A ratchet tube cutter has a ratchet cutting action which allows for the handles to be squeezed together easily, without much strain on the user’s part. The ratchet tube cutter has a similar structure to a pair of cutting shears.
A ratchet mechanism consists of a round gear with slanted grooves (teeth) around the edge and a spring-loaded finger or pawl. When the handles are squeezed together, pressure is exerted, the gear turns and the pawl clicks across each of the teeth.The teeth and pawl prevent a backwards motion and this means the user can only exert so much pressure before the handles return to their open state ready to be pressed again.
The ratchet tube cutter can struggle to make a square cut. This is because it squeezes the tube to make the cut and distorts the tube shape. If it is essential that the tube is cut square, for example if you are making a water line, then the ratchet tube cutter may not be the best option. A power tube cutter or three way cutter may be more useful in making a square cut.
Ratcheting tube cutters are available to cut most soft plastics and some larger ratcheting cutters can cut thin aluminium tubing. But you should check the information with your cutter to see which materials it is suited for.
The ratcheting tube cutter comes in a number of sizes and because of its open blades, one cutter can hold a range of different sized tubes. Most cutters can cut pipe as small as 3mm (0.1″) in diameter. The maximum diameter of tube the ratcheting pipe cutters can cut ranges from 26mm (1″) to 63mm (2.4″).