Plasma Cutter On The Cheap Reviewed

If you have a well-equipped shop, it isn’t unusual to have a welder. Stick welders have become a commodity and even some that use shield gas are cheap if you don’t count buying the bottle of gas. But plasma cutters are still a bit pricey. Can you get one from China for under $300? Yes. Do you want one that cheap? [Metal Massacre Fab Shop] answers that question in the video below.

First impressions count, and having plasma misspelled on the unit (plasme) isn’t promising. The instructions were unclear, and some of the fittings didn’t make him happy, so he replaced them with some he had on hand. He also added some pipe tape to stop any leaking.

The first test was a piece of quarter-inch steel at 35 amps. The machine itself is rated to 50 amps. Sparks ensued, and with a little boost in amperage, it made a fair-looking cut. At 50 amps, it was time to try a thicker workpiece. It made the cut, although it wasn’t beautiful. The leaking regulator and the fact that he can’t run the compressor simultaneously as the cutter didn’t help.

From the look of it, for light duty, this would be workable with a little practice and maybe some new fittings. Unsurprisingly, it probably isn’t as capable as a professional unit. Still could be very handy to have.

It is possible to convert a welder into a plasma cutter. A handheld unit like this probably won’t benefit from a Sharpie.

24 thoughts on “Plasma Cutter On The Cheap Reviewed

  1. Some of them actually work surprisingly well. The only issue I had was finding consumables. I bought some that claimed to be compatible and looked nearly identical but they wouldn’t cut for shit.

  2. some tools it’s worth while buying something decent, some it doesn’t matter how crappy they are…
    For a plasma cutter, it is worth getting a least a half decent one, as a crappy one simply won’t do what you need it to do..

    1. I’m glad you gave me that advice based on your in depth knowledge of my needs for a plasma cutter, however I bought the cheapest one I could find (Lidl, under £100) and guess what, it simply does exactly what I need it to do.

      So, it seems like most tool snobs, you’re not right.

      1. The danger is buying cheap and bad tools that are durable. I ended up using a heavy and underpowered drill for years because it refused to break. Had to give it away eventually to justify replacing it!

      2. Which unfortunately means you need to use an awful tool that doesn’t do the job until it breaks – or more commonly, you give up on using the tool altogether because it’s so bad at doing its job and never even get around to trying the decent tool.

    2. As I dabble in collecting old woodworking tools, some “finds” are in good looking condition, but that’s because they were set aside out of frustration.
      Likewise a great tool from the same era may be worn out.

      1. A couple of decades ago I was digging through a newly arrived pile (literally a pile) of unsorted and untested military surplus test gear at a dealer’s place.

        The dealer gave me some really useful advice, buy the stuff that looks like it was someone’s daily drive, not the stuff that looks factory fresh (unless it really is new enough to look that way) because it’s likely been fried, destroyed or otherwise damaged then put on the shelf somewhere hidden to avoid having to do all the paperwork and take the blame for it

  3. My approach:
    – For any given task choose always the cheapest tool.
    – For serious work buy the cheapest one and when it breaks or you have the money upgrade to a better one. BUYING A CHEAP TOOL WILL SAY YOU THE FEATURES DESIRABLE FOR A FUTURE TOOL.
    – If you are a pro then invest in the best tool (even more money than you have) you will recover the investment as you work. YOU ALREADY LEARNED THIS FROM STEP 1 AND 2.

    1. Well, crappy tools often do a crappy job, which takes ages to redo or correct, I go for a decent-not-so-cheap tools, because I hate redoing what I do, and the extra costs this induces.

    2. Sounds like a rather inefficient way of doing things. Applicable in the pre-internet days, but now you can pretty much find most of the info needed to make a tool decision. Combine with a usable return policy and there’s little reason to be stuck with a bad tool.

    3. Bad advice. Some cheap tools are just bad for you, outright scams cargo culting the look of the real thing while not delivering functionality.
      For example cheap soldering irons are good for soldering singular wires, but will make you hate PCBs and definitely convince you on evils of SMD. Swap to $50-100 Hakko T12/JBC C245 clone station and you wont understand how soldering can be so easy all of a sudden.

      1. I own a $7000 Pace PRC2000. By comparison, the $100 Hakko knockoff is a very cheap tool. Even so, it is capable enough that my last employer purchased several for the benches in the lab.

        Cheap is relative. I use Kobalt wrenches. They aren’t Snap-On, but they aren’t Walmart, either.

        I have a Hobart Handler, but that’s because I had a 90A flux core machine from Harbor Freight. It gave me the confidence to spend more money, but it was not an inherently good machine. I’d be out a lot more than $100 if I bought a Miller first and then decided welding wasn’t for me.

    4. I’m kinda zen about it and like pleasure of using “good” tools however one may define that. Just for its own benefit and fun, regardless of the job itself. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I get enough aggravation in my daily life that getting worked up using a crap tool at home that refuses to cooperate is something I can do without. I’m not doing hobby stuff to be making myself mad- it’s to relax! obviously there are exceptions left and right but it took me a while to arrive at this mentality and it has served well.

  4. So, it’s a review, from someone with no experience with plasma cutting and fooling a bit around, and with the conclusion “it sorta works” (when it’s new).

    I’ve seen other reviews of similar cheap (around EUR 200) plasma cutters, (usually up to 40A) and you can get quite good results with these things. One of the things to look out for is for the consumables. The tip in the plasma cutter is a consumable, and it will have to be replaced occasionally, and if you can’t buy fitting tips, then the whole machine becomes useless.

    And there are a lot of other things not addressed here at all. Robustness of the thing for example. Is it built at least somewhat sturdy? Can you expect to be using this thing for a bunch of years or will it fall apart at the day the warranty is over? And what about electrical safety? I’ve seen some really atrocious things coming out of China.

    Yet another topic is the amount of RF noise it produces. Especially HF starts can apparently be a problem when you want to use such a plasma cutter in a CNC machine.

    1. In a power tool, Duty Factor needs to be considered.
      I considered buying a Horror Fraught stud welder a couple of years ago for pulling dents from my car and truck. Its Duty Cycle was ridiculous! Something like setting one stud per minute…

  5. I bought a pilot arc plasma cutter from Lidl (chain of supermarkets here in Europe) for 99€ (110usd). It is bloody fantastic. Sure duty cycle is 35% but I don’t want to cut steel all day. It has never gone wrong, cuts straight through painted or rusty surfaces, is much cheaper than direct from China stuff on AliExpress, and has a 2 year warranty. Sorted.

  6. Does paying more for a tool make it better? If so, how much more do you have to spend to make it better? Seems to be a lot of people trying to justify buying a Porsche to pick up milk at the corner store. I have one of the first sub-$500 plasma cutters, supposedly 50 amp, but if I needed to use it more than a few times a year or it was for my work, I’d spend more. It has done everything I wanted it to do (suprisingly), but I don’t expect miracles.

    1. You don’t need a Porsche to get groceries but a $1000 car wouldn’t inspire much confidence either. I think a 50 amp plasma doesn’t need to be more than $1000 for occasional use but probably over $500 for the features I like and decent consumables and support.

  7. I try to buy good quality stuff but not necessarily because of a name. I have Lincoln and Primeweld machines for welding and both are good. When it came time to buy the plasma I went with Primeweld which is Taiwan made but US supported and comsumables are readily available. Had more bang for the buck than both Miller and Lincoln. A lot of Lincoln stuff is no longer US made anyway. In production work that made money I would not hesitate to go with Hypertherm which is great but expensive. I avoid the super cheap stuff because it is too cheap to be good enough. I just try to think what is reasonable, no free lunches everything is paid for one way or another.

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