Schedule 40 (standard weight) PVC pipe is designed for use in a variety of commercial and industrial environments. It is used most frequently in residential plumbing, small- and large-scale sprinkler systems, and water purification operations. The term "schedule" refers to the wall thickness and inside diameter of the pipe. Though Schedule 40 is strong enough for most applications, it is easily cut and shaped by several different tools.
Though ratchet shears resemble a pair of simple garden clippers, they provide robust mechanical power. Ratchet shears can be held and operated with one hand, and they are intended for cutting PVC pipe with a small outside and inside diameter. A cut is started by clamping the shears over the pipe and gradually bringing the handles together. As the handles are squeezed, the ratcheting mechanism compresses. Once the handles are released the mechanism quickly expands, allowing for safe, rapid-action cutting. Blades on most models can be sharpened or replaced.
For Schedule 40 PVC pipe with large inside and outside diameters, a plastic pipe saw is the tool of choice. Unlike traditional wood saws which can become dull after use on PVC, pipe saws are designed to chew through the abrasive plastic. The pipe saw can also cut through wood, which makes it a truly utilitarian instrument. To use the saw, rest the toothed side of the blade on the pipe use the traditional back-and-forth sawing motion to begin the cut. For your convenience, most models are designed to accept replacement blades.
A plain hacksaw can also be used to cut Schedule 40 PVC pipe. Though the cut quality may not be on par with that provided by the previous tools, the hacksaw is a valuable PVC cutting tool for the home plumber on a budget. Most hacksaws allow for interchangeable blades, and switching them out is straightforward and simple. Because cutting with a hacksaw requires more arm movement than a pipe saw or a set of ratchet shears, the pipe should be held secure by a vice.
A guillotine cutter is able to handle Schedule 40 PVC pipe and much more. Suited for high-density piping with an outside diameter of up to 12 inches, this tool relies on user force and a sharp Teflon-coated blade to make the cut. As its name implies, a handle brings the blade down swiftly upon the pipe in a guillotine-style motion. The precision and density of the blade is such that the pipe is not deformed, cracked or otherwise marred under the applied pressure. Blades on guillotine cutters can be removed for sharpening or completely replaced.
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