How to Use a Plasma Cutter – Step By Step

Getting started with a plasma cutter can be a daunting task. There isn't just the technicalities of using the machine but also the safety precautions to consider.

Our step by step plasma cutter guide will help you to increase your efficiency, prolong the life of your equipment and improve your cut quality.

Plasma cutters are easy to use and very convenient. Using a plasma cutter can improve productivity and lower cutting costs. Some of the advantages of using a plasma cutter are the tool doesn’t require any preheat cycle, cuts any electrical conductive metal, portable around worksites, reduces the heat-affected zone and produces a cut with small kerf.

Step 1 - Make Sure The Working Area Is Clean

Before setting up the plasma cutter to start cutting, make sure that the working environment is as clean as possible. If there is dust or grinding debris around the unit, the cooling fan may suck these particles and it can cause serious damage to the unit. 

Ensure you are wearing the appropriate plasma cutting safety gear as well.

Step 2 - Set Up Stable Work Surface

Jay Leno's Plasma Cutting Handbook

The working surface needs to be safe. Working with a plasma cutter can be risky if you place and work on a surface that isn’t stable. If you place the metal on a surface that works like a table, make sure that the setup is strong enough to cut on. Using a metal clamp to hold the piece down makes the cutting procedure secure.

Step 3 - Plug In The Plasma Cutter

Make sure that the device is power off and plug it in.

Step 4 - Connect the Air compressor

If the plasma cutter doesn’t feature built-in air compressor, connect the external air compressor to the unit. A gas such as compressed air is a requirement for the plasma cutter to function.

Step 5 - Turn the Air Compressor On

At this step, turn the air compressor on.

Step 6 - Attach The Ground Clamp

Ground clamp is a part of the plasma cutter and also essential to protect the plasma cutter and the user. Plasma cutting involves an electrical charge that melts the metal. So, attaching the ground clamp is also a safety issue. Attach the clamp close to where you need to cut.

Step 7 - Turn On The Machine

Generally, you’ll find the on-off switch behind the unit. Turn on the plasma cutter by flipping this switch into the ON position.

Step 8 - Set The Amperage

Set the amperage control. You can try different amps depending on how thick the metal is that you are cutting.

Step 9 - Cut The Metal

Keep the nozzle end on the edge of the base metal. Push the trigger to start the arc. Slowly move the torch over the metal. If you have any plasma templates, use the guide surrounding the nozzle.

Step 10 - Switch Off The Machine

When you're done turn off the unit.

Step 11 - Disconnect The Ground Clamp

Don’t forget to disconnect the clamp from the metal.

Step 12 - Turn Off Air

At this stage, by rotating the lever 90 degrees, turn off the air.

Step 13 - Let The Torch To Cool And Wind Up All Hoses

You’ve just finished your cutting job, let the torch to cool. After releasing the trigger, post-flow air lasts for 20-30 seconds. Wind up all hoses and wrap up the torch, airline, and ground line.


This is a very basic guide to give you pointers on things to look out for when starting out using a plasma cutter. There many more guides and references available on the web also.


Ronald Wilson

I’m Ronald, Specialist engaged in the manufacture of fabricated metal products. I’ve been involved in the fabrication industry since 1998. To continue my love in welding and to share my experience I've formed a research team and have created this website for our valuable customers.

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