In the glamorous world of plumbing, “Up against the wall” doesn’t necessarily mean you got a little overly exuberant on a wild Saturday night. It’s still not a phrase you want to hear, though, since it probably means you have to deal with yet another jammed-in piece of copper pipe. As with most professions, having the right tools for the job is key; having to perform surgery in cramped quarters definitely calls for a special tool. Milwaukee makes a number of specialty plumbing tools, including some designed to help out when you’re working in tight spaces. They sent us the Milwaukee close quarters tubing cutter set; pipe down, squeeze in, and we’ll give them a spin.
In a plumber’s dream world, every run of pipe would be easily accessible, in a wide-open, well-lit space. In the real world, pipes are jammed into stud bays, attached to joists, or in a dim basement, surrounded by wiring, ductwork, and other stuff that’s a PITA to work around. Using a Milwaukee Close Quarters tubing cutter, you’re able to get at those pesky pipes even when they have less than an inch of clearance.
During the design process, Team Red talked to real plumbers to find out what features were most important to them. Not surprisingly, accuracy and durability were right up there on the wish list. This led to the inclusion of rust-preventing chrome rollers and weep holes on the cutters, among other things. Here’s the feature list from Milwaukee:
• Most compact
• Longest life
• Chrome rollers
• Weep holes
• Directional grip
• Replaceable blade (48-22-4266)
• Set includes:(1) 1/2 in. close quarters tubing cutter, (1) 3/4 in. close quarters tubing cutter, (1) 1 in. close quarters tubing cutter, (1) storage case
• Limited lifetime warranty
Getting Tight With The Milwaukee Close Quarters Tubing Cutter
The plumbing in our old house is pretty typical. There’s a mix of old and new, and it’s been added on to over the years. Much of the plumbing is tucked up close to framing members and ductwork, which is great – who doesn’t love a challenge?!
I don’t have any plumbing projects in progress at the moment, but I wanted to test out the Milwaukee Close Quarters tubing cutter in a “real world” setting. Preferably in a way that wouldn’t involve water dripping in my face and re-soldering of pipes afterwards. I took a piece of ½” copper pipe, attached it about an inch away from a joist, and grabbed the Milwaukee kit.
The Milwaukee Close Quarters tubing cutter kit we got contains the three most commonly-used cutters used in residential plumbing: ½”, ¾” and the big dog 1” cutter. The set comes in a sturdy plastic case, with space in the lid for a reamer and extra cutting blades. This provides a nice alternative to my normal pipe-cutter storage system, which involves tossing them in the upper tray of my plumbing toolbox, where they rattle around with my other miscellaneous small plumbing supplies, cleverly eluding me when I need them.
To get the cutter into action, just push it into position on the pipe. It seats firmly, a spring holds the blade against the pipe, and you’re ready to do the twist. There are directional arrows on both faces of the Milwaukee Close Quarters tubing cutter, so it’s easy to see which direction to spin it.
It takes a fair bit of force, especially with the smallest cutter in such a tight space, but the edges are knurled, and getting a good grip is fairly easy. The space was so tight, there’s no way a regular swing cutter, or even my mini tubing cutter, would have fit. After three or four rotations, the pipe was cut, and I moved along and plunged in again. The edges of the cuts were clean and smooth, with no ridge, all ready to clean up and add your connector of choice.
Like To Cut It Close?
I’m not a plumber, but I’ve done a fair bit of plumbing over the years. I have a pretty good assortment of plumbing tools, and a world-class plumber’s crack. I’ve owned several cutters over the years, including a few that self-destructed after a few uses. The Milwaukee cutters look and feel ruggedly made, and the use of chrome rollers and weep holes should cut way down on the potential for rust. The ability to quickly replace cutting blades means these babies should be spinning for years to come.
Any drawbacks? As I mentioned, the cutter can be a little tough to turn sometimes. This is the nature of the beast; the reason for using this type of cutter is because it’s much smaller than a standard full-swing cutter. This is what allows you to get it around the pipe, but the small size also means you don’t have much leverage. I had no problem using it during my limited testing, but if I had a lot of cuts to do, I’d be pulling on a pair of gloves.
When you’ve got a really tight space to maneuver in, a Milwaukee Close Quarters tubing cutter can almost always wiggle in and get the job done. If you’re a plumber, or someone who does a lot of plumbing and regularly works with copper pipes of various diameters, the Milwaukee Close Quarters tubing cutter set would be a great addition to your tool kit. The case makes it fast and easy to find the cutters, holds extra cutter blades and a reaming pen, and protects everything from getting banged around.
If you’re an occasional plumber, and work mostly with pipe of only one size, you can also purchase the ½” cutter, the ¾” cutter, and the 1” cutter individually. Every Milwaukee Close Quarters tubing cutter is backed by a limited lifetime warranty, so you can look forward to many years of claustrophobic plumbing adventures.
Buy the set for around $50:
Buy the 1” cutter for around $20:
Buy the ¾” cutter for around $19:
Buy the 1/2 ” cutter for around $16:
Two pack of replacement cutter blades for around $10:
Reaming pen for around $9: