Should I Buy a Plasma Cutter?

Metalworking is tough. Luckily, there are plenty of tools out there that can make things a little easier around your shop. Plasma cutters are one of those tools. Quick, clean cuts are easy with this powerful tool. Of course, not all plasma cutters are created equal, so how do you decide which one to buy? And do you even need a plasma cutter? This article addresses whether or not you need a plasma cutter, and how to decide which one is best for you.

Do I Need a Plasma Cutter?

A plasma cutter can be a big investment, especially if you’re looking at some of the fancier models. The sticker shock has already turned many potential buyers away, and it will probably continue to do so for a long time. But one thing that keeps many metalworkers on the fence about plasma cutters is their utility. Simply put, nothing can cut steel and other metal components as accurately and precisely as a plasma cutter. Torches can do the job for cheap, but you lack the precision that some work, like removing floor panels and exhaust systems, calls for.

Because they’re so effective and expensive, many metalworkers and welders see plasma cutters as a luxury. They think that if they can make it work with other tools, they don’t necessarily need a pricey plasma cutter lying around. This viewpoint is valid, and if you’re not planning on doing much work with a plasma cutter you would be justified in deciding not to purchase one. But if the price is no problem, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get one for your shop or garage. It’s simply the best choice for precise work done quickly.

What if you’re a business? Although it is perfectly reasonable for a hobbyist to recoil at the price and to turn to other options, it is a different story for businesses. While an amateur should see the cost as money spent, a professional has to look at it as an investment. If you can make your work faster, more efficient, and more precise, you would be remiss if you then decided not to do so.

Yes, a plasma cutter will probably run you over $1000, and even upwards of $2000 for the really fancy models. However, the time and trouble you save yourself, not to mention the higher quality of work, will make this tool pay for itself. Having a plasma cutter laying around your shop will help you work smarter, instead of working harder.

In conclusion, whether or not you should buy a plasma cutter depends on you. If you’re tight on cash and you just need a tool to help you restore an older car, you can make it work with less expensive saws. If money is no object, a plasma cutter will save you tons of time and bring a level of accuracy and precision to your work that can’t be beaten. Before you buy, read the rest of this article to help you decide what kind of cutter is best for you, and head over to Cuts Like Butter to read up on the best brands available. If you’re looking for tools for your shop, you, your employees, and your customers will all be grateful you decided to purchase a plasma cutter. Plasma cutters are faster, which translates to less money lost to labor. You’ll have fewer mistakes, better work, and you’ll always have the right tool for the job.

Which Plasma Cutter Should I Buy?

You’ll want to look at a few different features when deciding which plasma cutter to buy. The cutter you decide on should be the one which is best suited to your needs. Different plasma cutters are better for different purposes.

  • Power

Each plasma cutter can break most efficiently through different levels of thickness in the metal. This is best determined by the device’s power specification.

  • Voltage

Most plasma cutters work with your standard 110/120 voltage wall outlets, but some of the more powerful dual-voltage cutters require a 220/240 voltage utility junction. Obviously, the latter can cut through greater thickness much faster, but the former can handle most at-home work easily.

  • Amperage

The cutting arc is generated through electrical currents which are measured in amps. Most cutters operate at a standard 50 amps, which slices right through steel plating, but some devices even operate at higher levels to function as welders too.

  • Features
  • Housing

Although some cutters come complete with secure housings, other lightweight cutters are only suited for indoor use.

  • Controls and Read Outs

Most cutters will have a power switch and a knob or slider to control the settings. Some high-end machines have pressure gauges as well, and some even come with digital controls, waveform settings, and status indicators.

  • Consumable Components

As you continue to use your plasma cutter, the tool head gradually wears away. Luckily, it’s easily replaceable, and many cutters already include replacements like shielded cups and electrodes. Otherwise, you can buy backup parts for your device after determining which sizes fit your plasma cutter.

  • Safety

Although some plasma cutters come complete with safety gear like gloves and safety shields, it’s important that you buy them yourself if yours does not. Anything you would wear while arc welding should be worn when using a plasma cutter, as they share the same safety hazards. 

If you’re considering buying a plasma cutter, make sure that you find one that best suits you or your business’s needs. Remember, a plasma cutter is pricey, but it’s an investment. Nothing cuts as quickly or precisely as a plasma cutter, so make sure you’ve got a reliable one lying around your shop or garage so you’re ready to tackle any project that comes your way.