When a plastic or metal pipe needs to be cut cleanly and quickly, a pipe cutter is the ideal tool for the job. Using a saw can be difficult and messy, and using a hinged scissor-like cutting tool with two opposing blades will often produce undesirable effects such as crimping or breaking of the end of the pipe, especially on those made of metal. There are two major different types of pipe cutters — plastic and metal ones. They can come in a wide variety of sizes and configurations for cutting pipes of varying materials, sizes and shapes.
A plastic pipe cutter actually resembles a pair of pliers or scissors, except one side of the jaw is a blade while the other side is circular, for the pipe to rest on. Since the blade can easily wear out after cutting through many heavy pipes, a plastic pipe cutter is typically designed with the ability to replace the blade. This is usually designed to cut through PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipe, which is among the more durable and unbreakable types of plastic pipes.
It can be particularly difficult to simply squeeze the two handles of a pipe cutter to cut through more dense material, so the mechanics of a plastic pipe cutter usually allow for ratchet-type action when cutting. This means that the handles can be squeezed together more easily to produce a greater force on the blade. The ratcheting handles may have to be squeezed together several times to get the blade all the way through, depending on the circumference and density of the pipe.
A plastic pipe cutter would be ineffective and would probably break if it were used on metal pipe, so a metal or cast iron one must be used. This type relies on different mechanics for a clean, fast cut through pipe that can be even more dense and rigid. Basically, two jaws grasp the pipe and hold a sharp circular blade in place. The blade then rotates around the metal pipe and tightens until it cuts all the way through. There are manual metal pipe cutters that must be turned by hand as well as powered versions, which will do all the work while a button is compressed. Most of the time, these can also be used to cut through plastic pipes and tubing.