Plumbing tools info

Use and care of tools

Successful plumbing work depends, to a great extent, on the use of the right tools in the proper way. Many of the tools used in plumbing are also used in other types of work around the house, but certain special implements will be necessary if plumbing work is to be done correctly. Since several of these are rather expensive, the amateur plumber should consider carefully which ones he will need for the work he intends to do. By judging his own plumbing problems, he can best decide which tools should be obtained at once, which can be purchased later, and which can be eliminated.

Once bought, tools should be protected to keep them in working order and to prolong their life. The following general rules, if followed, will add years of usefulness to any man's tool kit:

  1. Handle all tools properly, repairing or sharpening them as soon as necessary. Understand a tool's function before using it.
  2. Prevent rust. This can be done by cleaning with boiled linseed oil or plain motor oil.
  3. Protect tools in constant use with a coat of hard varnish.
  4. Have a tool box or other means of carrying tools while in use. Keeptools in racks whenever they are not in use.

The material included in this chapter is divided into four major parts. The first is a list of those tools which will be used most frequently by any one doing plumbing work. They will take care of almost any job. The second part describes the tools used in threading, cutting, and fitting lead, copper, brass, and iron pipe. The third enumerates miscellaneous and special tools used in working with specific types of pipe and in doing special kinds of plumbing repair work. The last section contains materials which may be needed in your plumbing work.

Set of plumber's tools

  • Floor Chisel, 5/8" cut
  • Floor Chisel, 1" cut
  • Spring Yarning Iron
  • Star Drill, 1/4" cut
  • Star Drill, 1/2" cut
  • Star Drill, 3/4" cut
  • Star Drill, 1" cut
  • Offset Yarning Iron
  • Aligning Punch, 3/16" point
  • Pony Calker, inside
  • Pony Calker, outside
  • Long Calker, inside
  • Long Calker, outside
  • Offset Calker, inside
  • Offset Calker, outside
  • Offset Screwdriver, 1/4" bits
  • Soil Pipe Chisel, 3/4" cut
  • Concrete Gad, 12" long
  • Cold Chisel, 3/4" cut
  • Brick Chisel
  • Drift Punch, 1" cut
  • Broad-Nose Calking Iron
  • Gasket Calker
  • Diagonal Cutting Plier, 7"
  • Parrot-Nose Wrench Plier, 7"
  • Water Pump Plier, 9 1/2"
  • Comb. Slip joint Plier, 6"
  • Adjustable Hacksaw
  • Adjustable Square or Monkey Wrench, 6"
  • Adjustable Square or Monkey Wrench, 12"
  • Pipe Wrench, 8"
  • Pipe Wrench, 14"
  • Pipe Wrench, 18"
  • Ball-peen Hammer, 6 oz.
  • Ball-peen Hammer, 18 oz.
  • Claw Hammer, 1 1/4 lb.
  • Plastic-Tip Hammer, hard
  • 2" diameter tips
  • Plastic-Tip Hammer, soft
  • 1 1/2" diameter tips
  • Socket Set, 3/8" drive
  • Screw Extractor, 13/32" drill
  • Pipe Extractor, 1/2" pipe
  • Piper Extractor, 3/4" pipe
  • Plastic-Handle Screwdriver, 8" long, Phillips #1 bit
  • Plastic-Handle Screwdriver, 8" long, Phillips #2 bit
  • Wood-Handle Screwdriver, 9" long, 9/32" bit
  • Wood-Handle Screwdriver, 1413/16" long, 13/32" bit
  • Wood-Handle Screwdriver, 16 3/4" long, 13/32" bit
  • Wood-Handle Screwdriver, 8 7/8" long, 7/32" bit

Cutting, threading, fitting


Most of the pipe an amateur plumber cuts will be less than 2" in diameter. A hand-operated pipe cutter is used on all pipes except the smaller sizes of soft-metal piping such as copper and brass. The pipe, when inserted into the cutter, rests on two steel rollers at its base. A knife-edged wheel does the cutting. It can be moved against or away from the pipe by means of a threaded shaft. To cut pipe, insert it securely into a vise with the pipe extending far enough over the edge of the work table to permit a complete rotation of the cutter. Then open the cutter until it will fit over the end of the pipe and thread the wheel down firmly against the pipe at the point you have marked for cutting. Place a few drops of cutting oil on the mark and rotate the cutter around the pipe. After each turn, screw the cutting wheel down a little farther until the pipe is severed.

