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Plasma Cutting: "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?!"



Kevin is working on a new fountain and needs to cut some metal to skin the sides of the water feature's arch. That makes this a good time to discuss some problems to avoid when using a plasma cutter.

The first thing you want to do is make sure your plasma cutter is plugged in and that you have air. Make sure your compressor is running and that you have your air pressure set right not only on your compressor but also on your machine for whatever you are cutting.

What are the right settings? Kevin is cutting some 1/8" mild steel plate, so he has his amperage set at about 32. The air pressure is still set at 90 PSI because he was cutting some half-inch plate recently, so he's going to back it off to about 55 PSI. He just put a brand new nozzle and electrode on the cutting torch - they're small (about an .030) so he doesn't need a lot of amperage or air pressure. He's just cutting something thin, so that's about right for this job.

How do you know how to set it? Kevin called George at George's Plasma Cutter Shop and spent some time talking about tip sizes, pressures, amperages, etc. But you can also just get online and search for "correct plasma cutter amperage air pressure settings" or go to http://www.weld.com and ask on the Weekend Warrior forum - there are a lot of knowledgeable people there who can help.

Now that your machine is set up and your settings are adjusted, you have your ground hooked up, your metal clamped down and marked where you want to cut, it's time to get suited up with safety equipment. Use dark glasses, gloves, a jacket and proper clothing - don't try to plasma cut in shorts, sneaker, fabric boots, etc. Wear leather boots - there are a lot of hot sparks and molten metal flying.

When you check on your air compressor and hook up your air to the machine, make sure you have a water separator somewhere in the line. The AHP AlphaCUT 60 he is using has a water separator built in to the machine, but if it's an older plasma cutter, it may not have one. So you either need a water separator that goes on the back of the machine, one that goes on your air compressor or somewhere. You want clean, dry air - it'll help your plasma cutter last longer.

Kevin shows a big water separator he put on a couple of years ago when he had a plasma cutter that didn't have a built in one. He just left this one on - two water separators are even better!

It's time to make sparks! Kevin urges viewers not to try to freehand the cut. No matter how young or steady you are, you aren't going to get the smoothest cut you can. You can use a pair of "training wheels," use a straight edge, or even just brace a finger or hand to keep your plasma cutting torch steady.

Kevin braces his hand on his work and cuts a curve - until he starts coughing. "Oh! I forgot something," he admits, and puts on a respirator before he finishes his cut.

So these are some tips and tricks that will give you better cuts, make your machine last longer, and reduce your stress and frustration.

Now hang around for one more moment for an honest admission ....


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