How to Use a Plasma Cutter

Are you looking for a machine to use for cutting or gouging or piercing a metal sheet? Then a plasma cutter is probably the best possible choice! The best thing is that it gives you the freedom of ‘freeform cuttings.' Also, it costs low, is portable and minimizes the HAZ (heat affected zone).

But how to operate it? How to trace shapes or cut holes using it? Well, it’s much like welding as you will need a ground clamp. But still, there are differences. Follow the simple steps stated below, and you’ll be a master in operating a plasma cutter!

Part 1: Preparing the Machine

Step 1: choosing a location

Remember plasma is the result of electrically heated, a high-temperature gas. So the location where you will do the operation is important. It relates to your safety.

Therefore, place the metal sheet on a surface where you can move it freely. Any surface that works as a table will be perfect. If you want, you can manage a grate.

If you need to pierce a small hole then placing it at the corner of the table is enough. Just take care that the plasma stream flows towards the floor i.e. the torch faces straight down the floor.

Step 2: plugging in the unit

Now plug in the unit. But before that, check whether the unit is off or not.

Step 3: connecting the air

Now the external air compressor is to be connected to the plasma cutter. This is done to keep the plasma stream under high pressure. Recede the outer flange of female connection. Then insert the male connection.

Now it’s time to allow the air flow. Turn the liver on such that it moves 90 degrees from perpendicular to the airline to inline.

Step 4: attaching the ground clamp

Now set the metal which you want to cut or gouge on the table. Then attach the clamp close to the place where you'll cut the metal.

Part 2: Turning on the Machine

Look behind the unit. There, you’ll find a switch. Flip it into the ON position. The current level depends on the metal sheet. For example, for an 18 ga sheet metal, 25 will be enough.

Part 3: Cutting the Metal

Step 1: First, position the drag shield at the base metal edge. The perfect standoff distance is 1/8 inch typically. As I said above, face the arc straight down directly.

Step 2: Now, raise the trigger lock and press it. As soon as you pressed the trigger on the gun, you activate the plasma cutter. The pilot arc will start immediately.

The trigger has a safety. You must lift it before you lift the trigger.

Step 3: When the arc starts, start moving the torch slowly across the metal. Keep the nozzle end close to the sheet of metal.

Step 4: Adjust the speed such that the sparks go through the metal and come out of the bottom. Check if the sparks are visible at the bottom. If not, this means the sparks are not penetrating the plate. This can result in if you move the torch too quickly. Or direct the stream of plasma at an angle instead of straight down. Also, insufficient amperage or grounding can cause this.

Step 5:When you are about to end the cut, slightly angle the torch towards the final edge. Or pause for a while before you finally release the trigger.

Step 6: Air flow continues for 20-30 second even after releasing the trigger. This cools down the torch. Don’t press the trigger while this post-flow continues because it can restart the arc.

Part 4: Turning Off the Machine

Step 1: As you’ve finished up cutting, now you can turn it off. Turn the switch off that you flipped into the ON position previously.

Step 2: Then disconnect the clamp. Turn off the air. Rotate the lever 90 degrees again, but this time from the inline to the airline.

Step 3: Finally wrap up the air line, plasma gun line, and ground line.


Remember, working with a plasma cutter is associated with risks of accidents. So follow the safety procedures and wear proper safety equipment.

Check for the worn out parts of your machine. If there is any, then replace it.

Double check the air pressure.

Paintthe place where the ground clamp is to be secured or grind off if there is rust.

Hold the torch tightly otherwise your hand will shake more.

Use a gas hose to ensure sufficient air pressure.

Final Verdict

Working on with a hand-held plasma cutter is very simple, isn't it? Whether you want to cut or bevel a metal sheet, the use is quite convenient and easy as well. But the selection of the machine is challenging, even more than striking an arc.

Pick the right one that best suits your application and the necessary accessories. Accomplishing your task won’t be difficult.

Hope the above working procedure and tips will help you a lot.

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