best way to cut metal pipe
Cutting through a metal pipe can often be a scary thought for many newbie DIYers — we’ve all seen images of sparks flying akin to a 4th July fireworks show. Yet, if you’re going to remodel your bathroom or tackle that under-the-kitchen sink maintenance, learning how to cut metal pipe is an essential piece of home-improvement know-how. With this easy-to-follow guide and the right tools, I intend to demonstrate just how straightforward it can be to cut metal pipes at home.

The Best Tool To Cut Metal Pipe

For metal pipe cutting, you have a few tool options at your disposal.

Tube/Pipe Cutting Tool

Not something everybody will have in their tool kit already, but if you intend to cut metal pipes regularly, it’s worthwhile considering investing in one. A tube cutting tool, or machine, offers a precise way of cutting metal pipe, but unlike the other tools we mention, this is its sole purpose. With two rollers and a cutting wheel, you can achieve a clean and exact cut every time. That said, this tool won’t be of much use if the pipe is already in situ in a hard-to-reach place. You need to be able to place the loose pipe in the machine for the cutting action.

Angle Grinder for Cutting Metal Tubing

Power tools are always useful when cutting through metal. An angle grinder is especially handy if you need to cut an old pipe from a tight space. Angle grinders are also more than capable of cutting through the more commonly found copper and cast iron pipes. This method will require the most safety equipment. Safety goggles, protective gloves, and earplugs are advisable. Ensure you choose the right cutting disc for metal, a blade with smaller tines will make light work of even the toughest pipes.

Using a Saw To Cut Metal Pipe

A hacksaw may not always be the best option to cut a metal pipe, but it’s certainly something we all have in our tool kits. The pipe will need to be secured before cutting, so not ideal for pipes that are already installed.

However, cutting metal pipe with a reciprocating saw would be a faster and less strenuous option — if the pipe is already located in a difficult-to-reach position.

What You’ll Need For This Tutorial

  • Your tool to cut metal pipe— reciprocating saw, angle grinder, pipe cutting tool, or hacksaw.
  • Pencil or chalk — to accurately mark where to cut.
  • Clamp — to hold the pipe if loose.
  • Safety gloves, eye protection.
  • Tape measure — for accurate measurements.
  • Metal file — to rub down any burr on the edges of the pipe.
  • Tape — for marking the pipe when a pencil isn’t enough.

What You’ll Need for This Tutorial

Almost time to get wrapping, but let’s make sure you have all the equipment you need first:

  • Digital or electric heat shrink gun.
  • Fantail nozzle.
  • Section of shrinkwrap — sufficient in size to completely wrap your object.
  • Silicone or heatproof mat.
  • Scissors or sharp crafting knife.
  • Tape measure and/or ruler.
  • Cleaning cloths.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Heat-proof gloves.
  • Safety glasses.

How To Cut Metal a Pipe — Step-by-Step Guides

We’ve looked at the different pipe cutting saws/tools, let’s take a look at the method for each.

1. Reciprocating Saw

Step 1

If the pipe is in situ, disconnect the power and switch off the water to the pipe before starting the cut.

Step 2

Using chalk or soapstone, mark where you want the cut to be.

Step 3

Don your safety eyewear.

Step 4

Secure the pipe. As the reciprocating saw blade moves back and forwards, it will tend to fling the pipe. Use either a vice/clamp to hold it in place or even secure it by clamping down hard with your own or a helper’s hand.

Step 5

Line up your saw blade with the line you have marked. Begin cutting using a slow speed. Don’t apply too much downward pressure — this may cause the blade to slip and move towards you.

Step 6

Continue until the reciprocating saw has completely cut through the metal pipe. A slow and steady movement will avoid the blade moving unpredictably.

Step 7

If your Sawzall cannot completely cut through the pipe at either end, switch off the power. Allow the metal to cool down before trying again with either your reciprocating saw or change to a hacksaw for the final cut.

Step 8

Using a metal file, smooth any burrs from the cut end of the pipe.
Tube cutting tool

2. Tube Cutting Tool

Step 1

Take exact measurements and mark your cut line. Repeat this step for each pipe you’ll be cutting to save time before placing each length in the tool.

Step 2

Place your pipe in the cutting tool. Line up the rollers and the cutting wheel with your cut point. Tighten to hold it securely.

