Most hikers would agree that there’s nothing better than using carbon fiber hiking poles, especially in steep terrain. However, the weight and size of many carbon fiber poles can get quite cumbersome after just a few miles.

In fact, carbon fiber tubes can sometime slow your hiking pace and quickly deplete your body’s energy reserves. Many hikers opt to get a new set of hiking poles that are smaller in size.

On the other hand, a better choice would be to cut the carbon fiber tubing to suit your needs.

To Take into Consideration

There are a few things that need to be regarded before cutting fiber tubing. The main considerations are:

  • Cutting tools
  • Dust collection
  • Finishing materials
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)

The biggest concern is dust collection. Actually, dust and particles that are dust produced while cutting carbon fiber tubes can be reasonably dangerous if proper precautions are not taken.

In truth, with the right conditions, carbon dust can be unstable and explosive.

A proper dust collector is recommended to decrease the risk of fine particulates exploding.

In addition, be careful around electronics; the high electrical conductivity of carbon can quickly overheat the motherboard (main circuit) of laptops, computers and other devices that are close by.

Before cutting, circumnavigate the area and cover or move any devices that are too close to the workspace.

Carbon fiber tubing can be a challenge to cut. Likewise, if not done properly the tubing can be permanently damaged.

However, a few simple tips can make cutting carbon fiber tubing a simple task with a successful clean cut.

The Right Materials

To make a successful clean cut, it is imperative that you use the right materials. Not only is PPE important but so is cutting and finishing.

PPE – Safety glasses, proper dust collection, respiratory & hearing protection.

Cutting – the best is a diamond coated abrasive cut-off blade.

Finishing – use abrasive surfaces like sand paper. Ideally use light sandpaper or a file.

Blades Not Recommended

Regular steel tools will work just fine, but they will quickly wear down because of the abrasive nature of all carbon. Plus steel tools do not make as clean a cut as diamond coated.

Using a water jet for cutting is not recommended unless it is an aggregate style water jet. The best settings would be twill prepreg or uni/twill.

As well, a laser cutter is not a good option for cutting carbon fiber. In fact, the laser actually melts the epoxy too quickly and affects the carbon fibers.

The result is a poor cut line with minimal broken fibers.

How to Cut Carbon Fiber Tubes

There are only a few steps to follow to assure a clean cut every time.

  1. Select the Right Blade – the perfect blade is a diamond coated abrasive cut-off blade instead of a toothed blade. Actually, the teeth can catch the fiber and thus tear the material. This results in delamination (divides into layers) and splintering.
  2. Prevent Gumming – oftentimes a denser tube may produce enough heat to re-activate the epoxy. The re-activation can cause the blade to “gum-up”. To prevent “gumming”, cool the blade and cutting surface. Also, a segmented blade will help decrease the heat. A wet saw can also be used, but lonely if it is an aggregate style water jet.
  3. Supporting the Tube – to achieve a clean cut it is very important that the tubing is properly brace and supported. To ensure a square cut, brace the tube against a dam or straight edge at the proper angle you prefer. If your tube is not supported, it will typically result in a “burred” edge. Burrs are caused by one side of the tube moving before the cut is completed. Burrs are often found on the “drop” section. It is very important to brace and support both the cut end and the drop end of the tube, especially if there are multiple sections are being cut from the tube.
  4. Cleaning the Edge – even with a clean cut, the cut edge can have fibers or burrs on the tube. The edge can be cleaned by spinning the cut edge on a piece of sandpaper or other abrasive materials.

There are several issues that you may run into while cutting carbon fiber; gumming, overheating and burring are the most common problems. Nonetheless, if you adhere to the basic tips, you should have a clean cut most every time.