The 10 Best Plasma Cutters
This wiki has been updated 18 times since it was first published in February of 2018. Most people are familiar with solids, liquids, and gases, but there is an additional form of matter that is especially useful for cutting metal. A powerful alternative to oxyacetylene torches, plasma cutters use a strong jet of electricity to turn pressurized air into an incredibly hot arc. They can slice through steel up to about an inch thick, and some also allow for TIG and stick welding. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
August 13, 2020:
If you're hoping to run a plasma cutter or a welder on a 110 circuit, even if a plasma cutter like the Miller Spectrum 625 X-Treme advertises as running on 110 and cutting up to 3/4-inch plate, you need to keep in mind that most 110 circuits have a 20 amp breaker that won't allow you to use the cutter at the amps needed to cut 3/4 or even 1/2-inch plate. You'll probably be maxing out at 1/8th or 1/4-inch plate because once you turn the amps on the machine higher, the current draw will trip the breaker. It's also not as easy as switching out your 20-amp breaker for a 50-amp breaker. Electricians often choose the circuit wire they're going to use to match the amps expected from the circuit. So you need to make sure that you inspect the circuit wire and confirm that it can run on the higher amps without overheating or causing a fire hazard. If the gauge is too thin, you'll have to switch it out for thicker wire. So don't buy a 110 compatible plasma cutter and expect to get full functionality out of it on a 20-amp breaker.
Plasma cutters are extremely dangerous and should only be used by trained individuals that understand the hazards. Ensure adequate ventilation and use protective clothing and proper eye protection.
May 12, 2019:
Plasma cutters can be simple, drag-operated units that don't cost much, or fancy, pilot-arcing devices suited for professional use. The hallmark of either, though, is resilient and reliable wiring inside. If you only need to cut things occasionally, the Lotos 3500 and PrimeWeld CUT50 are tough to beat, because they're remarkably inexpensive, though they don't leave the cleanest edges. The PrimeWeld CT520, another affordable option, is an all-in-one choice for those who undergo a lot of welding as well. Clear on the other end of the slicing-only spectrum are the Hobart, Miller, and Powermax 30, which are designed for contactless operation and suited for full-time use by the most skilled workers. They're awfully expensive, though.
Some of the most worth checking out, however, are in the middle of road. The Lotos 5000 is one of the most affordable pilot arc models, while the PrimeWeld CUT60 is almost impossible to beat in terms of price to performance. And at their price point, the AHP and Everlast both perform at a level nearly equal with those twice as expensive.