Best way to cut thick metal pipe.

What’s the best way to cut thick metal pipe, say 2-3", without getting into anything too exotic like acetylene torches. I tried a Sawzall with a metal blade, and it worked, but it wore out the blade with one pass and blades aren’t cheap. I was thinking an angle grinder? How nice of one would I need for this task?

Assuming that the pipe isn’t made out of some exotic super hard alloy, even the cheapest angle grinder will cut through a 3" pipe like warm butter.

I thought of a plumbers chain cutter. I know they use it on cast iron plumbing stacks. I’m not sure if it would cut steel.

Chop saw.

Another vote for a chop saw, if all you have is an angle grinder though, make sure you get the proper “cutting” wheel instead of just trying to grind your way through.

It seems that you need to make a number of cuts?

A sawzall may be your best bet. Blades aren’t that expensive. The wheels on angle grinders need to be changed out too. And I guess you already have a sawzall.

An angle grinder should do it. But be warned, it will create an incredible amount of sparks. Not something that you want to do inside without some precautions for fire.

If its cast iron (2-3 inch pipe?) I don’t know.

It really depends on the conditions, how much pipe you have to cut, how quickly you have to do it, etc…, but I would probably use the Sawzall.

I’ve worked in the pipe industry for 30 years now, and the most common commercially utilized solution is an abrasive saw (“chop saw”), but these create a lot of dirt, noise, heat, sparks, and stink. If your sawzall will do the job, it’s great. Get the right blade, use oil on it to help keep it cool, and don’t try to go too fast. If I didn’t have a sawzall available, I’d probably use an abrasive saw. But, unless I had a lot of cutting to do to justify setting up a decent station for an abrasive saw, and the sawzall was right there, I’d use it.

excavating (for a mind)

When you say thick it sounds like you’re referring to the diameter of the pipe. The other consideration is the pipe wall thickness. Your Sawzall blade might not have had enough TPI (teeth per inch.) You want a blade that will yield about three teeth cutting the material at all times. Thus if the pipe wall thickness was 1/8" you’d use a 24tpi blade. Using a coarser (fewer tpi) blade will really wear the teeth down in a big hurry.

Chain cutters are for cast iron pipe and not much else since they rely on the brittleness of the pipe to do their work.

the abrasive blade in a circular saw works well. if you don’t keep it steady in the cut the blade will destructively disintegrate with a loud bang.

with the reciprocating saw you don’t want to stress the blade; use oil, keep it straight, go slow but still cutting.

Sawzall blade was 14TPI. Because of how confined the space is I couldn’t vary which part of the blade was used, so the 3-4 teeth in contact with the metal were worn down.

Update. I went an bought an angle grinder, a Milwaukee since I’ve heard nice things about the brand. I like the idea of having a bunch of nice power tools.

Note to self: vacuum the area first or any dust will be blown in your face.

seconding the chop saw. Worked in a seamless steel tubing factory for a while and that’s what we used. Had big 14+" diameter abrasive disks and we would see how far we could wear them down without shattering them. Even having the tubing and saw stationary, you still have to apply just the right amount of pressure.

You can get both diamond and carbide abrasive blades for your Sawzall for not a lot more than regular blades. They work a treat on cast iron.

<Norm Abram> And of course the most important safety rule when using your power tools is to wear these – safety glasses. </Norm Abram>

I prefer Roy Underhill’s scarred hands and occasional Band-aids. He looks like he does his own work.

I use an angle grinder for most tasks like this. However, if it is a one-off job, don’t overlook a hack-saw. You do need a sharp blade but these are cheap as chalk. You also get a much cleaner cut than a grinder. It might take a few minutes of effort but in the big scheme of things that is probably less time than you have already spent logging on and writing about the problem.

I dissected a large cumbersome clothesline with a hacksaw a few years ago. Some of the pipe was 3 inch diameter. There was also a solid 2½ piece of rod in the structure. Not a problem.


I would drop it down to my local machine shop, couple cartons of beer for the boys and all good. Although any excuse to buy another power tool is good too and it that case I would go for an angle grinder but then again after seeing the mess one made of a mates arm I think the hacksaw or local shop is the go!

Chop saw.

Horizontal Band Saw (if you want BIG toys) it is a weighted hack saw with a motor to push it back and forth. Takes a while, but can be set up and turned on, then leave for lunch.

Seriously? The thing is only a few inches thick. Hacksaw by hand through three inch mild steel pipe took me all of five minutes.

Sounds like it is in place, which could make it difficult to maneuver, but a portable band saw might be worth it.

It takes a lot of practice to use a metal handsaw efficiently. A rookie will need at least twice that time to saw the pipe halfway and then he’ll get frustrated and finish it off with the angle grinder :slight_smile: