How To Cut A PVC Pipe Without a Saw (Step by Step Guide)

Stacy Randall
by Stacy Randall

PVC pipe has become an extremely popular material in the home improvement space. It has expanded far beyond its original use in underground wiring, plumbing, and sewer systems. Today, you can create all sorts of unique and functional elements using PVC pipe, from cord collectors to wine racks and even furniture!

Whether you use PVC for its intended purpose or you’re creating a masterpiece, you probably want to cut the pipe. If you don’t have a saw handy, you can still cut the PVC pipe using several other methods. The easiest is with a PVC pipe-cutter, the hardest is with a drill, but you can also use string. Yep, string.

If you’re about to tackle a project involving PVC and you don’t have a saw, no problem! You can press on with your task and get it done!

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Use a PVC Cutter

Some of the best ways to cut PVC pipe are with a handsaw or electric miter saw; these tools give clean, accurate cuts. However, if you don’t have a saw, you can use a PVC pipe cutter.

You can pick up this tool at any home improvement store for anywhere from about $15 to $100 depending on the quality and size of the device.

PVC cutters are specifically designed for cutting PVC tubing and make the process much easier on your hands. Although not technically a saw, cutters still include a blade, so what do you do if you have no blades?

Cut Your PVC Pipe with String!

You can use a piece of string to cut through PVC pipe; it’s a variation on your basic cable saw. When you use string, you rely on friction to do the cutting for you. As you move the string across the pipe, the friction creates heat which starts to melt through the PVC.

There are certain scenarios where string might be your cutting method of choice, even if you have a saw. For example, when PVC is in awkward positions like in the ground or close to other pipes or walls, a string will work better than a saw or cutters.

In cases like this, you can get the string into position without too much extra fuss. You won’t have to dig or move as much around as if you were using a saw.

How To Cut PVC Pipe with String

It might seem like more of a magic trick than a DIY task, but all you need is some string to cut your PVC pipe.

Tools You Need for the Job

  • A piece of nylon braided string, roughly 20 inches long
  • Two metal rings, or two wooden dowels
  • A clamp
  • A utility knife (optional)
  • Sandpaper
  • A tape measure
  • A pencil or piece of chalk

Step 1

First, prepare your PVC pipe by measuring and marking where you need to cut. It’s important to provide a resting place for your string. Place the clamp on the PVC pipe along your cutting mark.

The clamp gives the string a barrier that keeps the string from sliding around on the pipe. For a string to cut PVC effectively, it needs to remain in the same position.

For extra string support, you can use the utility knife to create a small groove for your string. This notch gives your string the perfect starting point. It will make double sure that your string cuts in the same place the whole time.

Step 2

If the pipe is not already secure, use clamps or string to hold it in position.

Step 3

Next, prepare your piece of string. You might want to position the string around the pipe before cutting to ensure it is at a comfortable length. Tie each end of the string around one of the metal rings or one of the wooden dowels.

You can always loop the string around your fingers, but you risk the string cutting into your skin. Using metal rings or dowels as handles gives you something to hold and keeps your fingers comfy.

Step 4

Wrap the string around the underside of the pipe or behind it depending on how it is situated. Make sure you have equal lengths of string on each side. Make sure the string is resting in your groove or against the clamp.

Step 5

Holding a handle in each hand, pull the string up and hold it tightly against the pipe. Begin moving the string back and forth in a sawing motion, slowly at first.

Stay focused on the cut and ensure the string remains in position. As the string starts to move through the pipe you can speed up the motion, keeping your cut as straight as possible.

Step 6

When your cut is complete, use a piece of sandpaper to clean up the rough edges of the pipe.

You might be surprised to learn that using string to cut PVC pipe actually works, and it does the job in a pinch. The key is keeping the string in the same spot to maximize the friction and heat created.

If your string starts to fray or break, replace it with a fresh piece.

Use a Drill and Utility Knife To Cut PVC

The string technique works well, but there is another way to cut your PVC without a saw. You can use a drill and basic utility knife.

Mark and measure your PVC, and use the drill to create small holes along your cut line. Then use the utility knife to cut between the holes.

This method of cutting PVC is fairly tedious and time-consuming, and it is not the best for larger diameter pipes. It is still difficult to cut through thick plastic with a simple hobby knife.

Related Questions

Can you cut any size PVC pipe with string?

You can use the string method to cut small and large PVC pipe, just make sure to cut your string accordingly. 

Can cotton string be used to cut PVC?

When using string to cut PVC, nylon or butcher’s twine works well. You can use a braided cotton string, but it is more likely to break. 

How long does it take to cut a PVC pipe with string?

It takes about 20 seconds to cut through a piece of 1 1/2” PVC. Obviously, the larger the diameter of the pipe, the longer it will take to cut. Plus, the more practice you get, the faster you will get. 

What other tools are used to cut PVC pipe?

In addition to PVC cutters, PVC pipe is commonly cut with a variety of saws. You can cut PVC with miter saws, handsaws, hacksaws, cable saws, and rotary saws. There are also internal rotary saws that cut pipes from the inside. The best tool for the job depends on the size of the pipe, its location, and how secure the pipe is.

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Wrapping Up

If you have a project to do that involves cutting PVC, you don’t need to reach for a saw. You can use other tools like PVC cutters, string, or even a drill and utility knife.

PVC cutters make the job super easy, but they don’t always work when your PVC is in hard-to-reach places. If the PVC pipe is in a cramped space or if you don’t have tools, using a piece of string will do the trick!

Stacy Randall
Stacy Randall

Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.

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