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How to cut metal tubing

The use of tubing is a semi-common element in metalwork and jewelry making, used most often for small-scale applications like riveting and stone setting. While most of this tubing tends to be of lighter-gauge and smaller-diameter stock, some artists use industrial cuts in their metalworking.

But what is the best way to cut the metal tubing you need for your project? Depending on the metal’s outer diameter and the thickness of the tube wall, some methods are more effective than others. Here’s a quick rundown of four of the most common tube-cutting methods.

A traditional tube and pipe cutter, used mostly in industrial settings, can be found at any hardware store. It works best for larger-diameter, heavier-walled tubing that won’t be affected by the pressure of the cutting blade. The unit consists of a channel for the tubing and a circular steel blade that is set on a clamp or a spring so that it can be set flush against the metal while cutting.
To use this cutter, place the tubing in a vise. Line up the circular steel blade to where you want to cut the tubing, tighten the blade firmly against the tubing and then rotate the tube cutter. With each rotation, tighten the clamp so that the blade will cut further into the tubing. Continue until the tubing is cut through. A hand file and sandpaper will be necessary to clean up the edges and to de-bur the inside of the tubing.
A hand-held jeweler’s tube-cutting jig is most commonly used for jewelry purposes because it is precise, and can be used on lighter gauges and smaller diameters than industrial cutters. The length of the stop is limited to about 5 in. (12.7 cm), though, so if you want larger sections of tubing, you will need to remove the stop or select an alternate cutting method.
To use this cutter, set the stop to your desired tubing length and place the tubing in the channel. Set the swing arm over the tubing to hold it. Set a jeweler’s saw with the appropriate size saw blade into the cutting channel and saw through the tubing. Though this method is very accurate for cutting a straight line, you should still clean up the cut edge by lightly sanding with fine-grit sandpaper.
A miter jig is a device that can be used to cut both tubing and metal sheet at 90˚, 45˚, and in some cases, 60˚ angles. The great thing about this jig is that you can sand or file the cut tubing while it is still in the jig, and it will be perfectly finished with a minimum of effort.

To use, set the jig into a vise to hold it steady. Loosen the nuts at the top of the jig and open the channel you wish to use, either mitered or flat. Set your metal into the appropriate groove, and tighten the nuts to secure the metal. Use a jeweler’s saw with the appropriate size saw blade for the metal you wish to cut, and set the blade flush against the steel jig. Saw through the metal. Before releasing the metal from the jig, file or sand the edges of the tubing flush to the jig so that they are as flat as possible.
Tube Cutting Pliers
Tube-cutting pliers are just as they sound: The plier jaws have three grooves to securely hold different sized tubing and a perpendicular channel through the jaws to accommodate a saw blade. While this is the easiest cutting method to set up and break down quickly, it is also the least steady and takes some practice to use without breaking saw blades.

To use these pliers, set your tubing into the appropriate size channel and hold the pliers firmly against the “v” in your bench pin. Use a jeweler’s saw with the appropriate size blade for the tube you are cutting, and insert the blade into the saw groove of the pliers. Saw the tubing until cut through. As with the hand-held jeweler’s tube-cutting jig, a light sanding with fine-grit sandpaper will help smooth the cut edges.
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