Jeremy Recommends the Best Plasma Cutters for Mechanics

Mechanics who make all or part of their living cutting metals that are electrically conductive will probably tell you that a good plasma cutter is a necessity.  Using a plasma cutter produces much cleaner work than grinding does.  The extra quality of work does come with a higher price tag and steeper learning curve, but is well worth the money–if you do your homework beforehand.  Understanding what type of cutter you’ll need and the role consumables should play in your decision will help you make a wise investment.

The first thing to keep in mind is that initial price can be misleading.  Many models that are less expensive than equally powerful and capable counterparts might be too good to be true.  Too many less expensive models require consumables (more about them below) that have to be replaced more often and are more expensive than those of some higher-priced models.  In other words, spending less up front could very well cost you a lot more down the road.  Once you’ve narrowed the field to models that will meet your needs, make sure you research the life expectancy and replacement cost of the consumables of your top contenders.

Consumables, as you might guess, are parts that are necessary for a cutter’s operation that will wear out over time.  Initial quality and your usage determine how often consumables will need replacing.  There are five consumables you’ll need to consider.  The electrode is responsible for delivering the current to the plate.  The nozzle focuses your arc and directs air flow.  A swirl ring transforms the plasma into a vortex.  Retaining caps (inner and outer) hold the other parts together.  Lastly, the shield keeps the consumable stack safe from flying sparks and molten metal.

A plasma cutter’s duty cycle is also an important factor to understand.  Typically expressed as a percentage relative to 10 minutes, the duty cycle lets you know how long your cutter can run continuously before needing time to cool down.  For example, a duty cycle of 30% means that you can run the plasma cutter for 3 minutes out of 10 without needing to stop.  This duty cycle is relative to the power being used, so if you’re looking at a variable speed or variable power model, make sure you understand the duty cycle as it relates to the different types of jobs you intend to do.

Power is, of course, a major factor to consider when looking for a plasma cutter.  If your cutting work will be restricted to 1/4 inch or less thicknesses, you should be okay with 15 to 25 amps.  Look for 40 amps for 1/2 inch cuts and 80 or more amps for cuts at or above 1 inch thick.  Lower power models generally require 120-volt outlets, but more powerful cutters could demand 240 volts.  Make sure to factor in any necessary electrical upgrades you might need to make when searching for your perfect cutter.  Visit plasmacutters.reviews for reviews of some favorite models.

Since you’ll also need compressed air for your new plasma cutter, don’t forget to factor in an air source.  If your shop is already equipped with a dedicated air manifold or a more traditional compressor, you won’t need to find a model that’s sold with its own compressor.  Since many of the most powerful and higher-end models assume that you already have an air source and don’t include a compressor, you’ll have to budget for a compressor if you opt for such a model and don’t have an air source.  Though it represents an additional expense, a filtration system can be a great way to get even cleaner work and extend the lifespan of your consumables.  A basic filter removes dust particles from your air stream, while a filter-plus-desiccant system will remove stray dust as well as moisture.

Check out best rated plasma cutter reviews for additional tips on choosing the best model and reviews (complete with pros and cons) of some top sellers.  As with any other major purchase, arming yourself with as much knowledge as possible is the best way to make sure you don’t end up regretting your decision.

The Tools Every Car Mechanic Needs

Being your own auto mechanic can be a great way to save money and know the job’s been done well.  Check out some of the tools below that can make any home mechanic’s garage as efficient as anything you’ll see in a professional environment.

Light it up
Having a magnetic light that you can aim in multiple directions is a must.  Whether you’re working under the hood or under the car, spaces are tight and natural light is scarce.  Making sure you can clearly see what you’re doing will help you work faster and make it less likely that you end up banging away on something best left alone.
Stick to it
Speaking of magnets, they can be a great way to help keep your tools, nuts, bolts, and other pieces and parts organized and handy.  Magnetic strips can be mounted on pegboards or walls for uncluttered tool storage.  You can also find magnetic belt clips that will allow you to keep various fasteners handier than ever.

Deal with it
We’ve all encountered broken fasteners and fasteners that just won’t budge.  Many car models also feature small buttons and other trim pieces that can be hard to remove without damaging the surrounding area (think of radio buttons or trim on door panels).  Small pry tools, like those designed for cell phone repair, can make this job easier.  They can also open the plastic cases that often house electronics.  A hook-and-pick set can work better than needlenose pliers for finessing the plastic pins and sliders that often lock together electrical connectors in newer vehicles.  A nut splitter will remove any stuck nut without doing any damage to the bolt or stem.

