Plasma Cutters & Techniques

Just a couple questions, I have never had or used a plasma cutter before, but I figure I won't ever need to cut thicker than 1/4" Steel or 1/2" Aluminum. Portability is not really needed, it won't leave the garage. Does anyone have a favorite all-around for that type of duty that has served you well?

I just got re-wired, I left open a 20-amp 220v circuit in the garage in case I need it, though I understand many cutters are now 110. Anyhow, I would like this to last 15+ years, so I'm leaning towards Miller or Lincoln.

The other question is can you really cut with any precision with a plasma? I have seen cuts before that looked rough, with lots of slag, and others that looked like a laser cutter did them. Is this a matter of having some type of stencil/ template to cut around? User error/settings? Clammy hands? Just wondering, for example (not that I need to), if I would be able to cut out something like an exhaust header flange and not have it look horrible?
Both a Miller or Lincoln are pretty good units. Keep the 220V and go
with that. A cutting template, less the diameter of the tip will allow you to make some precision cuts. With the appropriate practice, of course.

Anyone else chime in...


RCR GT 40 Gulf Livery 347 Eight Stack injection
I have been looking at plasma cutters for a couple of years. But have not bought one.
Here is what I want. Cost about $1250 shipped.

borrowed this from the ad:

Miller Spectrum® 375 X-TREME™ Plasma Cutter w/XT40 Torch & X-CASE 907529

Miller Spectrum® 375 X-TREME™ plasma cutter now has 30 amps of cutting power to cut mild steel up to 3/8" thick and the flexibilty to go anywhere. The Spectrum® 375 X-TREME™ with the new XT30 plasma torch is the only plasma cutter its size with X-TREME™ cutting power and technologies for X-TREME versatility.

Air Plasma Cutting

Industrial Applications Maintenance
Light Construction
HVAC Ductwork

Features X-TREME™ Versatility - Auto-Line provides state-of-the-art flexibility to the end user. The Auto-Line circuitry automatically connects to 115/230 VAC, single-phase power, 50/60 Hz, without removing the covers to relink the power source. No longer is there a concern if you have the correct machine for the shop or job site.
X-TREME™ Portability - Portable in the shop or at the job site - at 18 lb the shoulder strap allows the end user to easily move from location to location.
Miller's exclusive multi-voltage plug (MVP) allows connection to 115 or 230 V receptacles without tools, choose the plug that fits the receptacle and connect it to the power cord.

LED indicators for pressure, power, cup and temperature allow faster troubleshooting, eliminating unnecessary downtime.
NEW! Auto-Refire™ technology provides ultimate customer convenience by automatically controlling the pilot arc when cutting expanded metal or multiple pieces of metal. The pilot arc will switch in and out as fast as needed when cutting expanded metal and provides maximum power for cutting thicker metal—all automatically! No need for manual re-triggering which reduces user hand fatigue.
Ergonomic design XT30 torch with increased comfort, safety trigger, and improved flexible cable.
NEW! Automatic air regulation automatically compensates for input pressure variation to provide constant recommended torch pressure for optimum cutting performance.
LVC line voltage compensation provides peak performance power under variable conditions (power fluctuations up to 15%) for steady cuts and cleaner ending cuts.
Starts without high frequency so it will not interfere with controls or computers.


Comes Complete With: Spectrum® 375 X-TREME™ plasma cutter
XT30 hand-held torch with 12 ft (3.7 m) cable
Heavy-duty work clamp with 12 ft (3.7 m) cable
X-CASE provides protection in transport and storage
MVP plugs 5-15P (115 V, 15 A), 6-50P (230 V, 50 A)
Consumables box with 3 electrodes and 3 tips
10 ft (3 m) MVP power cord

Free standard ground shipping within contiguous U.S.
Do the research and don't spend anymore than you have to. If it fits your wants and needs then go for it. I have used a Lincoln HD 25 for about 10 years and other than replace the cutting tips, which are consumables, has given absolutely no problems. Its a 110v unit and performed as it should. Take a look on ebay. There are lots of different brand units availablefrom reputable dealers and supply houses. That is where I found mine.


Ron Earp

Seems expensive.

I bought a TIG/Plasma cutter combo from Eastwood for $1000 right before Xmas. The plasma cutter is this one:

Eastwood Versa Cut Plasma Cutter

Cut a lot of 1/4" and 3/16" steel, plus a bunch of sheet metal (door skins and the like) with it and it works great. Definitely has no problem with exhausts and so on.

for $640 I'd highly recommend it, or buy the combination with TIG for around $1300 now. We've used the TIG tons too and it works great.

Maybe this stuff is the "Harbor Freight" or "Northern Tool" of TIG/Plasma but I know we're doing a lot with it in my shop. You can cut precision cuts with it if you use a guide. Freehand is only as good as you can hold it. The plasma jet itself is pretty much the same from machine to machine, it is all in the use of it. I suck, but, I get done what I need to get done and it works for me.
I bought a Thermal Dynamics plasma cutter. After researching a little I found that they were one of the first to make a plasma cutter and I believe that they make the Miller machines. It's a small 20 amp 120 volt machine and cuts 1/4" steel with no problem. I have cut 1/2", but it is at the edge of what it can do. I would get a dryer for the air supply.
This is all great advice, I will have a look at these other eastwood and thermal dynamics machines as options, thanks so much! I also wasn't thinking about it, but going with a Plasma+Tig combo would very nice to have, I'll just need to find one that will work best for the price.

I was actually looking at those CNC plasma tables on ebay, some (of the smaller ones) are not too badly priced at all, if I found myself doing a whole bunch of parts that were less than a couple feet wide, I would seriously consider spending the money on one. I think if you were cutting brackets, flanges, adaptor plates, etc, even on occasion, you may end up saving a little bit of money after a few years (and if not, at least it's convenient).
Eastwood is having a sale (until the end of Feb)...look in the usual car magazines for cupons.

$999 for a combination of their 220/110 v Tig welder and plasma cutter. Thinking about picking them up myself. I suppose it's only a deal if you're considering a Tig machine too.
Just a couple questions, I have never had or used a plasma cutter before, but I figure I won't ever need to cut thicker than 1/4" Steel or 1/2" Aluminum. Portability is not really needed, it won't leave the garage. Does anyone have a favorite all-around for that type of duty that has served you well?
Get a Hypertherm, it's the only brand I use. You should be able to find some fairly good ones on ebay at a good price.