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Looking to get a Plasma Cutter.... Any advise???

Discussion in '1st Gen. Tacomas' started by Kuneff, Sep 20, 2010.

  1. Sep 20, 2010 at 11:22 AM
    #1
    Kuneff

    Kuneff [OP] Carpe Diem

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    I know a few people have told me to stay away from the 110volt ones. I was looking at the Lincoln Electric Pro-Cut 20 at Lowes, but skeptical. Anyone ever use one?

    I have been looking into the Pro-Cut 25 as well, but Lincoln is getting ready to launch a new line of Plasma cutters and the 20 is just about the only one that is available right now.

    Does anyone have any advise or input on Plasma cutters? Which ones are good, which ones to stay away from?

    I am not looking to cut anything like 1" thick steel... just to do some cutting and welding on the Tacoma and maybe making a rear bumper.
     
  2. Sep 20, 2010 at 4:06 PM
    #2
    phidauex

    phidauex Well-Known Member

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    Plasmas are a good time - you'll never want to go back to any other cutting device ever again. :)

    I've got a few around my shop:

    One is a very old Thermal Dynamics PakMaster 25 (25A output power, 110V input). It cuts well up to about 3/16", and can make its way through up to 5/16" if you don't mind a more ragged cut. This was my only cutter for a long time, and has served me well.

    The other is a new Thermal Dynamics True 39 (http://www.weldfabulous.com/Plasma-Cutters/Thermal-Dynamics/Thermal-Dynamics-Cutmaster-p4543781.html). Great price right now! It happily cuts 5/16" with great kerf, and can be forced through thicker materials at a sacrificed cut quality. It is a 39A output, 240V unit.

    The 110V unit we have is portable, which is nice, but would be a little weak for certain structural elements on a truck. The larger unit lacks portability, but is definitely the better unit.

    A few pieces of advice - buy a name brand. Lincoln, Miller and Thermal Dynamics are all recommended, but a good unit will last many years, and you'll need to have enough dealers to buy all the consumables, tips, electrodes and cups. Our little Thermal Dynamics is over 20 years old, and I can still walk into any welding shop and buy all the consumables it needs off the shelf. That wouldn't work with an off brand.

    Avoid 110V units unless you need the portability. You really want more than 25A output to cut the structural parts of bumpers and frames, and more would be better. Any more than about 50A is probably not going to be useful to you though.

    Make sure you have a good air compressor (doesn't have to have a lot of CFMs, but it should be a reliable unit).

    Put a GOOD water and oil filter between the compressor and the cutter, preferably mounted as close to the cutter as possible (perhaps right ON the cutter, at the end of the air hose). Water and oil in the lines will make your cuts bad, and destroy your consumables. Note that this is exactly the opposite of what you need for air tools, which is to have an oiler in the line to intentionally keep oil in the lines. If you use air tools, set up a manifold right off the compressor and run a dedicated line to the cutter's filter.

    Shop around on pricing - we've bought a few welders from Weldfabulous recently and they've had great prices and cheap shipping (which is a big deal for something this heavy).

    Used is fine, but make sure it is a good brand, and check the two easiest places to damage - the ceramic cup on the torch (which is replaceable, but expensive), and look for abrasion or damage on the torch line (easy to step on, but runs both air hose and electrical, so it can be fragile).

    -Sam
     
  3. Sep 22, 2010 at 6:44 AM
    #3
    Kuneff

    Kuneff [OP] Carpe Diem

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  4. Sep 22, 2010 at 8:01 AM
    #4
    phidauex

    phidauex Well-Known Member

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    I'm always a little skeptical of the off brands for things like welders or plasma cutters. Like I said, I can get consumables for my 20+ year old Thermal Dynamics at any welding shop, but our old PowCon TIG was broken for months before I found an old guy on eBay who just happened to have a repair part NOS. It doesn't matter if a unit is durable and well built if you can't get parts for it in the future.

    On the other hand, you might inquire to see what torch brand they use - if it isn't a custom torch, and uses standard consumable parts from a well-known brand, then it may be a good deal!

    -Sam
     
  5. Sep 22, 2010 at 8:21 AM
    #5
    Kuneff

    Kuneff [OP] Carpe Diem

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    ^Good point.. is something inside it wears out in due time then I just gotta hope i got my $500 worth of use.. It would suck if the unit was still good but an freakin trigger switch or cracked ceramic piece was keeping it from being able to be used. I will email and ask...
     
  6. Sep 22, 2010 at 8:32 AM
    #6
    phidauex

    phidauex Well-Known Member

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    Small lift and a topper!
    If you are pretty handy, most of the parts of a plasma cutter could be fixed. If the main electronics are well built (which if they aren't, you don't have much recourse), then the other things that will break will be torch consumables (hopefully a standard brand), switches and dials (easily replaceable if you are handy with a soldering iron) and fuses (if you can find them inside there). Might be worth seeing what torches they use, and if they have a service manual for the units so even in 15 years a tech could figure out what is going on inside there.

    -Sam
     
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