Reach for it

A ratchet extender can help you get into the tightest places to easily tighten or loosen those out-of-reach bolts that can take up so much time and cause so much frustration.  Flexible sockets can be pricey, but are also excellent at working in the tighter spaces that seem so much more common in today’s cars and trucks.  If you’ve had to deal with a socket that stayed stuck on a bolt when you pulled your ratchet out, you’ll appreciate a locking extension bar, which will ensure that your socket never gets left behind again.

Mark it up
A scriber with a carbide tip can help you easily label parts as you remove them to help make it easier to put things back together again.  Many seasoned mechanics understand the importance of making sure everything is properly marked (via whatever system makes sense to you) before parts are scattered on the floor or work table.  If you have an older socket set with surface-etched labels that have worn down with time, you can find foil labels that are gas and oil resistant to affix to your favorite tools, making quick ID easier.
Scrape it off
If you’re trying to remove years of rust, dirt, paint, or other scaling, an air-pressured scaler could come in handy.  It won’t do anything about any pits caused by the corrosion, but it will give you a clean surface on which to work.  Just be sure to protect your eyes and ears (most of them are pretty noisy).

Cut it up
If you also plan to do any bodywork or other work that involves cutting metal, a good plasma cutter can be invaluable.  These cutters produce way cleaner work than grinders.  Just make sure you look for a model that will work with a standard 120-volt outlet unless you have a 240 in your shop.

Keeping your work area as organized as possible can make any job seem easier.  Having tools that allow you to deal with tight spaces, small parts, and broken fasteners will actually make any job easier.

Stuff All Guitarists Need

Most serious guitarists know they need to practice, practice, practice to even have a shot at making it in the music world.  Most also understand that even the utmost talent combined with practice, practice, practice isn’t always enough.  Stage presence and others’ impressions of you as an overall person (as opposed to their opinion of you strictly from a talent and ability standpoint) matter, too.  Here are a few things too many aspiring musicians seem to forget, or maybe never learned.

Since so much of a musician’s life happens offstage, it’s important that your fellow musicians, club managers, promoters, and all of the other people who have a hand in helping you earn a paycheck actually like hanging out with you.  Or at least don’t hate it.  Never forget that the relationships you build are the key to steady work.  Show up on time, every time, and make sure you’re prepared for whatever interview or gig you have lined up.  Unless and until you get to be “the boss,” go along with the bandleader.  Maybe you know that there’s a better way than his way, but unless you know he’s the type who’s open to others’ opinions, just suck it up and go with the flow.  There’s always another guitarist looking for work–don’t be the jerk that gets him the gig you used to have or the jerk whose calls no one returns.

 

Never stop learning.  It’s easy enough (with enough practice, of course) to be able to read music and play anything anyone puts in front of you.  What can be harder is developing your own style so that you don’t come across as sounding too much like other guitarists.  Make it a habit to try and reproduce any tune you hear–TV theme show, commercial jingle, street musician’s original work, or anything else that contains notes that can be reproduced on a guitar.  Working on reproducing music you hear develops your ear and makes you more able to improvise when necessary and match the styles of more musicians with whom you might work.  Learning as many melodies as you can and learning to play them at more than one place on the guitar neck expands your repertoire and gives you an edge in helping to develop your own sound.

 

Never, ever pass up a chance to play with musicians that you know are better than you are.  The very things that make them better than you are now can help you grow.  Also don’t miss a chance to play with someone who’s better known, if not actually better, than you are.  Being known by others who are well known can only be good for your future in the business.  Networking is as critical to the music scene as it is to the corporate world.

Do all you can to understand the business side of things.  Treating your career as a business or your music as a marketable product is the only way to go if you want something more than weekend gigs as a cool side hustle.  Knowing the business end of things and treating interviews or negotiations as serious business dealings will let promoters, etc., know that you’re serious about what you do and make them less likely to try and take advantage of you.  Show them respect, and they’ll likely return the favor.

 

If you do manage to “make it big,” don’t let it go to your head.  Be smart with your money–sock some away for retirement, especially in case retirement comes sooner than you’d like (the music business is brutal and fickle).  When people start to recognize you, keep in mind that some of them are just out to profit from your success–learn (quickly) the difference between new friends and those just looking for a day in the life.  Remember where you started and do what you can to help others trying to get to where you are now.  Above all, don’t be a jerk.