A Beginner’s Guide to Cutting Copper

cutting copper

Copper is a metal material that is commonly used in various applications. We find copper in plumbing, as fixtures, piping, and tubing, for water sources, as well as in appliances to supply streams of chemicals for refrigeration and heating. Copper is also used in craft projects. It comes in tube, pipe, and sheet forms. When completing a DIY craft or repair project, you may need to cut the copper to achieve your objectives. Copper is a metal that requires a bit of skill and know-how to cut it properly. If you’re not experienced with copper, you’re in the right place to learn. We’ve prepared a beginner’s guide to cut copper that tells you everything you need to know to get the best results.

Overview of cutting copper

Many different situations could call for the need to cut copper. The most common are copper pipes found in plumbing. If you’re into DIY, it’s essential to know who to cut copper pipes without causing damage to them, and also how to work in tight and restricted areas, and to do so safely. Here you’ll learn about the right tools for the job, and the best methods for the type of copper you’re cutting.

How to cut copper pipe

Cutting copper pipe for plumbing applications requires you to cut the pipe and level a square and clean cut. You might need to cut copper pipes to fix hot or cold water pipes, water taps, showers, heating systems, or radiators. DIY Doctor lauds copper pipe for its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that help to keep your water purer and cleaner. That’s why it’s used so often. Although it’s commonly found in the home and business plumbing, it’s an expensive material and a bit difficult to install. If you know the tricks to cut it the right way, the job becomes easier.

Tools for cutting copper pipe

There are a few different tools used for cutting copper. The best tool for the job is a hacksaw, but you can’t use it for every situation. It’s ideal for sawing through copper if there is room to fit the saw into the right position. If the pipe is exposed or uninstalled, the job becomes simple. If it is installed in a tight place, you may need to resort to another option.

Cutting a copper pipe with a hacksaw

If you’re cutting a copper pipe that is not installed in a plumbing network, you must clamp it to a workbench to prevent the pipe from turning. Avoid clamping so tightly that it dents or distorts the pipe.

Step 1: Mark the pipe

The first task is to measure the pipe and mark it to ensure that you’re cutting it in the right place. You may need to cut it in one spot or two. Use a marker to ensure that you get the cut lines in the right place.

Step 2: Score the pipe

Use the hacksaw to lightly go over the marked line and cut a fine line in the pipe. This will help you to gain a placeholder that keeps the direction of the blade sawing in a straight and smooth manner. The scoring doesn’t need to be too deep, just enough to seat the blade.

Step 3: Remove as many obstructions as possible. This will give you more room to apply force to the sawing action.

Step 4: Saw the pipe

Saw the pipe in a back and forth movement. The process of cutting may put a lot of pressure on the joints. It may become necessary for you to hold the other parts of the pipe to reduce the vibration and pressure, to avoid damaging the nearest joint of the pipe. It is possible to cause more damage if you’re not careful. You should install a 32 TPI blade in the hacksaw to minimize burring.

Step 5: File the burrs

Regardless of how fine the teeth on the hacksaw blade are, or how careful you are, sawing a copper pipe leaves burrs. Burrs are rough or jagged spots that must be smoothed out. Use a metal file to remove all burrs and leave the cut portions of the pipe with a smooth surface. You may also go over the pipe a final time with 120 grit sandpaper for an even smoother finish. This will allow the fittings to move and fit onto the pipe without obstructions. It’s a simple process to complete, but you must be aware of the potential pitfalls to avoid them.

How to cut copper with a tubing cutter

A tubing cutter is a specialized tool that helps ensure clean and straight cuts in copper pipes. It can simplify the job and it works well in small spaces. While it isn’t as fast as a hacksaw, sometimes, it’s the only viable option because of tight workspaces.

Step 1: Mark the pipe for cutting

Start the task by measuring to get the right placement of the cut or cuts on your copper pipe. Mark the cut lines with a marker that will show up to get the proper placement of the cut.

Step 2: Score the pipe

Score the pipe lightly around the mark of the cutting line to help guide the blade of the tubing cutter.

Step 3: Place the copper pipe in the tubing cutter

The copper pipe must be placed in the tubing cutter so it rests against the small rollers on the side of the jaws of the cutter. Tighten the circular blade on the other side of the jaws.

Step 4: Cut the pipe

Use the tubing cutter to make one 360 degrees rotation around the pipe. Stop cutting after you’ve made the first rotation around the pipe to retighten the circular blade before making another rotation. Continue making a rotation, then retightening the blade until you’ve cut completely through the pipe. While this method is a little more time-consuming, most tubing cutters are small enough to fit in tight places to cut pipes.

