What is an Asphalt Cutter?

Klaus Strasser

An asphalt cutter is a bit attachment that is mounted onto various tools such as hydraulic hammers, loaders, backhoes, tractors, and motor graders. As the name implies, it may be used for cutting asphalt, or other similar bituminous material, like concrete. Many utility contractors, road patching crews, and street superintendents use an asphalt cutter, since one can be useful to repair roads, underground cables, and water and sewer lines. Some professionals prefer asphalt cutters to jackhammers, because of the cleanness of the cut it produces, and the quantity of work it can accomplish.

Asphalt is made using loose gravel and a sticky tar-like substance.
Asphalt is made using loose gravel and a sticky tar-like substance.

Most asphalt cutters are rotary cutting devices. After being mounted onto a machine, the attached bit moves forward and, helped by the downward pressure from the machine, cuts through the asphalt. Usually, the bigger the machine the cutter bit is attached to, the more downward pressure is generated, thereby enabling it to cut through harder types of material. The asphalt cutter is often used when precise cuts are required, or when in working in tight areas.

Road patching crews may use asphalt cutters to repair holes and impressions.
Road patching crews may use asphalt cutters to repair holes and impressions.

Asphalt cutters are commonly made from hard steel alloy blades. The steel can be heat-treated to improve its sharpness and durability. The cutting disc is often relatively thin, as this allows it to make more precise cuts. Some cutters may also have diamond-headed blades. Replacement blades are usually available, since they can become damaged due the hard materials they are required to cut.

Different models of asphalt cutter will specify which types of machines are compatible with them. Some are attached to a vehicle, such as a tractor, using heavy-duty clamps. Other types of asphalt cutters may be mounted onto a boom device. Cutters differ according to the quality of the blade and its cutting depth. Some models may also be able to cut in or around curves.

There are also walk-behind asphalt cutters, which alleviates the need for another machine on which to mount the cutter bit. These types of machines usually have a sturdy frame in order to absorb vibration, and the cutting disc may be raised and lowered accordingly. These walk-behind models, however, are generally only used for small projects.

Asphalt cutters are often used not just for making cuts in the ground, but also for sawing through concrete walls. This can help in construction projects, such as the creation or widening of doors and windows. Cutters have sometimes also been used to remove debris, by making precise cuts in areas carefully determined beforehand by structural engineers.

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Discussion Comments


I have never seen an asphalt cutter attached to a vehicle of any kind. What type of project would one of these be used for? I've only seen them used on small scale street work.

I was also wondering what other kinds of materials the saw could be used with besides asphalt and concrete. I couldn't really think of any others.


@Emilski - I'm with you. I've always seen these things but never knew what they were called. They were using one down the street from me a few weeks ago. I seem to remember seeing them breaking apart the pieces as they went along.

Concrete saws also create a lot of dust, so I usually see the workers wearing dust masks and respirators. I've breathed in the dust before, and it is no fun. Usually someone is responsible for spraying water on the area that is being cut. I'm sure that helps to keep down some of the dust, but might help the saw blade from overheating, too.


Hey, I've seen these things before, but didn't have any idea what they were called. I just always called them "street saws." I didn't realize there were so many different uses for the saw. I've only see them used to cut around big potholes that were being replaced.

I'm not sure what the ground looks like under asphalt. Once they cut out a patch of the road, will the piece just lift out of place, or is it more like concrete that they have to break apart?

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