Plasma Cutter Metal Art for Beginners
Table of Contents
How to Start and What to Make
If you’re a beginner who’s decided to get into metal art, and you’re not sure where to begin - you’re in the right place. There are great rewards from getting into this interesting and unique form of art, and once you’ve mastered the basics, you’re only limited by your imagination. Keep reading for a breakdown of how to get into making metal art.
What do I use?
One of the most precise ways to make metal art is with a plasma cutter. Plasma cutters use electrically ionized gas forced through a small opening to melt the metal. They’re relatively easy to operate and control, and give even beginners a solid foundation from which to start.
In addition to using a plasma cutter to carve out your desired designs, you can use welding to add another dimension to your metal art.
What, exactly, is “welding?” Essentially it’s the process of heating two pieces of metal with a welder to bond the parts together. When the parts cool, they stay welded. This is a wide definition, and there are different welding processes for various materials. However, for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on metal.
Once you decide which plasma cutter and welder are right for you, gather your safety equipment. You’ll need strong eye protection, gloves, a thick apron or other protective clothing, a safe workspace, and a fire extinguisher. If you’re drawing a design onto the metal, you’ll also need a sturdy marker and paper or another material to make a template you can trace.
How do I get started on plasma cutter art projects?
Well, this will depend on the exact type of cutter you have, plus the design you’re making. But, in general, the process looks like this:
- Write, draw, or print out your desired design on paper (or you can skip the next step and draw directly on the metal instead).
- Trace the design onto your piece of metal.
- Put on all your safety equipment and fire up your plasma cutter.
- Carefully cut around your design.
- There will be pieces of re-solidified metal (called ‘dross’) on the back. You can leave these or chip them off with a hammer and chisel, whatever you prefer.
- Weld other parts or pieces of metal onto the design as you like, for either a 3D effect or just to enhance your project.
- Add your preferred finishing touches (grinding, painting, leaving natural discoloration, etc.)
- Enjoy your art!
It sounds simple, because once you get the hang of it, it can be.
What can I make?
Honestly, almost anything. You can make signs to hang on your wall or outside, sculptures, garden decorations, and more. Especially as you build your skills, the more you practice, the more options will be available to you.
The versatility of plasma cutting and metal art means you can combine your metal designs with an endless variety of other materials to create really intricate designs.
For example, if you build a flower out of metal, you can put it in a vase you hand-paint yourself for a truly distinctive and decorative piece. You can create a model of the solar system to hang in front of a painting of stars.
You can even make functional objects like your own barbeque skewers for s’mores, a steampunk-themed shelf for your living room, or, when you get really good, an entire side table that will be the focal point of any room.
Plus, if you have other maker devices like even an inexpensive 3D printer on hand, you can make even more interesting projects. There are thousands of 3D designs on sites like Thingiverse, so your possibilities are basically endless.
Combine a 3D printed backdrop with metal foreground for a truly distinct piece of artwork. 3D print a spaceship from your favorite sci-fi show and rest it on a metal stand you make yourself. Shape metal into a swirl design and hang a 3D printed shelving unit in front of it for personalized storage.
The only limit to what you can make with a plasma cutter is your mind. Get creative and start designing and before you know it, your home will be filled with dozens of unique, handmade pieces of art.
This article is definitely not an exhaustive resource. You’ll keep learning and enhancing your skills as you practice and try new projects. No matter what you make with your plasma cutter, you’re going to love designing, shaping, and ultimately enjoying your metal art.