If you’re a custom knife maker having a plasma cutter in your shop can be a quick way to easily cut out knife blanks for your projects. Luckily, there are a variety of inexpensive plasma cutters less than $500 that will be more than sufficient for cutting out blanks. Most knife makers are working with steel that is 1/4 inch thick or less, which means even some of the smallest plasma cutters can get the job done. On average even the smallest plasma cutters are rated to cut 1/2 inch mild steel. Today we’ll break the features you should look for when purchasing a plasma cutter specifically for cutting knife blanks and how much you will need to spend.
Primeweld CUT50DP Plasma Cutter
The CUT50DP is our number one choice for the cheapest plasma cutter under $500 for cutting knife blanks. This machine is dual voltage, has pilot arc for making very precise cuts and is backed by a 3 year warranty based in the USA. This machine is rated to make clean cuts on 1/2 inch mild steel meaning it will have more than enough power to cut knife blanks in a variety of thicknesses. You can’t go wrong with this machine.
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What Features Should I Look For?
When purchasing a cheap plasma cutter there are a few features and included extras you want to make sure you have in order to get the most utility out of your machine. Here is a quick check list:
Pilot arc allows you to start the arc of your torch without having to touch the tip of the torch to the piece of metal you’re cutting. This has many benefits including less blow back when initiating a cut, longer torch consumable life and most importantly greater control when shaving edges of metal.
If by chance you cut out a blank and notice you went slightly outside your line, pilot arc will make it easy to shave off little bits of metal with the torch saving you lots of time at the grinder. A non pilot arc machine will often times cut out when attempting to do this as it will not have full contact with the metal and it can be very frustrating.
Pilot arc machines are usually about $100 more and are worth every penny.
When purchasing a cheap plasma cutter you want to make sure you get a machine with a good warranty. Pretty much every plasma cutter under $1000 is made overseas, which means they typically have a lower build quality compared to machines made in the USA. Despite being lower quality, many fabricators choose to get machines made in China because they cost a fraction of the price and work great despite their lower build quality.
Getting a plasma cutter with a long warranty is a great way to put your machine through its paces and make sure it works correctly from the factory. Most plasma cutters come with a 1 year warranty, expect Primeweld who now is offering a 3 year warranty from the factory. This is why we recommend Primeweld to most buyers as their warranty is unparalleled by any other cheap plasma cutter manufacture out there.
Stand Off Torch Guide
A stand off guide on your torch can be a great way to manage the distance between the tip of the torch and the piece of metal you’re cutting. This will allow you to focus more on your cut line rather than your torch position. The Primeweld CUT50DP (Amazon.com) we recommend comes with one from the factory, but you can also order them from aftermarket manufactures for pretty cheap as well.
Depending on your work area, you may need a dual voltage machine if you don’t have access to 220V. Luckily most plasma cutters less than 50 amps come with dual voltage capabilities allowing you to use your machine on 110V or 220V. You will get the full cutting capacity of the machine on 220V and about half cutting capacity at 110V. Most all machines we’ve tested will cut 1/4 inch mild steel on 110V without a problem, so when cutting knife blanks both 220V and 110V will work just fine.
If you have never used a plasma cutter before be sure to read our comprehensive beginner’s plasma cutting guide. This will help walk you through the entire process of getting your machine hooked up correctly and making cuts safely.
If you are looking for help finding a new machine be sure to check out our list of the best plasma cutters that we recommend. If you need a plasma cutter with a built in air compressor you can view the machines that we recommend here.