How To Cut PVC Pipe For Beginners: DIY Home & Craft Projects

Cutting PVC for your Do It Yourself Home or Craft project does not have to be complicated. I recently made 9 different ballet barres to work out which one was best and 7 of those required me to cut PVC pipe into various lengths and for several to match each other in exact length and I give you the exact method and details that I used in the video tutorial and instructions below!

The most versatile and easiest way to cut PVC pipe is either with a hacksaw or a pipe cutter. Other options are to use a mitre saw, string or even a regular saw, although you will get a less accurate cut using an all-purpose saw, because of the large teeth.

YOUR cutting technique, tool, and preference will be determined by the diameter of the pipe you are using, what tools you have available, or your budget. I preferred the hacksaw for several reasons at the time being: because I already owned one; the cost of a quality pipe cutter was the same as the materials for one barre and I felt this might make the project for some too expensive; the tool would probably sit in my toolbox never to be used again. But after doing some more thorough research to create this article – because I couldn’t find one previously – although I preferred to use a hacksaw, I kind of wish I had gone ahead and bought some pipe cutters – less mess to clean up and I could have cut the pipe inside and not out in the cold! But I will go through all the different options below so that you can decide which is best for your project!

THE HACKSAW

What is a hacksaw?

A hacksaw has a blade with tiny teeth which when you use a forward and backward slicing movement neatly cut through various materials such as wood and plastics. The blade can easily be removed so that you can use different strength and teeth sizes depending on your project as well as replace the blade when it starts to get blunt. For a good budget hacksaw similar to the one I used in my video check out this link to Amazon.com

How to use a hacksaw to cut PVC pipe.

In the video tutorial, I explain how I used a hacksaw to cut up PVC pipe for 7 different PVC ballet barres that I have created tutorials for. But in short, I used the following procedure:

Firstly use a measuring tape to measure out your pipe. Mark your measurement with a permanent marker so that it does not easily wipe away.

Hint: If you do need to erase this mark, dip a cloth into a little nail polish remover or acetone to get it off quickly and cleanly.

Lay your pipe on a sturdy surface lower than your body with the end you wish to cut off, hanging off the end. If you are needing to make long cuts you will also need to support the end you are cutting to ensure you get the straightest and cleanest cut possible. I used chairs, but if you have thin or small PVC then you should also invest in a vice to hold it sturdy. Hold the pipe firmly in your free hand, line the hacksaw up with your mark, and then slowly move the hacksaw forward and back to create a small groove in your pipe. Once you have made your initial groove your hacksaw will then begin to slide more smoothly back and forwards, slicing through the pipe until you get right through it.

Problem solving

Hacksaws are prone to get stuck, meaning at some point you find you can’t push it forwards or back – usually forwards. When this happens it is probably one of two things.

Your blade is clogged up with particles from your pipe. If this is the case, use a paint brush, a cloth or gloved fingers to gently wipe the particles from the blade.

The second reason will most probably be because you are creating two pieces of PVC pipe from one, and the empty space the cut is creating is are pushing against each other, not giving the blade any room. This can occur if you are cutting long pieces of PVC and are also support the piece you are cutting as the empty space or cut you are making

Pros and Cons to using a Hacksaw to cut PVC pipe.

PROsCONS
Budget-FriendlyCreates a lot of fine particles and is messy.
Can be used for many different projectsYou need decent upper body strength to use one.
Can be used for most sizes of pipeA vice may be needed to hold pipe firmly and safely
Needs minimal setup and can be used almost anywhere
Results in a nice even and relatively straight cut
Is safe when used responsibly
Blade can be replaced when it is blunt
Is portable

PIPE CUTTERS

What are pipe cutters?

Pipe cutters are similar to scissors, clippers, or garden shears and use a ratchet mechanism and only one blade to easily and cleanly slice through PVC pipe. Plumbers generally use these on the job as they are portable, quick, and easy to use. PVC pipe cutters depending on their quality and the width of the pipe they can accommodate will vary in cost and could be the deciding factor on whether you buy a pair to use for your project compared to a hacksaw which you will more likely use for various DIY projects. For a good quality pipe cutter that can cut up to 2-inch diameter PVC pipe click here.

How to use a Pipe Cutter to cut PVC pipe.

Different pipe cutters will work differently, but a good strong one that can accommodate a variety of different widths of pipe with have a ratchet mechanism. Once open, you need to continue to pump the handles closed as the blade slowly lowers to the size of your pipe and then you slowly continue the same motion as the sharp blade easily slices through your pipe. The following video is a great example of how to use a pipe cutter.