If there is much pipe to be cut, or if the pipe is comparatively thick, a cutter should be used instead of a hacksaw. Use 1- to 3-wheel cutters for 1/8" to 4" pipe, and chain cutters for any pipes over 4" in diameter. A hacksaw should be used, however, to prevent breaking the lining.

Dies and stocks

Dies and stocks are tools used for threading the outside ends of hard-metal pipes. The dies cut the thread while the stock holds the dies in place. There are two types of die, solid and adjustable. The solid type is not favored much because it is necessary to have a different die for each thickness of pipe. The solid stock also has to be run back over the newly cut threads; this often results in stripped threads. Adjustable stock and die will fit any size of pipe in its range; it has adjustable levers and self-centering guides. Its catch or bolt releases the stock so that it may be withdrawn without a "runback."

Though sizes vary, stocks and dies between 1/8" and 2" will do for most any home plumbing work. Dies to cut either right-handed or left-handed threads are available. Right-handed dies are standard in this country and will be provided unless you specify otherwise. Special brass-pipe dies which cut normal threads but are designed with a different clearance to compensate for the softness of brass can also be obtained. Such special dies are recommended for threading large quantities of brass pipe.

To use the die and stock for threading, first clamp the pipe in a vise, using friction clamps as described below. The vise should hold the pipe as near as possible to the end of the pipe while still leaving you space to work. Place the die in position and give the die a slight turn in the direction of the desired thread until the teeth catch the end of the pipe. Apply plenty of lubrication oil, or a light cutting or lard oil, between the cutters of the die. This will keep the die cool and its cutting edges sharp. Do not jerk or yank the dies while turning. Pull steadily to obtain a good, clean-cut thread. After the first few turns, it should take increased pressure to turn the die stock if the teeth have caught properly.

The appropriate length of a complete thread should be 3/4" to 1" for the smaller pipe sizes and 1" to 1 1/4" for pipe sizes up to 2".

Knowing when the thread is long enough is most important in threading pipe. There should be at least five or more perfect threads if there is to be a thorough metal-to-metal contact when the threaded pipe is screwed into the fitting. To test proper thread length see whether the pipe can be screwed into the fitting at least four turns by hand without using a wrench. The standard thread in use in the U.S. tapers slightly toward the end of the pipe and is divided into three parts. The first part consists of perfect threads, that is, cut correctly at top, bottom, and sides; the second part has correctly cut bottoms and sides, but is imperfect at the top; the last part has neither perfect tops nor perfect bottoms. The perfect threads at the beginning of the pipe assure that the pipe will join easily with the fitting; the imperfect ones, when turned into the fitting, make a tight, snug junction.

Always clean stocks and dies after use; remove all dirt, oil, and chips. Remember to keep dies sharp and to have stocks repaired when they are broken.

Files and rasps

Files and rasps are used to smooth or file down rough edges on pipes or other pieces of metal, such as soldered joints, burrs, sheet lead, and the like. A complete file and rasp set includes several half-round and square rasps; half-round and flat bastard files; a flat mill file; and taper and slim taper files. However, they are not all necessary: one or two of each type in the smaller widths can be used for most jobs.

Files and rasps should always be cleaned after use. A wire brush will remove imbedded metal filings. An excellent cleaning solution can be made of warm water and potash. Be sure to dry these tools thoroughly after washing to prevent rusting.

Flaring tool

This tool is only used when preparing copper tubing for a flared fitting. Shaped like a modified cone, it is inserted into the end of the tubing. When the wide end of the tool is hit with a hammer, the end of the copper tubing is flared out to make the fitting.

Friction clamps

Friction clamps are used to protect a pipe held in an ordinary vise from being marred or dented by the teeth of the vise. They can be purchased or home-made.

To make a friction clamp, saw a steel pipe coupling in half. Line each half with a piece of 6- or 8-pound sheet lead squeezed into the threads of the coupling by screwing down the clamps and lead sheeting over a piece of brass or iron pipe. Then finish the job by beating the edges of the sheeting over the edge of the coupling. Because the threads only partially penetrate the lead, this lining fits snugly around the pipe, furnishing a large surface which holds the pipe by friction and prevents the teeth of the vise from marring the surface. A simpler clamp can be made from two 2"x4" wood blocks grooved to hold the pipe and placed in a vise with flat or square jaws. For added gripping power, sprinkle powdered resin in the grooves of your clamp before inserting the pipe.


