Fun with a Plasma cutter

Cutting cast iron, wrought iron and steel!

About three years ago I bought a plasma cutter and I'm super happy to have it. I think it's more economical than an oxy-acetylene torch since it uses compressed air rather than expensive acetylene and oxygen. In this adventure, I have some fun cutting apart engine blocks made of cast iron, a metal that oxy-fuel torches have trouble with! -- Feb./15/2016

This is what a plasma cutter can do to automotive engine blocks and heads. A slice and dice situation!

I couldn't afford an expensive Lincoln, Miller, Esab or other well known brand so this little one is what I have.

It's a Parker Metalworking Products brand machine. This company takes new plasma cutters imported from Asia and upgrades them in their facility in the USA. Thereby solving the problems that the Asian made machines are known for. It's a clever business model and produces a nice, affordable product.

Here are the two cast iron engine blocks before I set to work on them. The large one is a six-cylinder from a Jeep Cherokee and the smaller is a four-cylinder from an '86 Jeep Comanche pickup (and also used in older Jeep Wranglers).

I think the easiest way to dismantle these is to cut through the "webbing" between the cylinders. This area is actually thin since it is hollow to allow engine coolant to flow around and keep the engine at the proper temperature.

After cutting through all the webs on one side, I flipped the block over and did the same on the other side of the web.

Lionel's Laboratory -- www.BackyardMetalcasting.com

Here's the block cut in half. If you look closely you can see the hollow portions between the cylinders I mentioned previously.

Try that with an oxy-acetylene torch! You'll burn a lot of gas.

Plasma cutter fun facts!

Plasma cutters can easily slice through metals that oxy-fuel (such as oxy-acetylene) torches can not (or not as easily). For example, an oxy-fuel torch has trouble cutting cast iron. Oxides in iron melt at such a high temperature that oxy-fuel torches can't cut through iron very well. But plasma is tens of thousands of degrees which is hot enough to seemingly vaporize the metal, oxides and all.

Even the six-cylinder engine block got "unzipped." Here is the block after it's been split the same as the 4-cylinder.

More plasma cutter fun facts!

Plasma is often called the "fourth state of matter" after solid, liquid and gas. Plasma can cut any electrically conductive metal even though steel is most common.

How it works: An inert gas (usually compressed air) is blown through the torch's nozzle at high speed. The nozzle is designed to cause the air to swirl around an electrode. An electric current/arc passes from the electrode, through the flowing air causing the air to be ionized (given an electric charge) thereby turning it into plasma. The plasma gets blown into the metal and it's 45,000 degree F. (25,000 degree C.) temperature is enough to melt the metal in it's path and blow it away as a shower of sparks.

Page contents copyright © 2016 by Lionel Oliver II - www.BackyardMetalcasting.com

Now I'll cut some wrought iron railing down to size!

Here are some sections of wrought iron railing that I was given. I actually have no use for them and can't fit them in my Jeep for a trip to the scrap yard. So I guess I need to whip out the "problem solver" and chop them down to size.

The plasma jet blazed through the wrought iron turning it to a blast of burning iron bits. It cut so easily it's almost like the iron was not even there.

Here's the result of about 30 minutes of plasma cutting.

You know the work was easy when upon completion you wish you had more to do!

Once again the plasma cutter sits atop of the heap waiting for the next contender. What metal dares face it..?

The pallet jack dared and it didn't do so well..!

I decided to take the jack to the scrap yard also since the hydraulics were worn out and the wheels were seized.

The plasma torch almost felt like a Jedi light saber in my hand. I've had it for about three years and have been very happy with it. I've only had to replace nozzles and electrodes which are intended to be replaced occasionally and are sold in bulk.


Copyright © 2016 by Lionel Oliver II
All Rights Reserved.