Step 3

Now, move the cutting tool around the pipe. The three points will rotate and make a precise cut.

Step 4

Once cut, deburr the inside edges of your pipe/s.
Cut Metal Pipe With Hacksaw

3. Cut Copper Pipe With Angle Grinder

Step 1

Put on your safety equipment first.

Step 2

Measure where you want to cut the pipe, and mark it.

Step 3

If you’re cutting the pipe pre-installation, ensure it’s securely fixed to your work surface with a clamp. If the pipe is already in location, i.e. under a sink, make sure there are no obstacles in the way of the grinder. For tighter spaces, you may also want to consider using a reciprocating saw or Sawzall — if so, refer to the method above.

Step 4

Before moving in to cut the pipe, ensure the grinding wheel is running. Allow the blade to speed up for a smoother finish, then move the blade to your target and make your cut.
Cut Copper Pipe With Angle Grinder

4. Hacksaw

Step 1

Ensure the pipe is secure before cutting with a metal pipe saw. The back and forth sawing motion can cause the pipe to move as you work. Hence, the resulting cut will not be straight or precise unless you do so.

Step 2

Support the longer end of the pipe, ready for when it drops as the cut is complete.

Step 3

Patience, effort and stamina are key. Hacksaws take longer to cut through metal pipes, but you don’t need to apply too much pressure. A gentle and consistent motion as you saw while applying a moderate amount of force will result in a cleaner cut.

Step 4

Using a metal file or sandpaper, you can clean up the cut end of the pipe to remove any burrs.

How To Cut Metal Pipe — The Takeaway

Hopefully, I’ve demonstrated that cutting metal pipe doesn’t need to be a difficult task. For areas where the space is tight, power tool methods like an angle grinder or reciprocating saw provide faster results than a traditional hacksaw. Just ensure you have the correct blades suitable for the metal you’re addressing. If you enjoyed or learned something from this How To Cut Metal Pipe guide, please feel free to share it with your other DIY pipe-cutting buddies.

How To Cut Metal Pipe FAQs

Q: How To Cut Metal Pipe Straight?
A simple hack is to attach a metal hose clamp around the part of the pipe to be cut and saw along the edge of the clamp — a perfectly straight edge every time!
Q: Can You Use a Reciprocating Saw To Cut Steel Pipes?

Yes. Cutting galvanized pipe with a reciprocating saw is possible — providing you use a blade capable of carving through metal. The saw will provide a quick and clean cutting action that can handle any variety of thickness or diameter of the pipe.

Yet, this power tool is more than a metal pipe saw, if you want to learn more, check out my Reciprocating Saw Uses and How-to guide.

Q: Can a Sawzall Be Used To Cut Metal Pipes?
A Sawzall (aka reciprocating saw) is one of the handiest tools you can ever put in your arsenal of tools. When cutting copper pipe with a Sawzall, you could also use the tool to penetrate other materials in the project area. However, for some more precise tasks, you may be better off using a copper pipe cutting tool — the Sawzall may leave a rough edge that can be difficult to solder.
Q: How Do You Cut Holes in Metal Pipes?
You may need to use a pipe hole cutter to make a hole in the side of your pipe for connecting to other pipework. Compact and lightweight cutters utilize a traditional drill and a hole saw attachment — a circular ring attachment for cutting through any metals, especially steel. Just ensure your drill is capable of low speeds while maintaining considerable torque.
Q: What Is the Best Tool for Cutting Older Cast Iron Pipes?
Many older houses used cast iron for their drainage systems. Although stronger than the plastic commonly used for today’s drain pipes, they’re prone to rust and corrosion. When these pipes need replacing, it can be difficult to cut without disintegrating your whole system. For the home DIYer, a reciprocating saw or angle grinder would be suitable for this task. Cutting with a hacksaw would be a time-consuming and physically demanding task by comparison.
Q: What Tool Can Be Used To Cut Pipes?
For mosty pipe cutting jobs, a reciprocating saw, or Sawzall, is the power tool of choice. For pipes in more difficult-to-reach areas, an angle grinder with a diamond cutting blade is suitable. And if you don’t mind a bit more hard work and physical effort, an old-fashioned hacksaw is an alternative. If you want to cut lengths of pipe prior to installation — a pipe cutting tool is a good choice, but this can be difficult to use in areas with limited accessibility.