Why I don’t own a plasma cutter.
It’s amazing how far plasma cutters have come in the last few years…from the giant clunkers that would use different gas mixtures, depending on what you were cutting, to the new machines as big as a shoe box that use compressed air. Now, you just need to turn the dial and pull the trigger.
I actually don’t own a plasma cutter of my own, and there are a few reasons for it. The consumables are expensive and you’ll go through them very quickly if you don’t have clean air for your cutter; get a good dedicated air cleaner for your cutter if you use one.
My biggest reason for not having one is that in most situations there are better ways to cut metal:
-While a plasma cutter is amazing on thin material, a torch in experienced hands leaves a better finish on thicker pieces; plasma cutters tend to slightly bevel one side of the cut and it’s much more apparent when cutting thick material.
-For Aluminum, if a shear won’t do it, I find the cheapest and cleanest way to cut it is with a chop or skill saw and a cheap carbide blade.
-For stainless, I use abrasive wheels, which is a relatively expensive way to cut, but I don’t have much stainless work to do.
In spite of my opinion of plasma cutters, they’re amazing and are very useful; just not for the work I do. I’ve always had a bit of an anti-plasma cutter attitude, and was set straight one day by a coworker who was cutting up an old truck box. Unsolicited, I gave him my standard poo-pooing of plasma cutters. Instead of telling me to buzz off, like he could have, he grabbed his plasma torch and burned his signature into a panel as fast as he would if he were using a pen and said that a machine that could do that was very useful and worth the cost; I had to agree.
For non ferrous cutting and thin steel sheets or heavier pieces where you don’t want as much heat input, they’re amazing. I do have to confess that they’re nice for cutting copes in pipe joints but I’m small potatoes and unless I end up doing a big stainless job, you won’t be seeing one in my shop.