Tips For Successful Plasma Cutting

Set-Up Procedures
Before you start, check for the following items: Make sure you use a clean air supply without water or oil contamination. Use the correct air pressure. It can be checked by looking at the gauges on the unit. Make sure the nozzle and electrode are correctly in place. And finally, make sure the ground connection is clamped to a clean portion of the work.

Safety Gear
Basic safety practices should always be observed. Read the instruction manual thoroughly before using the machine. Wear long sleeves and gloves while cutting since molten metal is generated during the cutting process. Eye protection such as dark goggles or a welding shield is required to protect your eyes from the cutting arc. Typically shade #7 to #9 lenses are acceptable. Finally, follow all safety tips and guidelines that are detailed in the Eastwood instruction manual.

Piercing the Work
Many beginners try to pierce the metal by pointing the nozzle straight down perpendicular (90 degrees) to the work. Not good, doing so will result in molten metal being blown back up into the torch and possibly your face as well. A better method is to approach the metal at a slight angle (60 degrees) and then rotate the torch to 90 degrees. This way, the molten metal is blown away from the torch.

Don't Touch the Nozzle to the Work piece
Do your best to not touch the nozzle to the work when using current levels of 45 amps or more. Doing so will drastically reduce the nozzle life as the cutting will double arc through the nozzle. Double arcing can also occur if a metal template is used. In this case, the user drags the nozzle along the template. The result is the same as dragging the nozzle on the work – prematurely worn nozzles.

Travel at the Right Speed
When moving the torch at the correct cutting speed, the molten metal spray will blow out the bottom of the plate at a 15- to 20-degree angle. If you are moving too slowly, you will create slow-speed dross, which is an accumulation of molten metal (slag deposits) on the bottom edge of the cut. When moving too fast, high-speed dross is created since you are not allowing time for the arc to completely go through the metal. Traveling too fast or too slow will create a low-quality cut. Typically, low-speed dross can be distinguished from high-speed dross by ease of removal. For example, low-speed dross can be removed by hand, whereas high-speed dross typically requires grinding.

Begin at Maximum Current
When setting the current, set it to the maximum output of the machine, and then dial it down as needed. More power is usually better, except when doing precision cutting or when you need to keep a very narrow cut.

Minimize Pilot Arc Time
Because of the wear it creates on the consumables; try to minimize the amount of time spent in pilot arc mode. To do this, get ready by the edge of the work before starting the arc so you can get right to cutting.

Maintain a Constant Work Distance
For the best results, do your best to maintain a steady 3⁄16 to 1⁄8-inch distance between the nozzle and the work.

Travel in the Direction That Will Give You the Best Finished Work
For example, if you're making a circular cut and plan to keep the round piece as your finished work, move in a clockwise direction. If you plan to keep the piece from which the circle was cut, move in a counterclockwise direction. As you push the torch away from you, the better cut will appear on the metal that is on the right-hand side, since it will tend to have a better, squarer edge.

End With a Push On Thick Material
One trick used on thicker material is to give a slight push as you cut through the last section of material. This increase in the push angle at the finish will cut through the bottom first and get rid of the bottom corner that is usually left at the end of thick plate. Never finish a cut by using the torch to hammer away the last corner of the work.

Hopefully I've offered up some useful information on what I think is one the best plasma cutters around (the Eastwood Versa-Cut 60) as well as a bit of background on how plasma cutters operate and a few useful tips too. I know mine has saved me tons of time and effort so far and I'm sure it'll be doing the same for a long, long while.