for cutting a copper pipe: a hacksaw, an angle grinder, and a pipe cutter. I would now like to examine all three types in detail and explain what works and what does not:
Cut the copper pipe with a hacksaw
If the pipe diameter is too big, I advise against using a hacksaw. However, if you are dealing with diameters of 4 inches and less, the hacksaw can be a good choice. Even if the copper pipe is already installed in the existing building and cannot be cut with a pipe cutter, the hand saw usually works best.
Since it is a very soft material, it is important to use a very fine-toothed saw (32 TPI). While you can also use a fretsaw with copper sheets (for example, to cut out patterns), sawing pipes and the straight cuts required with a hacksaw is clearly preferable.
Note: If the distance between the saw blade’s teeth is too large, the saw will always get stuck in the metal – the cut will be unclean.
How to proceed:
- Step 1: Clamp the copper pipe to be cut to length (vice or clamp). Do not squeeze the pipe together. It should hold well but not deform.
- Step 2: Now, mark the cut with a clearly visible pen, which should not be too thick (otherwise, the cut can vary by a few millimeters, which can be problematic, especially with such precise work).
- Step 3: Now, place the hacksaw blade with the teeth directly on the copper pipe’s marking. Hold the hacksaw by the handle with the hand that is leading the saw (this is usually your more dominant hand), and with the other hand, hold the saw on the bow further forward.
- Step 4: Saw away from your body and lift the saw after cutting. Then put the saw back exactly in this notch and do this again until the notch is a little deeper. Now you can continue to saw carefully until the copper pipe has been sawed through.
- Step 5: Finally, you should clean the pipe and clean up any protruding burrs by reworking with sandpaper.
Tip: Never saw back and forth, always only in one direction (away from your body). This will prevent the saw from getting stuck, creating a jagged cut, or damaging the saw blade.
Cut the copper pipe with an angle grinder (Flex)
Here I say right initially: Hands off the angle grinder – at least with copper pipes! Personally, I don’t do this for the following reasons:
- Copper is very soft and conducts heat well. The angle grinder gets very fast. The speed and friction create high heat. Deformation of the copper pipe is therefore very likely. Also, the pipe becomes very hot.
- If you have a wrong cut or come at an angle, this error can hardly be corrected due to the high speed.
- It is significantly more dangerous to use an angle grinder as opposed to a hacksaw or pipe cutter.
- If you (accidentally) apply too much pressure on the angle grinder, the pipe can be badly deformed.
- The cutting disc is usually very wide (at least too wide for such a precise cut). It can therefore lead to high inaccuracies when cutting.
I, therefore (generally) avoid cutting metal pipes with the angle grinder and a cutting disc.
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Cut the copper pipe to length with a pipe cutter
This usually works very simply: Regardless of the pipe diameter, in my opinion, a pipe cutter is always preferable for cutting copper pipes.
- Place the pipe cutter on the copper pipe at a right angle.
- Tighten the cutting wheel so that there is a little pressure on the pipe.
- Rotate it 360 degrees around the pipe once.
- Always tighten the cutting wheel a little further and turn it once around the pipe so that the cut becomes deeper and deeper.
- After a few turns, the copper pipe is broken down.
In any case, make sure that the cutting wheel is very sharp so that clean cutting edges are achieved, and you do not have to turn endlessly. Also, make sure that the cutting wheel does not put too much pressure on the pipe – otherwise, it may deform.
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Sawing or cutting copper pipes – conclusion
Cutting a copper pipe is probably one of the less common activities in your home. If you do face this challenge, you shouldn’t use a cutting disc. For smaller diameters, a hacksaw with a fine blade can be a good choice; otherwise, a pipe cutter is preferable. This is where I believe you will get the best results.
After cutting, cleaning (deburring), and calibrating the copper pipe are two important tasks that you should not ignore.