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Hack saw vs tube cutter for steering tube

Old 12-05-18, 08:11 AM
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timo888
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Hack saw vs tube cutter for steering tube

I haven't ever done this before but may need to shorten an aluminum tube with a 35mm O.D.

Is there a reason I should use a hack-saw with a saw cutting guide rather than a spin-and-tighten-as-you-go type of tube-cutting tool?

And are the bicycle-specific tools any better for this job than a copper tubing cutter which is one-third the price of the bike tool? Are the blades on the bike tools made of harder materials or is the bike tube cutter more precise?
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Old 12-05-18, 08:18 AM
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Hacksaw is louder, faster, easier on the hands but more messy and requires cleaning the cut afterward. Tubing cutter is quiet, slower, does not require cleaning the cut and doesn't make a mess. Hard on the hands and feels more tedious. They're both fine, IME.

Nowadays I just used a cordless bandsaw with an old stem as the guide. Works a treat.
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Old 12-05-18, 08:21 AM
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The hacksaw, with a cutting guide, will leave a rough edge, even if you use a fine tooth blade, that will need to be cleaned with a file. And it will be quicker. And unless your going to do a lot of steerer tube shortening, more economical.
The tubing cutter will produce a cleaner, truer cut edge. But it will take longer. And if you try to force it to go faster, you can bend the edge inward, which you will then have to clean with a file.
I haven't use a bike specific tube cutter, but I have used my copper cutter on Al handles bars with goo result.
I'd go with the hacksaw and guide, then clean with a few strokes of a file. Quick and easy.
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Old 12-05-18, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by timo888 View Post
I haven't ever done this before but may need to shorten an aluminum tube with a 35mm O.D.

Is there a reason I should use a hack-saw with a saw cutting guide rather than a spin-and-tighten-as-you-go type of tube-cutting tool?

And are the bicycle-specific tools any better for this job than a copper tubing cutter which is one-third the price of the bike tool? Are the blades on the bike tools made of harder materials or is the bike tube cutter more precise?
The hacksaw and cutting guide are the way to go for a couple of reasons. First, a tubing cutter for copper tubing isn't going to do that good a job on a steel steer tube. It will cut aluminum but you might not have a sharp enough or hard enough cutting wheel for steel.

But the main reason to use a hacksaw is that the hacksaw doesn't raise a bead on the tubing. A tubing cutter takes advantage of metal's ductility and doesn't really "cut" the metal. It shoves it out of the way to the top and bottom of the cut. This raises a bead around the tube and increases the diameter of the tubing at the cut. It also raises a larger bead for aluminum than for other metals. For most bicycle applications, the fit is too close to allow for this bead so you have to remove it.

A tubing reamer will remove some of the material but, in my experience, it won't remove enough. That means that you have to file down the bead which takes a fair amount of time, effort and a lot of fitting until you get it right. The hacksaw cut can benefit from the tubing reamer as well but the cut requires less dressing to make it work well. On the other hand, a file will take off any saw burrs quickly and easily.
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Old 12-05-18, 08:46 AM
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Put it in a chop saw. Fast and easy.
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Old 12-05-18, 09:15 AM
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Thanks, guys, for all of the info and the recommendations based on your experience.
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Old 12-05-18, 09:18 AM
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Tubing cutters are directional, used the correct orientation there will be no lip or bead on the steerer.
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Old 12-05-18, 09:44 AM
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Hack saw is what I use just about every time (I have tried a tubing rolling cutter but didn't like it for all the reasons given by Stuart). Two hose clamps snugged down on either side of the intended cut line serve as cheap and reuseable guides. I will also just use masking tape as a visual guide but I will only partially cut into the steerer wall. Then rotate the steerer to a fresh/uncut area and repeat the partial deep cut. Working around the steerer this way helps to insure that the end cut is square and doesn't drift as you cut. If I only had one hack saw in my shop it would have a 32 teeth per inch blade in it. Andy
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Old 12-05-18, 11:52 AM
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given its aluminum, the cutting by pressure rolling tubing cutter will work,
Being soft..
it will leave a burr, not cutting, It is forcing the metal aside,( like rolling a spoke thread )

Easy to remove from the outside, inside burr wont matter, on threadless headsets ..
in a shop with the saw guide the hack saw will be quicker .. both work,
[ I wouldn't buy a (copper) tubing cutter just for this job, if I were spending my money]

but with steel use the saw guide & a hacksaw..
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Old 12-05-18, 12:21 PM
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Plumber's tube cutter is not really a cutter as the more experienced have said.
Do it right. Use hacksaw.
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Old 12-06-18, 11:11 PM
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I was going to give my 2 cents, but as usual, people are trying to turn this into " I am right, you're wrong" discussion.

What the heck.
Use whatever you have on hand. I once used a Ginsu
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Old 12-07-18, 12:41 AM
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I usually end up with a turned-in edge when using a pipe cutter. Not too big of a deal as long as you push the starfangled nut below the cut first. It can be a problem with some top caps, however, so you might have to clean up the inside of steerer with a rattail file.
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Old 12-07-18, 01:10 AM
  #13  
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I've never seen anyone at the shop use anything but a hacksaw and a guide. I have seen someone botch a handlebar with a tube cutter, however. He made a lovely spiral cut.

