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Author Topic: Looking for Info on a Decent, Cheap Plasma Cutter? Any Suggestions?  (Read 3772 times)
NJT5047
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« on: December 04, 2010, 11:28:52 AM »


Reckon the subject line says it all.  Looking for ideas on what works without blowing a bundle. 
Harbor Freight has a 240V unit that looks like it would do what I want...which is cut smallish steel parts, 90% of which will be less than 1/4" thick.  http://www.harborfreight.com/230-volt-inverter-plasma-cutter-with-digital-display-95136.html
I've never used a plasma cutter and other than the unit that Jack Conrad used to cut Jon's door, never even seen one up close...so any info will be helpful.   
Looks like most 'name-brand' units are $1200 and up?   That's a fuzz more than I'd like to spend...unless there's no option.
What say ye?!
Thanks!  JR
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JR Lynch , Charlotte, NC
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« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2010, 11:41:42 AM »

I think muddog 16   has a like new one that he wanted to sell a few months ago.Don't know  if its gone or not.Bob
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« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2010, 01:36:11 PM »

The harbor freight one is okay for light work, but I could never get a nice pretty cut in 1/4", but does fine on anything lighter.

Ray D
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« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2010, 02:04:46 PM »

JR,
 I've got that unit,had it a couple of years figured when I got it it would probably blow up. It has been a great unit for the price.It originally was 1000.00
Somehow I got mine new on an E-bay bid at $500.00
I have cut alum. stainless and steel. I have cut 1/4 plate no problem. It will cut as smooth as your hand is steady.
For the price I don't think you can go wrong. To bad they don't have a Tig welder for Aluminum that is cheap !!
Thanks Ed
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« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2010, 03:10:27 PM »

Thanks for all the good info!   
Ed, Ebay... Item # 230558133667   Cheap TIG welder. 
The guy on Ebay has a lot of other cheap stuff too.  And he has a very active web site, and he's helping folk repair failed Chinese units on other sites.   Another possibility.   
JR
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JR Lynch , Charlotte, NC
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« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2010, 03:43:51 PM »

I have a plasma cutter I would love to part with but I'm pretty far away from you

Melbo
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« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2010, 07:23:50 PM »

JR keep in mind that the bigger the cutter capability the bigger the power draw. They pull a lot of amps.
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« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2010, 07:50:08 PM »

Looks like I will be coming through NM about the middle of January...can I help?  If so call me at 828-three one zero, 8111.  (Will be off the net for a few days!)
Jack
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« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2010, 07:57:58 PM »

I have a plasma cutter I would love to part with but I'm pretty far away from you

Melbo

As the journolists say...what is it, where is it, and how much? 
Cannot use 3 phase.  Have a 220/50A welder outlet wired in the shop.   Doubt a 120V would work for my needs...from what I read, if the ads say 'cuts 1/2"...that means clean cuts on 1/4"?    Learned another term too..."cuts" vs "severs."
One thing's for sure, I'm tired of cleaning up sloppy torch cuts. 
Thanks, JR


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JR Lynch , Charlotte, NC
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« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2010, 08:13:06 PM »

Looks like I will be coming through NM about the middle of January...can I help?  If so call me at 828-three one zero, 8111.  (Will be off the net for a few days!)
Jack

Thanks Jack, maybe Melbo's running a "free shipping" special this week?   Grin Roll Eyes   Suppose I shoulda mentioned that after he put a price on it?   Roll Eyes

Charles, I've got a 220Vac, 50A that runs the stick and wire welder.  I'd guess that should be suitable for for a plasma cutter that's rated for anything less than 50A?   Most of the heavy cutters I've looked on the 'net are 3 phase.   220Vac looks like better home use stuff.  Lots of 120V units too.  220V looks about right.   
I'm installing a Kawasaki ZX6E engine into a golf cart.  Wasting tons of time and gas trying to cut and fit these tiny bits of metal for the project.   
Wanted a plasma cutter for a long time...Dear Santa...!    Wink
JR

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JR Lynch , Charlotte, NC
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« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2010, 09:24:35 PM »

I've had a lot of different plasma cutters throughout the years and all I can say is you get what you pay for. The cheaper units will do probably 1/2 of what they say they are rated for. If you are buying one for production type of work get a good one. Other than that you can do as much with a torch. I wouldn't waste a lot of $$$ on one for use as a hobby.
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« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2010, 07:39:33 AM »

The one I have is an L-TEC VPM-CPi and goes up to 40 amps however I have a plug for 50 amp so I can use the same outlet as the coach plugs into

I paid somewhere about 600 for it and used it to do my new windshield frames --- since then it just sits there collecting dust.

