Sometimes the smallest tools can get you out of the biggest jams, and the Lenox Tight Space Tubing Cutters 14833TSK are a great example of this. At Sturm Plumbing, we do a lot of repairs to existing work, so we often work around other plumber’s installations. At least once a week I shake my head in disbelief at the poor decisions made by the previous plumber. Every time I do a job, I am thinking about how the next person would fix it if something ever went wrong. I picture my son in 15 years on the same job, and I don’t want him to shake his head or his Fein MultiMaster FMM 350 Q at my work!
One of my pet peeves is when plumbers run copper pipe too close to a stud, floor joist or shower surround. I understand that sometimes you have to, but I try to be what I call “future proof” as much as possible. When you’re forced to cut a copper pipe butted up next to something, you have a few choices: recip saw, oscillating multi-tool, or small tubing cutters. Each has their own benefit and pitfall. Recip saws tend to shake the pipe too much and can risk vibrating another joint loose. Multi-tool can leave a bur on the pipe that needs filed down before you can get a fitting on it. Small tubing cutters won’t work if the pipe is too close.
There are a few tight space cutters on the market, but so far the Lenox Tight Space Tubing Cutters are at the top of my list. They feel hefty in your hand unlike the other plastic versions on the market and they use an open face design where you don’t have to lock the tool around the pipe. To cut, you simply push it onto the pipe until you feel it lock in place and spin in the direction of the arrow. Each size (1/2″, 3/4″, 1″) is able to spin freely as long as you have at least 1/2″ of clearance from any surrounding objects. During my tests, I was able to cut all the way through the pipe in less than eight turns with all 3 sizes. (two turns equaling one full rotation). This is great because usually when you’re working in a tight space, you’re having a hard time just getting the tool to spin around, so the fewer rotations the better. The amount of pressure of the cutting wheel against the pipe seemed to work better for the ¾ and 1” pipe. I haven’t had any issues with getting a fitting on, but when I cut M copper with the ½” size, it tends to leave a flat spot on one side of the pipe.
Features & Favorites
One of my favorite features is the painted directional arrow they placed on the face and side of each tool. I wish they had painted both sides since one is painted and the other has an arrow, but it’s white on top of white. I’m not sure why they didn’t paint the arrow on the back side, but several times, that’s the only side I was able to see and couldn’t tell which way I was supposed to spin it. Lenox also color coded each size for easy recognition, but the blue and black look so similar—especially in low light—that I find that feature confusing. They still printed the actual size on them, which in my opinion is a lot easier for identifying the sizes. In reality, when you’re only working with 3 sizes, it’s pretty obvious without even reading them which size is which.
Lenox Tight Space Tubing Cutters Features
- Optimized blade geometry of shock-resistant steel
- Non-slip grooved cast body only needs 1/2″ clearance to cut
- Stainless steel rollers protect the cutter from corrosion
- Color coding for easy tool recognition and cutting direction
- Available Sizes: 1/2″ (13mm), 3/4″ (19mm), 1″ (25mm)
The kit comes with the 3 most common copper sizes (1/2” ¾” 1”) and the typical Lenox heavy duty carrying case. I found the case a bit redundant since I would rather just drop these into my existing solder box. Plus, it’s too big to bring with me every time I initially go into someone’s house not knowing whether I need it or not. One good thing about the case is that they give you a separate compartment for extra cutting wheels. They are stainless steel and resist any type of corrosion, so I haven’t had to change one yet, but since they are so small, it would be easy to lose them. I was a little disappointed that while the kit gives you a place to store your extra wheels, they did not provide any extras. To me, that’s would be the advantage to buying the kit rather than just the size you need. They all take the same size cutting wheel, so if they included one, I would have been happier.
Lenox Tight Space tubing cutters In the Field
It’s funny because the only complaint I have with this kit is the photo on the front of the box. They show a pipe that is clearly less than ½” away from a wall to reinforce what it’s used for, but I know that they would not be able to spin the cutter around because there’s not enough space. It’s a bit misleading to show a picture of the tool in action where in reality you would not be able to use it. If you try to spin it around, you can get it stuck in mid rotation and dent the pipe really bad causing more headaches than when you started. If the pipe doesn’t have any wiggle room, do not try to force it around a pipe without 1/2” of clearance—you’ll regret it half way through the cut. Lenox placed nice deep grooves on the side so that you can get a good grip on it. Trust me, when you need to pull this tool out, it’s because you can barely fit your hand, let alone any other tools. It is a bit tight once it locks in place making it a little hard to spin, but the fact that it cuts through so quickly is much better than having to spin it around twenty times.
To be honest, I found myself using this tool even when I didn’t need it just because it cuts quick and effortlessly. It has smooth, stainless steel rollers that keep it from spiraling the cuts like regular tubing cutters can do when you don’t have the right tension. After a cut was made, it didn’t leave any raised edges or burs which make it hard to slide your fittings on.
Reviewer’s Note: A little tip for removing the burs off the end of the pipe is to get a small pair of pliers and twist them around the edge. The teeth of the pliers will remove them much faster than if you try to sand them off.
There are a lot of small details in this small tool, and I would recommend it to anyone who works with copper pipe. Just don’t forget after you celebrate getting the pipe cut with Lenox Tight Space Tubing Cutter, you still have to solder it right next to that highly flammable piece of wood! Happy Plumbing.