Swivel Head Deburring Tool

A friend of mine was helping me with a plumbing project and, while at the hardware store getting supplies, he insisted that I buy this General Tools brand, Model 481 deburring tool. Once we started on the project and cut some copper pipe I realized why he insisted.

The way it works is that the blade swivels freely in the head of the tool and this allows you to rotate the tool easily around the inside (or outside) of a pipe and shave of that tiny ridge of material left when cutting the pipe and any burrs. After a couple spins the pipe end is nice and clean.

It works well on copper, steel EMT, PVC, etc. I’ve even used it to shave down rough edges on cut-outs in sheet metal (like on computer cases, electronics project boxes, etc).

Some copper tubing cutters come with a sort of triangular deburring tool on the back of them, those end up trashing the end of the pipe. Ignore them and buy this tool instead.

One word of caution, with this tool it’s easy to apply force to the inside of a pipe end and with soft copper it’s possible to flute out the end of the pipe to the point where it won’t insert in fittings. Just take it easy; it requires very little force to do its job.

The model I bought came with two different blades and has a threaded cap on the handle so you can store blades inside. My blades are holding up fine after deburring dozens of pipe ends, but I suppose if you used it day-to-day you might actually wear one out. Searching online I see there are models that come with many different blade styles and types depending on material you are cutting, metal handles, cases, etc. A professional using this tool every day might have reason to prefer those, but this inexpensive model has exceeded my every expectation.

-- Matt Taggart  

General Tools 481 Deburring Tool

Available from Amazon

Clog Hog

I have a home that has a septic system. Living in MN, this winter was very cold. The pipe from the house to the septic tank froze and water backed up into the house. The plumber wanted $200 just to come out (I am in the middle of nowhere), plus he didn’t guarantee that he wouldn’t have to dig up the yard. My wife found the Clog Hog. It only cost $130. (less than the plumber’s trip.) Compared to the cost of a plumber, I had nothing to lose. The Clog Hog connects to your power washer and uses water to cut through ice and other clogs in pipes. It took me about an hour to get through about 6 ft of ice in the pipes. It didn’t damage the pipes and worked fast. All I needed was patience.

-- Jim Sauber  

[This requires a pressure washer to use (not included). -- Mark Frauenfelder]

Clog Hog
$99 – $149 depending on hose length and type of pressure washer you have

Manufactured by Clog Hog.

Compression Pipe Repair Coupling

(Large photo) Rigid copper water pipe is generally sturdy stuff but it is not indestructible. Errant nails and screws will pierce it and deep freezes in uninsulated spaces can split it. Consequently, when copper pipes do fail, they tend to do so at the most inopportune times and in the most unforgiving places. (I once gutted an 1826 post-and-beam schoolhouse in the frozen depths of a Vermont winter, so I know whereof I speak.)

Rigid copper pipe is typically joined by soldering — using an open-flame torch in tight spaces next to wood framing — so replacing damaged pipe sections can be perilous. Unless, that is, you use a copper compression repair coupling, also called a copper slip-repair coupling.

A repair coupling is a straight length of pipe (typically 12″ long) with a compression fitting at each end. Each fitting contains a brass ferrule which, when compressed, creates a watertight seal. (Lavatory risers typically use compression fittings.)

Repair couplings are available for both ½″ and ¾″ copper pipe. For example, Home Depot sells a 7/8″ x 12″ copper compression repair coupling that fits over ¾″. pipe. In other words, the coupling’s inner diameter is essentially the same as the ¾″ pipe’s outer diameter. No-solder repair couplings cost roughly $25 at Sears or Home Depot; Amazon offers a ½″ repair coupling for about $15.

Replacing the damaged section of pipe with the repair coupling is straightforward. Turn off the water, open taps to drain the water pipes, and heed these four tips:

1. Note the length of the repair coupling — including the depth of its sockets — and remove exactly that length of the damaged pipe.

2. Use a wheeled pipe cutter to produce a clean cut that is square to the length of the pipe. If space is limited, use a close-quarters cutter. Ream inside the cut to remove barbs, and use emery cloth to lightly sand the outside of the pipe ends.

3. Use a pair of adjustable wrenches to tighten each end of the coupling.

4. Turn the water back on and test the repair coupling for leaks before you replace the section of drywall you removed to access the damaged pipe.

Compression Coupling
Price varies by size and source

Available from Amazon