I would like to get 350 for the cutter and the dust is free.

It is on a stand that you can also have if jack wants to ship it for free I am sure we can work something out.

PM me and let me know

I am not far from the intersection of I 40 and I 25 right in the middle of the state.

Melbo
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« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2010, 07:49:43 AM »

I bit the bullet and bought a Thermal Dynamic some of the cheaper ones are real touchy about the air supply a few I checked out had to have nitrogen only or required a air dyer.I just filter the air  

good luck
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« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2010, 10:50:33 AM »

I second Clifford, if you are looking to buy a good plasma cutter.   Invest the money in a Thermal Dynamics unit.   When you have to sell it you will get "some" money back..   It's better than buying two cheaps ones that will never equal a good one.
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« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2010, 08:55:21 PM »


Thanks for the advice, but I'm cheap...as much as I'd like to have a Thermal Dynamics machine, that ain't gonna happen.   Even the lower priced Hobarts and Millers are easily twice the cost, and generally 3 times the cost of a similarly sized Chinese cutter.
Considering the location of our local Harbor Freight, the $899 plasma cutter that's on sale for $649 is looking doable. 
I've got a big compressor with plenty of dry air....paint a good bit here.  Painted the bus here 8 years ago. 
The Chinese plasma cutters are definitely inferior to most American made units, although Miller and Lincoln both vendor from
China for their low end cutters.   Miller and Lincoln are able to warranty and manage their problems.  Hope Harbor Freight will do the same.   Then there's ESAB that's considered a quality Chinese system.   
I bought a 1" air wrench from Harbor Freight about 9 years ago.  That sucker failed the first time I used it.   Ended up taking it apart and found the wipers in the motor locking the armature due to sorry Chinese workmanship and fit.  Fitted the wipers and the wrench has worked great ever since.    Probably could have carried it back, but...??    A plasma cutter is different...I couldn't repair one.   
Harbor Freight has a 30 day, no questions asked, return period.  I'll wear that thing out early on...expose weaknesses you know.   Then hope it doesn't quit later. 
I stated earlier in this post that an Ebay company called "GiantTech" appeared to stand behind their product...that was in incorrect statement.   Low priced plasma cutters bought on Ebay are a crapshoot.   A large percentage of the units arrive DOA, or become DRT (dead right there [Cool paramedic term]) in short order.  Warranty is sketchy.   Finding the correct parts is difficult. 
Suppose that to be fair, some of the Ebay units are likely bought, promptly assembled incorrectly or loosely, and operated on wet air. 
This plasma thing has been a short learning curve. 
Thanks again for the ideas! JR




 
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JR Lynch , Charlotte, NC
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« Reply #15 on: December 06, 2010, 04:57:03 AM »

I've been following this thread with interest as I'm curious about why everyone feels the need for a plasma cutter. I've never desired one myself - but no doubt because I've never used one.

So what exactly is the attraction of a plasma cutter, for hobbyist users such as ourselves? I have a decent (250 / $400-ish) bandsaw that will make quick and perfect cuts in 1/4" plate when used vertically, and will cut any thickness of bar or tube when used horizontally. It won't do tight radius cuts, and it's no good for 'big' pieces of plate...but for my needs (bus-converting and similar messing about on other projects) it can handle 95% of everything I want to do, and costs nothing to run other than new blades every now and then. So I'm curious what people are trying to cut that requires a fancy and expensive plasma cutter?


Jeremy
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« Reply #16 on: December 06, 2010, 06:51:21 AM »

How about a neat, accurate 4" square hole in a stainless steel bus door - while the door is still on the bus?  How about a little round hole in a sheet of glass?  Trimming off a 4" strip from a 4' by 8' steel of steel?

the thing about a plasma cutter is it will cut just about anything with a conductive surface.  It's neat, leaves relatively tidy edges and it's very portable, uses relatively little air and electricity.  You can get adhesive metallic foil to put on glass, for example, although I have no idea how well it works.  In industry they are widely used to CNC cut sheet metal.  They are great for trimming bits of bodywork in a car repair.

