PVC cutters aren’t the sexiest tools to talk about, but for electricians, plumbers, and irrigation specialists that use them every day, a good set is indispensable. We got our hands on the Greenlee PVC pipe cutter that includes ratcheting action and a quick release. It promises to make the experience easier and safer. We put it to use ourselves and put it in the hands of our resident electrician, Ben Parker, to see if lives up to its claims.
- Ratcheting cutting action reduces hand fatigue
- Comfortable handle grips
- Easily replaceable blade requires no tools
- Cutting edge is recessed in both fully open and closed positions
- Square jaw design makes it easy to line up your cut
- Spring loaded blade release snaps the blade back into a ready position for the next cut
- Leaves a smooth finish on your cuts
- A little bit of play in the tool allows the cut to wander slightly
- Premium price may cause some hesitation
Greenlee’s ratcheting PVC pipe cutter is a well-designed tool that will make your next job easier. It’s price clearly puts it in the premium category, but it’s a purchase that will pay dividends if you’re using it every day.
Greenlee PVC Pipe Cutter Feature Set
- Replaceable Blade: Effortlessly replace the blade without tools or loose parts – just pull the blade straight out.
- Square Jaw: Holds pipe up to 1-5/8″ without letting it slip off the edge. Pulling the jaw toward you against the pipe will let you line up a straight cut.
- Blade Release Lever: Once you snap through the cut, you can hit the release lever to kick it back into position for the next one. Since you can reach it in both standard and reverse grips, it’s a one-hand operation.
- Dial Handle Lock: The lock resembles a thumbwheel with its aggressive jimping. Greenlee tells us the design prevents accidental locking. It seems a little stiff at first, but it becomes a smoother operation in a short time.
- Recessed Blade: One of the coolest safety features is that the cutting edge recesses in both the open and closed positions. It’s pretty much dummy-proof, even for your new apprentice.
In the standard jaw-up cutting grip, the Greenlee PVC pipe cutter is comfortable and easy to work. The action is light enough that you can feather the blade until it bites into the pipe with just a couple of fingers, then wrap the others around and apply the force you need to cut through.
With a reverse grip (jaws down), there’s a temptation to put your index finger on top of the grip since the angle of the handle makes it feel like it wants to slip. In reality, the overmold secures your grip enough that’s it doesn’t slip. Even if you do want to put that finger forward, there’s little risk of injury from the moving part of the jaw.
The handle grips remain comfortable through the cut. When you snap through the last squeeze, there’s no shock that reaches your hand, so you can cut all day without pain.
While we used this mostly on gray PVC electrical conduit, it should work equally well as a plumbing tool. In internal testing, Greenlee says their design uses up much less hand force than their competition, including an advantage over Klein. Here’s how the numbers shake out.
Average Handle Force Cutting 1-5/8″ Schedule 40 PVC
- Lenox R1: 107.4 lbs
- Klein Tools 50031: 42.0 lbs
- Greenlee 864QR: 32.8 lbs
I don’t have any way to validate those tests, but I can say that this cutter is refreshingly easy to cut PVC with. However, the cut is a little slower than other ratcheting cutters we’ve used. It takes 14 handle pulls to cover the full range. On the other hand, those small movements require less force from your hand. It can also help you be more accurate when you’re starting the cut.
With a new blade, the cutter leaves a nice, clean cut without any rogue shards or burrs to catch on. There is enough play for the blade to wander slightly during the cut, though. You’ll get a cut that’s not perfectly straight, but it’s nowhere near enough to mess up your connection.
In your standard cutting position (jaws up), the cutline is very easy to see. For tighter areas that you need to flip it around for, you can get really close to the ground or a wall. You get the best of both worlds.
In addition to the schedule 40 PVC rigid conduit we’ve been working with, here’s the entire list of what you can expect to cut:
- Rubber hose
- Multilayer tubing
You’ll pay around $85 for this Greenlee ratcheting PVC cutter, which isn’t out of the range of other premium models, like Klein. It’s clearly quite a bit more than a non-ratcheting cutter at $15. However, if you’re using a PVC cutter day in and day out, you’ll notice a big difference in hand fatigue by the end of the day. Between that and the tool-free blade changes, it’s an appealing option for electricians primarily and for some plumbers and irrigation specialists.
The Bottom Line
Although it comes with a premium price tag, this Greenlee PVC Pipe Cutter alleviates a lot of the hand fatigue you’ll get with other models and keeps the job a bit safer with its quick release and recessed blade design.
Greenlee PVC Pipe Cutter Specifications
- Model: Greenlee 864QR 1-1/4″ PVC Quick Release Ratcheting PVC Cutter
- Style: Ratcheting PVC cutter
- Capacity: 1/8″ – 1-5/8″ outside diameter
- Length: 9″
- Weight: 1.35 pounds
- Price: $170.99