Problem solving

One of the main problems you will encounter when using a pipe cutter is if the ratchet or spring mechanisms gets stuck or stops working. All tools need maintenance and it might mean that your pipe cutter needs to be oiled or the mechanism adjusted. You may also find your mechanism breaks after a period of use if some of it’s parts are made of lesser quality materials or you have been using it to cut pipe thicker than what your cutter was made to do.

Another problem is getting a cut that is slightly slanted. This can occur when you cut the pipe in the air rather than laying the cutter on a flat surface which provides the base of the cutter a stable anchor to push and create greater force against the blade. When you cut in the air the pipe and blade can slip or the pipe can start to squash resulting in a slant or slightly diagonal cut.

Pros and Cons to using a Pipe Cutter to cut PVC pipe.

PROsCONS
Creates a clean cutAre not multi-functional – are made only to cut pipe
Cuts through PVC pipe quicklyQuality cutters can cost more than your project
No messCan accidentally cut on a slant which gives you an uneven line
Are safe when used responsiblyThe mechanism will need maintenance over time
Is portable

MITRE SAW

What is a Mitre Saw?

A mitre saw is a powered tool that has a spinning circular saw blade loaded to an arm that you pull downwards on to an object that you require to be cut. All tools need to be used safely and responsibly, but power tools more so, as once they are switched on will not stop until they are manually turned off. Therefore the proper set up and understanding of how the machine works as well as appropriate safety gear should be used. I use Ryobi power tools at home and so if you are interested in purchasing a Mitre Saw I would recommend the Ryobi brand and this mitre saw here on Amazon.com

How to use a Mitre Saw to cut PVC pipe.

Ensuring first that your machine is set up as per your manufacturers instructions and you are wearing the appropriate safety gear you would measure you pipe and place your mark inline with the blade or marked cutting line on your machine. You would use one hand to hold down your pipe a safe distance from the blade and the other hand would pull down the handle pushing the blade through your pvc pipe.

Problem solving

Problems that may occur using a mitre saw may arise if your machine does not have a recess or grooved area at the base of the cutting point to allow the blade to go lower than your whole pipe, meaning that you may need a hacksaw to cut off a little at the end. You are also relying on access to electricity to use this machine and depending on your location you may need to ensure you have extension cords.

Pros and Cons to using a Mitre Saw to cut PVC pipe.

PROsCONS
Creates a clean cutIs an expensive power tool
Cuts through PVC pipe quicklyNeeds a decent level of competence and understanding to use safely
It is not as easily portable
The tool needs to be maintained over time
It needs electricity to work
Creates shavings and mess

TABLE SAW

What is a Table Saw?

A table saw is a basically a table that has a saw blade built into it and many people who do woodwork have one, but they aren’t generally a multi-purpose machine which many people own and can be expensive and so often aren’t used for cutting pipe for various reasons which you can also read about in the problems section further along.

How to use a table saw to cut PVC pipe

Assuming that your table saw is all set up and you are using appropriate saftety equipment such as safety glasses and gloves you would measure your pvc pipe and mark where you wanted it cut, then turn on the rotating blade and line the marked measurement of your pvc pipe up with the blade with your hands a safe distance away on either side of the blade holding the pvc sturdy whilst pushing it through the blade.

Problem Solving

The following really isn’t problem-solving, more problems you will encounter and why a table saw isn’t really used to cut PVC. The first is the shavings tend to clog up the blade easily which is the reason my hardware store gave as to why they do not do a lot of cuts for the PVC pipe they sell. The second is the blade can only go so high and so you may have to turn your pipe upside down to cut the other half and making sure this stays accurate can take experience. Thirdly if your pipe is long being able to get it into position on the cutting table and to maneuver it safely can be difficult.

Pros and Cons to using a Table Saw to cut PVC pipe.

PROsCONS
Cuts through PVC pipe quicklyIs an expensive power tool
Needs a decent level of competence and understanding to use safely
It is not easily portable
The tool needs to be maintained over time
It needs electricity to work
May not cut through the full width of your pipe
Creates shavings and mess

A HAND SAW

What is a Saw?

A saw has a handle generally made from plastic and a long triangular shaped metal blade that has sharp teeth along one side.

How to use a Saw to cut PVC pipe.

