In a follow up to our recent look at some of the best plasma cutters on the market, we have decided to bring you a short top-tip guide to get better use out of your new tool.
The fact is plasma cutters are relatively easy to use. This means many hobbyists will pick up the torch and get to work as soon as the machine is pieced together.
However, this often leads to results that lack the quality and efficiency that can actually be achieved under the correct guidance.
By following some of the tips below, you will find yourself creating better cuts and getting more out of your plasma cutting tool.
Knowing your amperage and selecting the right tip
Selecting the correct tip for your power setting is another important variable that can often be overlooked.
A tip designed for low amperage operation will have a smaller exit hole. This will ensure that plasma stream is narrower while working on a low power setting, essentially the system works more efficiently this way.
Selecting the right tip will also increase the life of your consumables. If you make the mistake of running a thin tip on a high power setting, (a 40-amp tip at 80-amps for instance), the tip will wear out faster and be less precise.
Sample Cuts are your friend
Whenever you begin cutting a new type of material, make a small sample cut first. This way you will be able to adjust your settings if required, as well as test to find the optimum travel speed.
Starting the cut (the right way)
Starting the cut on thin materials is simple enough. You will be able to pierce the metal with the plasma arc quickly, with minimum backsplash.
The same cannot be said on thicker materials however. Here you should begin the cut by adjusting the torch to a 45-degree angle against the metal.
This will allow the arc to punch through the surface of the material, with room for the metal to jettison away form the work area.
This will result in a cleaner cut with minimum splash back, (and longer lasting consumables).
Watch your travel-speed
Generally speaking, the faster your travel-speed along a smooth, uninterrupted line, the better your cuts will be.
However, getting the right speed for the material being cut does take practice, (this is why the sample cut is recommended).
When working on thicker materials you should set the machine to full output, with a travel speed consistent with the area you can efficiently cover while cutting through the metal.
Thinner material can be worked on at a good speed, with the amperage set to minimum. As explained above, the low amp tip should also be selected in order to maintain a clean and precise cut.
Clamping down the line
It is all too tempting to draw the line for you cut, pick up the torch and get to work.
However, taking time to clamp a straight edge to your work piece is well worth the effort, (it will take you all of 30 seconds if you have the tools by your side).
The edge will guide your torch down the line for straighter, more professional results.
Likewise if you are making multiple cuts of the same shape; allow some time to create a template. This will give you uniform results leading to a far better finish.
Practice your movements
Don’t worry, no one is watching. Do not be afraid to practice the sweep of your cut without pulling the trigger.
This is especially true on long cuts where it is difficult to follow through in one smooth movement, (and stopping and restarting will lead to an inferior finish).
By running your body and arms through the movement before you begin, you will be able to adjust yourself to a more comfortable stance and ensure your position and balance are right for the job in hand.
Read the manual (Duh!)
Okay, this one may seem a little simple but it is amazing how many plasma cutter owners (or any owner of a power tool for that matter), fail to properly read the manual before they begin using their new machine.
Take time to get your head around your tool. Familiarize yourself with the settings so that you can operate the cutter safely and efficiently.
There you have it, some quick, easy to follow tips for better plasma cutting.
If you keep these in mind when using your machine, we promise you better results. Your cuts will be cleaner and your consumables will last longer.
The bottom line is, you will get more out of your tool.