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Old 12-07-18, 06:33 AM
  #14  
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Originally Posted by EdwinHeadwind View Post
I've never seen anyone at the shop use anything but a hacksaw and a guide. I have seen someone botch a handlebar with a tube cutter, however. He made a lovely spiral cut.

That photo shows a diamond encrusted blade. I tried those, but the ones I bought wouldn't fit in the cutting guide. I find a good old 32 tooth blade works for any steer tube, including carbon.
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Old 12-07-18, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by prj71 View Post
Put it in a chop saw. Fast and easy.
Should be good for aluminum. Don't do this for a carbon steerer, it will pull carbon fiber chunks out of the tube as it cuts. Luckily I did a test cut first, way up on the steerer tube -- yikes!

For carbon fiber, I taped just below the cut line as a guide, used a bare blade in my fingers, and went all the way around with a shallow cut, then deepened it with more turns. That was smooth and accurate. With more experience, I could likely just cut right through from side to side with a blade guide.

~~~
Many years ago, I tried a tubing cutter on an aluminum seatpost. It left a raised lip.
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Old 12-07-18, 07:47 AM
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I've cut several carbon, aluminum and steel steerers using both Performance's "Spin Doctor" Park Tool SG6 knockoff and hose clamps as cutting guides and a 32tpi hacksaw. I let the weight of the saw provide the cutting force and the resulting cuts needed only minor smoothing with a file. I second Andy's recommendation to rotate the fork and cut around the circumference of any impromptu guide (hose clamp or tape) rather than cutting straight through.

Also, for threadless forks, it isn't essential to have the cut at exactly 90ļ since the top of the stem or a spacer above the stem is the surface the top cap sits on and will compensate for any slight misalignment.
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Old 12-07-18, 08:00 AM
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Been usihg a pipe cutter for ever because why buy a hacksaw guide when I already have something that works just as easily. FYI, Iíve used this for Al and steel.

Yes, it leaves a raised lip, so I go over it with a file, but I use a file when hacksawing as well.

Hacksaw with some sort of guide has the advantage of working with CF, but somehow I have managed to go decades and only needed to cut a CF steertube one time. I managed to rig up a guide.

The only drawback I have experienced with a tube/pipe cutter is that there is a minimum amount you need to cut off. You canít lop off just 3mm.

So if you have neither and are looking to buy one for the sole purpose of cutting steer tubes and handlebars, Iíd get the hacksaw and guide. But if you already have a pipe cutter, I would just use that until you need to deal with CF and canít figure out how to rig up a guide.

I would base rhe decision more on what will you find other uses for. I use the pipecutter for other things, like (surprise) cutting pipe. I have never found myself lacking for want of a hacksaw guide (except for the time I needed to cut a CF steerer).

Anyway, I look forward to many pages of discussion about this.


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Old 12-07-18, 06:33 PM
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When I cut my steerer tube down I wrapped masking tape around it for a reference line and zipcut it with an angle grinder and a zip disk!
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Old 12-07-18, 08:09 PM
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Hi, I came upon the same problem you have and was able to buy the spin doctor hacksaw guide for just under $20. I used a 32 t hacksaw blade and made a clean cut on the steer tube and didn't require any filing at all.

I was very tempted to go with the Harbor Freight $5.99 copper tube cutter which might of done the job for a one time use.
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Old 12-07-18, 08:28 PM
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Why's a perfectly square cut vital, other than aesthetics? On my threaded tube, the upper lockring of the headset hides the end. I marked it by wrapping with tape, and cut it with a hacksaw, then filed the burrs away so the lockring would thread on cleanly. On my threadless stem, it's hidden by the cap.
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Old 12-08-18, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
Why's a perfectly square cut vital, other than aesthetics?
Aesthetics is probably it, I suppose. When I spend hundreds on a nice fork and then cut the steerer, I want the cut to look square -- at least to the eye. Because even though the cut is out of sight on the bike, I will have put the bike together and will always know in my mind what is really underneath that top cap.
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Old 12-08-18, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
Aesthetics is probably it, I suppose. When I spend hundreds on a nice fork and then cut the steerer, I want the cut to look square -- at least to the eye. Because even though the cut is out of sight on the bike, I will have put the bike together and will always know in my mind what is really underneath that top cap.
Absolutely. I get that. Half of the aesthetics of a nice bike are invisible until you take it apart.
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Old 12-08-18, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
Why's a perfectly square cut vital, other than aesthetics? On my threaded tube, the upper lockring of the headset hides the end. I marked it by wrapping with tape, and cut it with a hacksaw, then filed the burrs away so the lockring would thread on cleanly. On my threadless stem, it's hidden by the cap.
As long as the top cap is at a 90-degree angle to the headset screw that connects to the SFN, it really doesn't matter how it gets there. I would want the steerer tube cut squarely regardless, just to ward off ridicule when the shop guys see it!
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