I have been making metal jewelry for several years, and suddenly I
find that my most compelling creative ideas are moving my work off
the body and onto tables and walls. A lot of my tools still serve me
well in shaping and brazing larger pieces of metal, but I have
discovered that using a jeweler's saw (with the largest blade I can
find) on, say, 1/8-inch aluminum is an exercise in patience and
probably a recipe for repetitive movement injury. I have been eyeing
a Beverly shear for cutting, but I'm wondering about a plasma
cutter. Does anyone have experience with these? One big question is
will the cheap ones work well enough, or is this a situation where
investing in a high-quality tool makes more sense?
I use a plasma cutter often for outdoor projects.....tables,
planters, my own displays, sculpture, big stuff... I have an old (15
years) tired one that I actually repaired the handle myself by making
a new copper part for the interior because the part was no longer
made. The part looked like a little copper whistle- I don't even
know what it's called....
I have a new plasma cutter, an expensive one, works like slicing
through butter, like drawing through metal effortlessly. You get
what you pay for. I would invest as much as you can on it. My old
one lasted a long time and still works now that I repaired it but
its big and clumsy on a huge cart and still needs a compressor. They
have changed a lot. If you buy a quality one it will last a very
long time and hold its value besides. Makes easy/fast work out of
It's very dirty, messy, and dangerously hot to boot... Not sure
where you work but a nice clean indoor jewelry studio would not
work. Also if you have nicely painted cars in a garage.....lots of
sparks to pit the paint.... Need a dirty safe space to work like
outside or shed.
Hope this helps. You'll have fun if you buy one. :)
I use a Hypertherm. I have the large one that slices .75" plate
steel like butter but they make smaller ones that are good as well. I
would suggest you buy a good brand and a size larger than you think
you will need, as they are more technical than they look and are
advertised to cut the very maximum thickness. If you want to cut .5"
constantly, buy the one that is rated for. 75". There are several
mfg. Miller, Lincoln, and others... Hobart would be my last choice
but only because I have a friend with one that gives constant
problems... he might have just gotten a bad unit to start with.
I ALWAYS feel that getting the best tool you can afford at the
moment is the best policy. You might be able to try some plasma
cutters at your local welding supply shop or at some welding shop
with a nice and understanding owner. Asking a welding supplier about
what shops/who in your area have purchased plasma cutters so you can
narrow down your search would help too. I have a fairly "large"
cutter and love it for all sorts of things. Use it mostly to cut
sprues and vents off of bronze castings we have. Thin stock cuts VERY
FAST which could be a problem. Also if you cannot keep cutting metal
while having the hand piece on, the tip tends to burn up so a smaller
unit might be better, smaller, not necessarily a cheap unit. Again,
talk to a welding supply shop and if possible, try some units before
Where are you? I am in NW Washington and you are welcome to try my
plasma cutter if you are close by.
I have used a Hypertherm Max 20, their smallest, for about 18 years,
for burning hinges on pancake dies. I had to have the circuit board
rebuilt recently, and have gone through several handles, but it's
been a real champ. The thickest i've ever cut is 1/4" steel; most of
the time 3/32" tool steel is the most it has to do. Definitely buy a
good one, was what I heard from the techs I've talked to.