Lay your pipe on a sturdy surface lower than your body with the end you wish to cut off, hanging off the end. If you are needing to make long cuts you will also need to support the end you are cutting to ensure you get the straightest and cleanest cut possible. I used chairs, but if you have thin or small PVC then you should also invest in a vice to hold it sturdy. Hold the pipe firmly in your free hand a safe distance away from where you will be cutting, line the saw up with your mark and then slowly move the saw forwards and back to create a groove in your pipe. A saw has fairly large teeth and so this initial step may take practice and patience to get going

Once you have made your intial groove you continue to move your saw forwards and backwards until you have cut through the entire pipe.

Problem Solving

When using a saw you might find that getting that initial groove or cut into your pipe is difficult to achieve. This is because your pipe is smooth and round and the saws blades teeth are large and if you are not applying enough pressure can get caught and stuck and jump creating a jagged entry point or cut. If using a saw using a vice to hold your pipe stable allowing you to focus on cutting your pipe safely can help to create a more accuate cut.

Your blade may also get clogged up with particles from your pipe. If this is the case, use a paint brush, a cloth or gloved fingers to gently wipe the particles from the blade.

The second reason will most probably be because you are creating two pieces of PVC pipe from one, and the empty space the cut is creating is are pushing against each other, not giving the blade any room. This can occur if you are cutting long pieces of PVC and are also support the piece you are cutting as the empty space or cut you are making

Pros and Cons to using a Hand Saw to cut PVC pipe.

PROsCONS
Is inexpensive and many people own oneTakes time and effort to cut through the pipe
Is portableCreates shavings and mess
Gets easily stuck
Does not create the most accurate cut
Needs upper body strength to use
Can cause injuries if the blade gets stuck and when being released unexpectedly jumps or becomes loose quickly.

STRING OR TWINE

What is String or Twine?

Ok for the sake of keeping this post formatted in a similar pattern and for those who really do not know string is – it is a length of threads of material that have been wound together to create a stronger cord. String also known as twine can be made from natural fibres such as cotton or man made materials such as nylon.

How to use String or Twine to cut PVC pipe.

Measure and mark where you need to cut the pipe. Wearing gloves to ensure the string does not burn or cut your fingers from being too tight, wrap the string around the palm of each hand a few times leaving a length in the middle. Wrap the length behind your pipe which is either held in a vice or possibly even by your foot and start pulling the string forward and backwards between each hand, whilst at the same time towards you with force to cut through the pipe. The following video gives a simple visual explanation of how to do it – he is not wearing gloves which would advise you do, but I enjoyed watching him and his little string play at the end.

Problem Solving

Cutting with string is not the most accurate method for cutting your pvc pipe and you will need a little effort to make the cut. To make your measurement and cut more accurate you can use a knife to make a groove in which to lay your twine so that your cut ends up exactly where you cant it to be.

Pros and Cons to using a Hand Saw to cut PVC pipe.

PROsCONS
String is handy and portableTakes time and effort to cut through the pipe
Little mess to clean upYou may not get an accurate length if your string moves in the beginning
Needs upper body strength to use
Would be harder to use on shorter pieces of pvc pipe
Could hurt or injure your hands if making a lot of cuts

GRINDER

What is a Grinder?

A grinder is a tool that grinds away at a material to wear it away to make a cut, hole, groove or indentation. It is a power tool and requires electricity or a battery to work.

How to use a grinder to cut PVC pipe

When measuring your pipe if using a grinder I would make a mark around the entire circumference with a line as a reference for where you need to make your cut. You would then place and tighten your pipe in a vice to hold it in place safely and then turn on your grinder before lowering the circular disc to your line. You may have to turn off your grinder and rotate your pipe to be able to cut right around it, which is why you would mark the whole circumference with your measurement.

Problem Solving

Although using a grinder would get the job done, I would probably only ever use a grinder to cut pvc pipe if it was all I had to use. It is time consuming and messy and getting an accurate cut is hard to accomplish.

Pros and Cons to using a Hand Saw to cut PVC pipe.

PROsCONS
Will cut through PVCTakes time and effort to cut through the pipe
You may not get an accurate length if your grinder moves and jumps in the beginning
It creates a lot of mess and shavings
For safety, you need to place your pipe in a vice
Takes experience to use for an accurate cut

About the Author

Samantha Bellerose

Samantha is a wife and mother of four kids aged 1-9. She danced and acted from the age of 5 and performed in film clips, on television, and in musical theatre professionally. She also taught dance, but after leaving the profession to backpack through Europe, Canada and the USA with her husband for three years, she then completed an Education Degree and taught within primary schools in Australia. Today she is a business owner with her husband and the creator and writer for Dance Parent 101 where she hopes her previous experience as a dancer, current experience as a dance parent and the research and writing skills she gained completing her education degree will help enlighten parents on their journey with their child through the world of dance.