When you bend EMT pipe, it’s very important you REAM the pipe (also known as deburring).
You must always think to yourself, “Is the Wire Safe?”.
After you cut metal conduit, if you gently touch the pipe opening with your finger, you will see it’s VERY SHARP, and you will know your wire will not be safe if you pull wires through it.
Here is my favorite reamer for electricians.. purchase it here.
What We Cover in this Article:
- What is a Pipe Reamer?
- Different Types of Pipe Reamers
What is a Pipe Reamer?
Again, after you cut EMT pipe, it’s VERY sharp. You DO NOT want to pull your wires into the pipe as you can score the insulation off the wire! (and compromise the wire’s integrity!)
We electricians use a deburring tool (reamer) to smooth out sharp edges of conduit to allow for a smooth edge before putting on connectors or couplings as we bend pipe. We will then pull our wires into the EMT pipe!
Now, you actually don’t need my favorite reamer by Klein Tools! You can use the tools you already have to save money (but it’s not AS good of an experience).
Different Types of Pipe Reamers
I will list some great pipe reaming options for electricians just below. These can be pipe reaming tools you ALREADY HAVE to save money, but again I really recommend this Reaming Screwdriver by Klein Tools. It really made a difference in workflow while bending pipe!
Sidecutters (Diagonal Cutting Pliers)
Side cutters (also known as Diagonal Cutting Pliers), are probably the BEST pipe reaming tool when talking about a tool that you probably already own.
Side cutters can ream 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1″ EMT pipe. (Anything bigger, it’s best to get a half-round file).
I show in the video above how to ream pipe with side cutters..
But the trick is to close the side cutters and put them into the pipe and twist it around to deburr the inside of the pipe.
Then it’s also important to do a quick ream of the outside of the pipe, too! So open the side cutters gently in your hand, and twist the pipe and side cutters at the same time (watch the video above).. you will see how well it works!
You will have a smooth pipe for your wires, making SURE the integrity of the wire is intact when pulling wire into EMT Pipe!
Hand Reamer by Klein Tools
After my many attempts of trying different tools to ream EMT pipe, I finally decided to buy this Hand Reamer by Klein Tools. (It also reams 1/2″, 3/4″, and 1″ EMT pipe).
The thing is, these Reaming Screwdrivers are quite pricey.. so I always tried to avoid buying one and using the side cutter method above (because why buy another tool, right!?)..
However, I kept seeing other electricians have what turned into my favorite hand reamer by Klein Tools. And so I finally bought one.. and I instantly realized, it was so worth it!
If you bend a lot of pipe, it sped up my workflow tremendously. You just put it in the pipe, twist it back and forth a couple times, check if it’s smooth with your finger, and you’re good to go.
If the teeth ever dull out on you, you can easily replace the blade with an Allen Key.
(After 4-5 years of use, I never had to replace the blade!)
One word of caution, do not be SUPER HARD on the reamer. If going one way feels aggressive on the tool, try reaming it in the other direction, and that often worked, and prolonged the life of this tool!
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS KLEIN TOOLS HAND REAMER (Model #85191):
Regular Lineman’s Pliers
Sadly, pliers didn’t ream well for me. I found they were heavy, and inconsistent. And most importantly.. if I remember correctly, they didn’t ream 1/2″ pipe very well!
So.. I’d say look towards the side cutter option above for a much better experience, if you’re on a budget!
Drill Attachment Pipe Reamer
Now I haven’t personally used a drill attachment pipe reamer (view one here on Amazon), but I have seen them in use on a jobsite.
They seem to work really well, but they also seemed to be quite aggressive (if you’re not careful).
They even have drill bit attachments on the front of them, so you can continue to use your Phillips or Robertson screw head, in addition to it being a reamer (and help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome!).
But personally, I just liked using my recommended Klein Tools Screwdriver Reamer, and having my impact drill (or driver) have its own bit, as that gave me the best workflow.
Half-Round File (for Larger than 1″ EMT Pipe)
The image above is a half-round file.
When it came to EMT Pipe BIGGER than 1″, you’ll want to use a file.
My absolute favorite type of file for reaming (deburring) big conduit was a HALF-ROUND file.
The round part was awesome for filing round surfaces (like the inside of a pipe).
However, if you were building pipe racks, the flat edge was most effective.
By getting this half-round file, you literally had the best of both worlds to file round and flat surfaces, and know that not only your wires will be safe, but also your co-workers, as you should ALWAYS be filing sharp metal edges that you are cutting!
Conclusion: Best Pipe Reaming Tool for Electricians
So there you have it!
There’s LOTS ways you can ream EMT pipe tubing, and I hope the explanations clarified why and why not for these EMT deburring tools mentioned above.
As always, reach out any time, or leave a comment if you have further tips or suggestions about the best tools for reaming conduit!
You can grab my FAVORITE Klein Tools Hand Reamer here.
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