Every plumber and tradie knows good hand tools, and in particular tube cutters for plumbers, are an essential part of a successful day.
Traditionally when it comes to tube cutters I’ve gone down the road of suppliers that specialise in these types of tools. So as much as I’ve used a pile of IRWIN hand tools and blades over the years, it’s been a little while since I’ve given them a run and I was particularly interested in seeing how they would perform. Working on a site in Manly for Boon Building was the perfect chance to test out IRWIN’s tube-cutters.
Test #1: The Range
IRWIN’s line-up has nine different and unique cutters which include the poly tube cutter, the ratcheting PVC cutter, a large ratcheting PVC cutter, ½” tight-space tube cutter, ¾” tight-space tube cutter, mini tube cutter, large-diameter mini tube cutter, enclosed-feed tube cutter, and, last but not least, the 2-in-1 cutter with ratchet handle.
It’s a diverse range that covers the hand tool cutting requirements for any given day.
The first thing that came to mind was the solid feel of the build quality. The cutters with the longer handles, like the poly tube cutter, have a die-cast aluminium body and a high-carbon steel blade. Those two major factors will pretty much make or break a good set of cutters. Everything felt good, and a look at the blades showed a precise and sharp-looking edge.
The range more than covers what I would be looking to use to get through my week.
So far so good!
Test #2: Let’s Get Cutting
When it was time to get cutting I gathered up a pile of poly tube, PVC and copper of various diameters to put the range through its paces in normal cutting conditions.
Coming from the situation where I would normally buy these kinds of tools from a specific manufacturer I wasn’t too sure if the IRWIN range was going to hold up to the challenge.
When the team from IRWIN let us know they were sending the range of plumbers tube cutters to give the once over we were straight on the phone to Nathan Purll – ‘Purlly’ as his mates know him – from NP Plumbing.
Purlly’s been a plumber on the Sydney’s northern beaches for a good couple of decades and was the perfect choice to put the gear to the test.
Straight off the bat I found the blade quality was as good as the other brand I had been using. From the PVC cutters through to the tight-space tube cutters I was pleasantly surprised at the sharpness and overall quality of the blades. They were sharp, and just as important, strong. As we started cutting through sections of copper, brass and ali, I was waiting for the ¾” tight-space tube cutter to lose its edge, but it became obvious that wasn’t going to happen. When it came to the black-oxide-coated cutting wheel on the mini tube cutter, the combination of the durable zinc diecast body and the high-quality blade did nothing but impress.
My fave would probably be the enclosed feed tube cutter which cuts up to 28mm, with a nice contoured handle for a secure grip. All elements of this particular cutter were up to standard.
To be honest, I was looking for an excuse or reason to say I liked my other brand because of this or that, but I really couldn’t find a flaw in the design or the quality of the IRWIN blades. I wouldn’t say the IRWIN range was better, but it certainly matched the existing brand most plumbers I know use and pay a premium for.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
I want to add that, unfortunately, the test happened after the sheeting had gone up, so when I was using the tight-space cutters I had to cut on loose sections of materials I had hanging around, not fixed pipe in wall frames. If anything, me doing freehand would have made the cutting process a lot harder. But the cutters still felt like they easily and smoothly cut through all we tested them on. As I said earlier, build and blade quality are paramount when it comes to these types of cutting tools.
If the blades don’t stay sharp and cut well the tool will just get replaced with another brand, and if the build quality doesn’t hold up to a hard life onsite, then that equally will mean a very short life.
So all in all the IRWIN range of tube cutters has been a pleasant surprise to use, and I will be looking to add this into my selection of preferred hand tools moving forward.
Available at selected Bunnings Warehouse stores.