View Full Version : Recommend a Plasma Cutter?

Perry Holbrook
10-12-2006, 3:05 PM
I'm expanding my the metal working section of the studio (the blacksmith forge arrives today) and starting research on a plasma cutter. I'm not sure how much it will get used but I want to purchase a unit that will fill "average" needs. Anyone care to recommend one?

Thanks, Perry

Joe Pelonio
10-12-2006, 7:08 PM
That's not something many of us have. I don't, in fact, but sometimes have steel or aluminum cut by a guy that has a small one made by Lincoln, the welder company, and he seems happy with it. Is that what you need, or were you thinking CNC?

Perry Holbrook
10-12-2006, 9:24 PM
Joe, I always seem to have questions that don't relate to everyone here. I work in wood, glass, clay, steel and copper in the studio. With all those media, I have found it difficult to participate in forums for each so I use this one at times for off topic questions because it has a wide range of member knowledge. I just wish more members looked at the off topic threads so I would stand a better chance of more replys.

BTW, CNC is not in the picture for now. I just need a good hand torch for now.


Paul Gauthier
10-12-2006, 9:34 PM
I have a Thermal Dynamics Cutmaster 38 and I find it more than adequate to my needs for cutting angle iron, sheet stock, in steel, aluminum and stainless steel etc. up to 1/2" thick. It will sever 3/4" stock but not as easily. One thing to be sure of is to have air as dry as possible as moist air is a plasma cutters worst enemy.

Perry Holbrook
10-12-2006, 9:52 PM
Thanks Paul, I had heard that Thermal Dynamics made good stuff. I was sort of looking at the 51, the next size up from yours, just in case I needed to cut a little thicker.


Ralph Barhorst
10-13-2006, 12:56 PM
Miller Electric also makes some good Plasma Cutters. I don't own one, but I have used them. Look in the Yellow Pages under Welders and you should be able to find a local distributor.

Keith Outten
10-13-2006, 1:34 PM

I do a lot of metal work in my shop and use about as many materials as you, woodworking has been rare for me lately. My Dad and I have been building tractor implements on the weekends for the last month or so, I sure could use a good quality Plasma Torch myself these days. I don't have any current information concerning the latest machines and it has been a few years since I was around a plasma cutter so All I can do is folow this thread and hope to learn a bit about what is new in the business.

For what it is worth we used a 600 amp plasma torch to cut stainless steel flow splitter plates from the Reactor Coolent System at North Anna Power Station in the early 80's...underwater. I believe the machine was a Miller.


Jim Becker
10-13-2006, 11:38 PM
Not my area of expertise...but I think I saw a Miller also "somewhere"...

Ralph Barhorst
10-14-2006, 10:42 AM
Check this site for Miller Plasma cutters.


Robert E Lee
10-16-2006, 2:47 AM
Perry, I have used the Miller in wire feed and stick and they have always been good and have heard good things of their Plasma cutters but have never used one of them.

Perry Holbrook
10-16-2006, 7:41 AM
Thanks for the input. The welding supply house I had been buying from was closed a few months ago and I haven't yet settled on a new one that I can fully trust, so that was one of the reasons I started this thread.

Looks like I'm down to putting my hands on the Miller 375 and the Thermal Dynamics 38.

Thanks, Perry

Matt Meiser
12-02-2006, 8:55 PM
So Perry, what did you end up doing? I'm thinking about a similar sized unit to the ones you mentioned.

Perry Holbrook
12-03-2006, 9:18 PM
Matt, I've pretty much decided on the Thermal Dynamics unit. I plan to get the purchase into this years tax receipts. Best prices on new units seem to be on ebay.


Matt Meiser
12-03-2006, 10:20 PM
I've talked to one vendor of the Chinese units. I was about convinced to buy one until he started badmouthing another vendor. I keep coming back to service and availability of consumables and parts down the road. For that reason, I'm seriously looking at the Miller. I assume you are probably looking at Indiana Oxygen on Ebay for the TD? They have that and the Miller for great prices, plus free shipping. And they are a brick-and-mortar that's been around for a LONG time so that makes me feel a lot more comfortable.

Perry Holbrook
12-04-2006, 7:59 AM
When I bought my mig welder, I was also concerned about the service and consumables. I approached the local welding supply house that I was already buying oxy/acy stuff from and was happy with. I asked if they could match the online prices. He said the online prices were his exact cost and suggested that I buy the machine on line and depend on him for the other stuff, which is what I did. I plan to do the same with the plasma cutter.

Miller does have a good reputation, but the guys (and gals) that I have spoke with that have actually used both machines have all recommended the Thermal. I would say that either machine will do the job very nicely and give good service, but since I've went to all the trouble to seek recommendations I'll go with them.

Good luck as you proceed with the metal working and post some pictures of your work.


Lynn Kasdorf
12-04-2006, 3:18 PM
FWIW- here is a cheaper alternative to a plasma cutter.


This is a different design of oxy acetylene torch. I use mine for cutting almost exclusively, but it is suppose to be very good for brazing as well as TIG-like work such as aluminum and stainless.

I get good results. I cut a lot of 1/4", 3/8" and 1/2" steel. When cutting thick stock (> 3/8") it can sometimes be tricky to hold it at the correct angle so that the cutting doesn't stop. If you can maintain the correct angle and distance from the work, it works really well. I have cut 1" steel with mine.

The seller claims that the cut is a good as a plasma torch, but I cannot verify that as I've never used a plasma. I do feel that it works better than a traditional cutting torch, tho. I always got really sloppy cuts with my traditional torch.

About the only thing I have used it for other than cutting is to put the tiniest tip on it and heat up brass drill plugs in old John Deere carbs so they can be disassembled. That and a bit of brazing. I look forward to trying aluminum welding (TIG style).

I have a millermatic 250 MIG machine that I just LOVE by the way. I use it constantly.

I keep an eye out for affordable plasma machines but they always seem to cost around a kilobuck for the smallest.

Matt Meiser
12-06-2006, 10:35 PM
Well, I stopped by one local dealer just for kicks. They had the Miller 375 on sale for about $75 more than the internet prices (plus tax) but they sold the last one yesterday. He expected more on Friday so I figured I'd go in and haggle then. Then I stopped by Airgas which I just discovered is about 1-1/2 miles from my office. They had the Hypertherm Powermax 380 for less than the Miller is on the Internet. I was seriously considering it even though it is 1/8" less capacity. Then he mentioned that they had the Thermal Dynamics 38 in stock as well. I mentioned the Miller deal at the competition and got it for $1190 tax, tax included. About $100 more than the internet prices, but I can drop it off at lunch if I ever need service. I brought it home and tried it out for just a minute and I can already tell I'm going to love it. I picked up a 220V plug for it and a dessicant dryer for the air line which are already installed. I also discovered that I need to modify my welding table to have a cutting grid since bending over and stooping down makes for some crappy cuts, and I need to get either some googles with a lower darkness rating than my autodark helmet will go or a lower rated lens for my non-AD helmet since I couldn't see much with the helmet set at 9 which is its lowest setting.

Perry Holbrook
12-07-2006, 8:03 AM
Way to go Matt. Have fun.


Jerry Clark
12-07-2006, 9:01 AM
HF has a "China" plasma for $399 if anyone is interested. Just saw it listed. :rolleyes:

Steve Dewey
12-07-2006, 11:50 AM
This is one product I'd certainly buy from a trusted local dealer vs. ebay. They are quite complex with circuit boards etc. If/when you need service, you generally (not always) get better (faster) service if you bought it there. My local Miller Dealer is w/i a few bucks (<1%) of the internet deals.