How Cut and Glue PVC Pipe
by Brooks Owen
How to Cut PVC Pipe
PVC Pipe Cutter, or
•Miter Box (optional)
1. Always cut the longest pieces first. That way, you’ll be able to use more of
2. Mark the length to be cut with a pencil.
3. Cut with a standard PVC pipe cutter. The easiest to use is a simple ratchet-style
cutter available at most hardware stores.
4. Line up the pencil mark with the pipe cutter blade, then cut on the inside edge of your mark.
Option: You can also cut the pipe with a hack saw. To make a straight cut, place
the pipe into a miter box. Then wedge a piece of scrap wood between the pipe and the side of the miter box to brace
it securely. Cut on the inside edge of your pencil mark.
Note: When cutting plastic pipe with a power miter saw, wear protective eye-wear
and a proper dust mask or respirator to protect against particulate dust.
Then, remove any burrs with a medium flat file or 80 to 100-grit sandpaper. Use
a rat-tail file for the inside of the pipe, if needed.
If you’re thinking about cutting several of the same length of pipe, consider building
my PVC Pipe Cutting
Jig. It can be made with scrap wood and will save you a lot of time. In
addition, you’ll be assured of the exact same cut each time. The jig plan calls for using a power miter saw. However,
it can be altered to incorporate a miter box so you can use your hack saw.
How to Cut Large
Diameter PVC Pipe
Measure the length you want to cut, and mark with a pencil. Wrap
masking tape (I used duct tape for contrast) around the pipe. Draw a line with a pencil around the pipe at the
edge of the tape.
Remove the tape.
To cut, hold the pipe steady in a miter box.
You can also use my exclusive pipe cutting jig.
Or, in a bench vise. Cut with a hacksaw. When top of hacksaw touches
the "top" of the pipe, turn it over to finish cutting.
How to Glue PVC Pipe
•Yellow Marking Pencil
First, let me say this about that. "Gluing" is not the proper term. Properly
said, you use cement to "solvent weld PVC pipe." But most of us aren't plumbers. We don't care what "proper"
is. Gluing is easier. We know what it means.
When building PVC projects, sometimes in haste we glue fittings
that end up facing the wrong direction. Of course, this leads to ruined fittings, delays and, essentially, having
to start over. It happens and it’s frustrating. So here's how I solved the problem.
1. After cutting the lengths of pipe, "dry-fit" sections of your project
as you progress. Make sure the lengths are correct and the fittings are facing the proper way. Use a carpenter’s
square to guide you, if need be.
Tip: If you find an inserted pipe stubborn to remove, attach a vice-grip on the
pipe with the PVC fitting clamped in a bench vice, then separate by twisting. Or, use two vice-grips.
Also, I use the jig in the photo below. Simply slip the pipe and fitting onto a
wooden dowel, grip the pipe and give it a downward whack or two. The fitting will pop right off.
2. When you’re certain the section you’re working on is correct then, using a yellow
marking pencil, draw a line an inch, or so, along the pipe up and over each fitting. This serves as an easy alignment
guide. Now take the section apart and lay out the pipe and fittings to prepare for gluing. (The photo shows a regular
pencil because the yellow didn't photo well.)
3. Swab a light
amount of glue to both the fitting and pipe, insert the pipe into the fitting, twist slightly and line up the yellow
markings. PVC glue, also called cement, dries fast so you’ll have to be quick. Hold it together for a few seconds.
Then wipe off any excess glue immediately
with an old rag, which will also remove the yellow line. (See
Since these are not plumbing projects, I personally feel you
do not have to use PVC primer. However,
create joints as strong as the can possibly be, and to help
withstand vibrations from heavy use, I recommend you apply PVC
primer before swabbing on the glue. Use your own judgment.
Tip: The gluing procedure I just mentioned is the proper way to fasten pipe to fitting.
However, that said, I apply glue to the inside the fitting only.
In 30 years none of
my PVC projects have ever come apart. Applying glue to both parts is, to me, overkill and wastes glue.
Again, use your own judgment.
I mentioned that I swab the inside of the fitting only. Why? Because when you insert the pipe most of the glue flows to the
inside. If you swab the pipe instead, the glue would ooze outwards toward your hands. My way is neater and cleaner.
4. Normally, the pipe slides into the fittings easily. For those time when you’re
not certain if the pipe has seated against the fitting wall, quickly and gently tap the opposite end of the pipe
with a dead-blow hammer or wooden mallet.
5. Work in sections. For example, when building a chair I assemble the left side
first then the right side. Finally, I secure the connecting lengths of pipe to both sides.
6. If, when making a PVC chair, you use sling material for the back and seat, be
careful not to glue one side of the
project until after you’ve attached the material to the frame. Then fasten the unglued side with sheet metal screws.
But what if you don’t want to use PVC glue? For some projects (example, doll furniture)
applying one tiny spot of super glue to the inside of the fitting will do just fine. I don’t recommend it, however,
for projects that will get heavy use.
Also, I’ve had good luck with polyurethane glues, which can give you plenty of time
(up to 4 hours) to adjust your project before it cures. So far, the two projects for gardening I’ve tested have
held up well. Again, you don’t want to use it for heavy-use projects like swing-sets, chairs, and so on.
By following these tips, you'll be able to cut and glue your PVC projects just like
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text and photos herein are copyright © 2000 - 2012 by Brooks
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