A pipe extractor is a small steel device used to pull a threaded or unthreaded end of a piece of piping from another pipe, after the first pipe is broken. Once the pipe end has broken inside the threads of another pipe, or when a pipe nipple has broken off at the end of the pipe it was capping, the piece that is broken must often be removed to replace the pipe or the capping nipple. One of the most efficient means of accomplishing this task is through the use of a pipe extractor because the extractor allows for the retrieval of the broken piece without having to cut or rethread the intact pipe.
Pipe extractors often must be made of a material much stronger than that of the pipe they are being used to remove. As such, they are commonly made out of steel. This durable material is required because the extractors are used to create enough tension within the pipe to make the extractor spin freely inside the pipe without turning or twisting the outside pipe. The extractor must be able to spin in order to free the broken piece from the pipe's inside.
The design of the pipe extractor is the determining factor in how well the extractor mechanism works. Generally, the extractors themselves are typically sold in a set to provide multiple circumferences to be used with different types of pipe. Smaller extractors can be used to do precision jobs.
There are two ends of the pipe extractor. These ends are referred to as the pipe end and the tool end. One end is more round and possibly toothed or ridged in spaces, and the other is shaped to allow for either a hand or power tool to be attached to it.
The most commonly used power tool that is attached to a pipe extractor is a power drill. This makes the task of turning the pipe extractor much easier. The end that the tool is attached to is typically in the same shape as a bolt lug or nut, with six flat sides that can be grabbed by a wrench or chucked into a power drill.
Once the pipe extractor has been forced into the pipe, the ridges or notches on the pipe end of the tool grab against the inside walls of the broken pipe piece. Once this occurs, the pipe can then be removed with not much more than a simple twisting and pulling action. It is this ease of use that makes the pipe extractor tool as popular as it is.