How to cut copper pipes at impossible angles

If you’re faced with a job that looks impossible, there’s still hope. You still have the option of using a metal cutting blade on a small circular saw or an angle grinder. You can install the blade on a smaller cutting appliance, and follow the same steps as outlined above. Take extra care not to cut into adjacent pipes while you’re working in tight spaces.

How do you cut copper sheets?

Metal cutting shears are the best tools for cutting copper sheets. The experts at Oil Spider assure you that this is a DIY project that anyone can do at home. Metal shears are special tools designed much like household scissors, but they are larger and more heavy-duty. The shears have two cutting blades that are strong enough to cut through thin metal. Metal cutting shears perform a cutting action when you bring the handles together. This is a different method than the others we described, but some of the steps are similar. Here is how to cut copper sheets using metal cutting shears. You must wear work gloves during the cutting process because cutting copper leaves sharp edges that can be dangerous. The Saw Guy recommends using eye protection to avoid getting metal slivers embedded in your eyes. Another preparatory step that you must take is to remove all debris from the area so there is nothing around the sheet copper to scratch the finish. Cut the copper on a sturdy workbench that is free of clutter for the best results.

Step 1: Mark the material

The first step in cutting sheet copper is to mark the material. You must mark the areas to be cut legibly. You need to see it to know where to make the cuts.

Step 2: Positioning the blades

Position the blades of the shears on either side of the copper sheet. It’s done the same way you would when cutting a piece of paper with a pair of scissors. Expect more resistance when you bring the handles together. The blades are sharp so they can cut through the metal, but it still takes a significant effort. Cut one section at a time, and make sure that you’re following the marks to avoid miscutting the pieces.

Pipe Slice/cutting wheel

Another tool for cutting copper is a pipe slice. The pipe slice is also called a cutting wheel. This cutter is similar to a tubing cutter. The difference is that the blade features a spring-loaded mechanism. The pipe slice is best used for cutting copper tubing.

  • Step 1: Mark the tube
  • Step 2: Score the tube
  • Step 3: Apply the cutting wheel by pushing the pipe slice against the copper pipe. The spring mechanism adds pressure to push the copper pipe while turning the pipe, which helps to speed the cutting process.

How to get rid of large burrs

Sometimes a copper cutting job can result in large burrs that are difficult to file or sand down. If they’re large, you can use a Dremel tool to remove most of the material, to prepare the surface for filing, then sanding.

Finishing the Edge of cut copper

Regardless of the type of copper you cut, you will need to finish the edges. There’s no way to cut them without leaving sharp edges because of the nature of the metal. The final step in every copper cutting project is squaring and smoothing the edges, whether it’s piping, tubing, or sheeting. Try not to feel discouraged if the edges of your copper cutting project are sharp and look ugly. You’re not finished with the project yet. If you plan to do a lot of work with copper, you might want to invest in a tool that helps remove the rough edges from your cut. It’s called a deburrer, but if you only cut copper materials now and then, it’s not necessary. In most situations, all you need is a file to knock off the burrs, and if they’re too large, use a Dremel power tool to make the job faster and easier. Once you get the burr removed, you should use a 120 grit stand to leave a smooth finish.

What are the benefits of keeping copper pipes?

Some people are put off by copper pipes or tubing because it’s not something they’re used to doing. Many homeowners replace copper pipes with PVC piping. Before taking this measure, consider the benefits of copper piping. Copper is a safe material for human contact. It provides a natural antimicrobial and antibacterial conduit for water supplies. The metal helps to clean and purify the water that passes through. In this manner, it is superior to most other types of piping, so it might be in your best interest to keep those copper pipes and maintenance them as needed.

Final thoughts

Cutting copper is not rocket science, but it does require a bit of prior knowledge to do the job right. The best tools and methods depend on what kind of copper you need to cut, and where the copper is at. Our beginner’s guide to cutting copper walks you through basic copper cutting methods. It lets you know how to perform the job to achieve your ultimate goal. While it may seem daunting, cutting copper is a straightforward task if you know which tools to use and the best methods. You don’t need to call a professional to cut copper pipes, tubing, or sheets. Cutting copper is easiest when you follow the guidelines provided in this beginner’s guide. Use the recommended tools, methods and don’t forget to finish the edges, and it doesn’t get much easier than that!

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