Brian
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« Reply #17 on: December 06, 2010, 07:20:09 AM »

Ok, interesting. I had no idea that cutting glass was possible - does that include toughened glass by any chance?

Being able to cut vehicle bodywork in-situ doesn't sell the idea to me (a grinder or air-powered cut-off saw would seem just as good), but I certainly acknowledge cutting a strip off a large sheet of steel (or indeed anything that involves large sheet or heavy plate) cannot be done easily with the tools I have.

I had understood from the earlier posts in this thread that plasma cutters used lots of amps (like a welder, I had assumed), but perhaps I'd got an exaggerating impression of that.


Jeremy
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« Reply #18 on: December 06, 2010, 08:29:13 AM »

Jeremy, I guess it depends on your definition of "just as good"...  I used to restore British sports cars for a hobby, i still have three or four waiting their turn, and I absolutely guarantee you that taking the floor out of an MG Midget, as an example, in 3 minutes with minimal cleanup for the plasma cutter vs an hour or so of noisy grinding with a cut-off wheel makes the whole "just as good" a bit of an argument...   Grin

Just like a Mig welder is basically a hot glue gun for steel, cutting with a plasma cutter is about as easy as drawing a line with a Magic Marker...  anyway, they are a great toy, and a great addition to a shop that deals with a lot of sheet metal.  I wouldn't look to one to cut anything heavy.

Brian
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« Reply #19 on: December 06, 2010, 10:42:24 AM »

I'm with Clifford and others here that recommend the Thermal Dynamic plasma cutter. Probably as good as they get. Even my Miller dealer pushes them over the Millers. Over the years I have become very disgruntled with Miller products anyways and as far as welders go I have went to Lincoln's. My 1250 TD plasma cutter will cut 3/4 " easily and I think it's rated for 1". Probably more than what the average hobbyist is looking for.
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« Reply #20 on: December 19, 2010, 12:48:46 PM »

Just remember what they say about cars "Cheap, Fast, Relyable, Pick any two" You can substitute decent for fast in the plasma cutter options. When making these types of decisions you can't have it all without some cost in the works.  That's my problem with inverters now Undecided
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« Reply #21 on: December 24, 2010, 09:05:31 PM »

 
Yep.  I would really enjoy having a new Miller plasma cutter here....but it ain't gonna happen.  What I ended up with is a Harbor Freight plasma cutter...oh yeah, and a $129 buck two year extended warranty.   Never bought an extended warranty before?!   Thought this was a good time to try an extended warranty.  And, we have a big Harbor Freight company nearby.   
For S&Gs, here's a link to what I bought.  http://www.harborfreight.com/welding/plasma-cutters.html
FWIW, most Miller, Hobart, and Lincoln plasma cutters that cost less than $2K are Chinese units.  The only advantage is that you have a major local supplier to return for service.  Such that it is for low cost lines, and non-commercial entities.    Even high-end plasma cutters are being manufactured in China...ESAB for one.   ESAB is considered a quality item.   I rather doubt that my Harbor Freight "Chicago Electric" would be considered a "quality item"....hope that it works.  Haven't plugged it in yet.  I'll post my experiences with the thing as soon as I use it.   It's all ready to use, we just haven't had much weather for playing outside lately.  And I don't usually do much welding or cutting inside of the 'barn.'   Don't want to burn Mr. Bus!  Shocked
Thanks for all your info!  And thanks to Mel for offering me another option.   The logistics just didn't work out. 
I'll post some pictures of the ZX6E powered golf cart too, as soon as it looks like a GC again!   Plan to light the engine next week.  Had a couple of issues to work out...starter clutch had failed, but the engine seems healthy otherwise.  Starter clutch is replaced and the engine turns over and has good compression.   
That's the news from frozen North Carolina! 
Merry Christmas!   JR
 

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JR Lynch , Charlotte, NC
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« Reply #22 on: December 24, 2010, 09:10:38 PM »


Many Christmas thanks to Jack H for offering to bring Mel's cutter back to NC!   I appreciate your offer! 
Hope to see you at the spring Palmetto Cove!   SPEEDIE TIME!   Cheesy
JR


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JR Lynch , Charlotte, NC
87 MC9, 6V92TA DDEC, HT748R ATEC

"Every government interference in the economy consists of giving an unearned benefit, extorted by force, to some men at the expense of others.

Ayn Rand
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