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How to Cut Copper Pipe Accurately

For smaller pipe sizes, a sharp-bladed hacksaw is the best tool to use to make the cut. You’ll need to hold the pipe firmly, but if you use a vice be careful not to over-tighten the laws and crush the bore of the pipe.

It’s important to cut the pipe square so that it butts up exactly to the pipe stop in the joint. This will ensure the pipe is seated squarely in the fitting which is essential for making a watertight seal. It will also help to make that seal. It’s surprising how near to square you can get the end just cutting by eye. But the best way to make a really accurate cut is to use a saw guide. This can be made very easily by placing a small rectangle of paper round the pipe with one long edge against the cut mark. By bringing the two short edges of the paper together and aligning them you effectively make a template that’s square to the pipe. All you then have to do is hold the paper in place and keep the saw blade against it as you cut. Any burr that’s left on the cut edges can be removed with a file.

cutting copper How to Cut Copper Pipe Accurately

If you intend to carry out a lot of plumbing, or are working mainly in the larger pipe sizes, it may be worthwhile buying (or hiring) a wheel tube cutter. Of course using one of these is never absolutely essential, but it does save time if you’ve more than, say, half a dozen cuts to make. And once you have one you’ll use it for even the smallest jobs. It’s quick to use and will ensure a square cut without trouble every time. You simply place the pipe in the cutter and tighten the control knob to hold it in place. The cutter is then rotated round the pipe and as it revolves it cuts cleanly into the copper. This circular action automatically removes burr from the outside of the pipe, but burr on the inside can be taken away with the reamer (a scraping edge) which is usually incorporated in the tool.

Instructions: Cutting copper pipe

1. Make an accurate measurement of the proposed pipe run. Don’t forget to allow extra for the pipe that will fit inside the joints.

2. Use a simple paper template to help you cut pipe squarely. Wrap the paper round the pipe and align the edges.

3. Use the flat side of your file to clean any burr from the outside of the pipe. The curved side of the file can be used to clean the inside.

4. When using a wheel tube cutter, position the cutting mark on the pipe against the edge of the cutting wheel, then tighten the control knob.

5. Once the pipe is clamped in place, rotate the cutter so it makes an even cut. The rollers on the tool will keep the blade square to the pipe.

6. A wheel tube cutter leaves a clean cut on the outside of the pipe, but any burr on the inside can be removed with the reamer (an attachment to the tool).

How to Connect a New Pipe to a Copper Pipe

When taking a branch from a copper pipe it’s probably easier to use a compression tee fitting rather than a capillary fitting. A compression fitting can be made even if there is some water in the pipe run – capillary joints need the pipe to be dry-and you won’t have to worry about using a blow-torch and possibly damaging other capillary joints nearby (if they are heated up, their solder will soften and the joint will leak).

It’s quite easy to work out how much pipe to cut out of the main run in order to insert a tee junction (of either compression or capillary fittings). Push a pencil or stick into the tee until it butts up against the pipe stop. Mark this length with your thumbs, then place the stick on top of the fitting so you can mark the outside to give a guide line. Next you have to cut the pipe at the place where the branch has to be made and prepare one of the cut ends. Now connect to the pipe the end of the tee that doesn’t have the guide line marked on the casing and rest the tee back against the pipe. You will now be able to see where the pipe stop comes to and you can then mark the pipe to give you the second cutting point. Remove the section of pipe with a hacksaw and prepare the pipe end.

copper pipes How to Connect a New Pipe to a Copper Pipe

With a compression fitting put on the other cap-nut and olive. If you gently push the pipe and tee sideways to the pipe run this will give you more room to position the body before you allow the pipe end to spring into place. When this is done the cap-nut can be pushed up to the fitting and can be tightened with your fingers. Both sides of the tee can then be tightened using your wrenches to give the cap-nuts about one-and-a-half turns.

Remember that you must use a second wrench to grip the body of the fitting so it stays still as the cap-nut is tightened. If it should turn, other parts of the joint which have already been assembled will be loosened or forced out of position, and leaks will result. The connection into the main pipe run is now complete and you can connect up the branch pipe.

If you are using a capillary tee fitting there are a number of points to bear in mind. It’s easiest to use one with integral rings of solder (this saves the bother of using solder wire) and after the pipe ends and the inside rims have been prepared and smeared with flux the fitting can be ‘sprung’ into place. The branch pipe should also be inserted at this stage so all the joints can be made at the same time.

When using the blow-torch, it is important to protect the surrounding area from the effects of the flame with a piece of flameproof glass fibre matting or the back of a ceramic tile It’s also worthwhile wrapping damp cloths round any nearby capillary joints to protect them from accidental overheating and thus ‘sweating’.

How to Bend Copper Pipe

If a lot of changes of direction are necessary in a pipe run it’s cheaper and quicker to bend the pipe rather than use fittings. This also makes the neatest finish particularly if the pipework is going to be exposed. Under a pedestal wash-basin, for example, the hot and cold supply pipes rise parallel to each other in the pedestal before bending outwards and upwards to connect to the two tap tails.

Using fittings in this situation would be more costly as well as possibly being unsightly, while the cheaper alternative, making bends, means the pipework is less conspicuous. The pipe can also be bent to the exact angle required so this method of changing direction is not limited by the angles of the fittings. And with fewer fittings in a pipe system there are fewer places where leaks can occur.

copper pipe How to Bend Copper Pipe

The smaller sizes of copper pipe, those most commonly used in domestic plumbing (15mm, 22mm and 28mm), can be bent quite easily by hand. The technique of annealing ˇŞ heating the pipe to red heat in the vicinity of the bend to reduce its temper (strength) and so make bending easier ˇŞ is unnecessary when working in these pipe sizes. But you will need to support the pipe wall, either internally or externally, as the bend is made. If you don’t you’ll flatten the profile of the pipe. Using it in this condition would reduce the flow of water at the outlet point.

For small jobs a bending spring is the ideal tool, supporting the pipe internally. It is a long hardened steel coil which you push into the pipe to the point where the bend will be made. It’s best used for bends near the end of the pipe, since the spring can be easily pulled out after the bend is made. However, it can be used further down the pipe if it is attached to a length of stout wire (which helps to push it into place, and is vital for retrieving it afterwards).


1. Always use a bending spring which is compatible in size with the pipe. Smear it with petroleum jelly
2. Overbend the pipe slightly, and then bend it back to the required angle.
3. Put a screwdriver through the ring at the end of the spring. Twist it, then pull the spring out.
4. To use a bending machine, open the levers and position the pipe, then slide the straight former on top
5. Raise the levers so the wheel runs along the straight edge and the pipe is forced round the circular former.
6. Bend the pipe to the required angle, then remove by opening the levers, and taking out the straight former.

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