For cutting smaller sizes of pipe, especially brass or copper, a hacksaw is often preferable to a cutter. Hold the pipe to be cut firmly in the vise; the cutting mark should be as close as possible to the jaws. This keeps the pipe steady and reduces vibration. The blade should be held perpendicular to the axis of the pipe and at right angles to it horizontally. This will enable you to make a true cut. If you have to do a lot of sawing, a jig to hold and guide the blade is most useful.

A good hacksaw will have an adjustable bow and can be fitted with different blades for specific jobs. Use a blade with 24 teeth to the inch for iron and brass pipe; a blade with 32 teeth to the inch for thin tubing or very soft metal pipe. Blades with 14 teeth to the inch will cut large sections of mild material like clay pipe; those with 18 teeth to the inch are good for tool or highspeed steels.

Joint runners

Joint runners are attachments used when pouring hot joints for hub-andspigot pipe. They permit hot lead to be poured all around a round or irregularly shaped joint at one time, if it is in a horizontal postion.

Pipe taps

Pipe taps thread the inner surfaces of pipe in the same way that stocks and dies thread the outer edges. They are also used for re-threading and come in sizes for pipes with outside diameters ranging from 1/8" to 2". Pipe taps vary in the number of threads they will make per inch. They should be kept clean and sharp if they are to make clean-cut threads. When worn, they should be replaced.


Pliers are used so often and for so many purposes that you should buy only the highest quality. Although they vary in size and shape according to their purpose, pliers fall into two general classes: those with essentially flat jaws to hold flat objects, and those with arched jaws to hold round objects.


Reamers are used to remove from the inside of pipe any burrs left by cutting. Reaming makes a smooth bore, prevents possible stoppages, and permits unimpeded flow of water and waste. Some reamers can be purchased with handles already attached; others are made to fit an ordinary carpenter's brace.


Very little cutting or threading can be accomplished without the use of a vise to hold the pipe. The special pipe vises made for this purpose are excellent; they hold the pipe rigid while it is being worked on and have a frame which permits quick release of the pipe when the job is done. Another type of pipe vise uses a chain to hold the pipe. It takes up less room on the bench and is less awkward to use. The best vise for the man who wants one for all-around use is the combination machinist's and pipe vise which can be used for other kinds of work besides plumbing. A friction clamp is necessary, however, if you want to use it with soft-metal pipe. Vise jaws should be kept sharp and aligned; the guides should be well-oiled.


Good wrenches are essential for holding pipe, turning fittings, and numerous other jobs. The rigid "monkey" wrench is most common; it comes in sizes from 6" to 18". What size you use depends on the size of pipe with which you are working. The following chart is a general guide to which wrench works best for a given pipe size:

Size of Pipe Size of Wrench
1/8" to 1/4"
3/8" to 1/2"
1" to 1 1/4"
1 1/2" to 2"
Over 2"
36" or chain tongs

Chain tongs are used on all larger sizes of pipe. Before using, check your wrench to see whether its teeth are sharp and clean, and its springs and pins are tight. Adjust your wrench to hold the pipe at the center of its jaws; this will keep it from slipping and possibly injuring yourself or the pipe. When making up joints between pipes and fittings, the two wrenches, one on the fitting and the other on the pipe, should be close to each other to reduce the strain on the joints.

Use a parmalee wrench on brass pipe. It will not bite into soft metal or bend it out of shape. Use a strap wrench on plated or polished pipe to avoid marring the surface.

Non-adjustable wrenches of varying sizes are preferable for tightening bolts and locknuts, but the 6" or 10" monkey wrench can be used.

Plumbing basics

Bathroom fixtures
Bathroom floor plans
Bathtub installation
Installing lavatory
Water closet install

Cesspool / septic tanks

Fixture pipes
House drain
House sewer
Soil stack
Vent piping

Finishing touch

Heating a home


Dishwasher install
Garbage disposer install
Kitchen plans
Kitchen sink installation
Laundry install
Room plans
Work areas

Cast Iron

Plumbing layout
Pipe plan
Water distributing

Faucet repair
Pipe problems
Repair other
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Plumbing materials
Specialty tools

Water Supply

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