How to cut metal with a hacksaw

(Last modified: March 21st, 2019)

Hacksaws are a hand tool that is a very versatile addition to any workshop. Hacksaws work by simply moving the blade through the metal backwards and forwards in a regular ‘sawing’ action. The C shaped handles are relatively cheap to buy and the wide range of blades available enables a wide range of profile thickness and metal grades to be cut easily. The handles range from basic varieties that simply, yet securely, hold the hack saw blade in place through to professional varieties that have easy to use features such as; thumb dial tensioners in the handle to provide 150kg or 30,00 psi blade tension, adjustment to accommodate 250mm or 300mm blades, and  secondary blade positioning to enable 45° blade angle for flush cutting or 90° for general cutting.

metals4u hacksaw

Hacksaw blades are selected by choosing the correct tpi (teeth per inch) for the type of metal that needs to be cut. The higher the tpi, the more aggressive the cut. The teeth are configured to face towards one end of the blade and the blades can be mounted in the handle with the teeth facing forwards or backwards- the benefit of this is that the power of the ‘towards’ or ‘away’ stroke can be focussed to provide the user with the best cutting ergonomics. Many metal workers prefer to focus the main cutting stroke as the ‘away’ stroke as this provides a clearer view of the cut because the chips are moved forwards during operation.

Hacksaw blade tpi recommendations.

Tpi  (teeth per inch / 25mm of blade)

Suggested usage


Large profiles, aluminium, softer metals


General workshop projects


Steel plate up to 5/6mm thickness


Hollow sections and steel tubing


Tips for cutting metal using a hacksaw.

  • Always wear eye protection and gloves when cutting metal.
  • Select the correct blade for the project being undertaken and ensure it is securely inserted in the frame/ handle with the teeth facing either forwards or backwards depending on preference.
  • Check the blade is rigid, correctly aligned, and taut.
  • Clamp the workpiece or place it in a vice; if this is not possible as the metal is joined to another object, ensure the piece you are not wishing to remove will remain secure once the other piece has been cut off.
  • To begin the cut, make a series of one-way strokes against the direction of the teeth – this will create a narrow incision that the blade can sit in. Once the blade has gained purchase in a millimetre or so of the surface, the full forward and backwards sawing action will soon enable the cut off to be completed.
  • Try not to rush; a smooth, steady sawing action will provide the best cut and will reduce the likelihood of the blade overheating and breaking. A little machine oil or cutting fluid placed on the blade will reduce friction.

How to cut metal with an angle grinder or disc cutter

(Last modified: March 21st, 2019)

Most home and commercial workshops contain an angle grinder as they are one of the most versatile tools; by simply changing the disc you can quickly and easily perform a range of tasks such as cutting metal, stripping rust and paint, deburring, preparing metal for welding tasks, scoring and cutting stone, tiles, and concrete, and cutting out mortar.

metals4U angle grinder

For small or infrequent jobs, an abrasive metal cutting disc can be used on an electric drill with the aid of a backing pad to support the disc; for regular or more heavy-duty applications, a disc cutter or angle grinder will give the best results.

Tips for cutting metal with an angle grinder, disc cutter, and rotary tool.

  • The discs rotate very quickly which will results in hot sparks and chips flying off at speed. Eye protection, heavy duty work gloves, protective footwear and ear protectors are all recommended to keep you safe.
  • Begin by selecting the disc best suited for your project and check that the maximum rpm of the disc is higher than the maximum rpm of the tool; this will protect against the disc becoming over-stressed and fracturing which can cause serious injury.
  • Discs are available in flat, raised centre, and depressed centre presentations. Raised and depressed centre discs are perfect for getting into tight corners and overhangs as they allow for a different angle of entry into the metal; these discs should not be driven too deep as the altered geometry of the disc can get in the way and damage the disc.

Suggested disc types.

Type of disc

Uses Notes

Metal cutting disc / cut off disc

Cutting most metals. Must not be used for grinding. Present at 90° to the workpiece

Cutting edge composed of Aluminium Oxide

Grinding disc

Grinding through ferrous and non- ferrous metals. Present at 45° to the workpiece.

Cutting edge composed of Aluminium Oxide

Multi-cut cutting disc

Cutting through ferrous and non- ferrous metals, (including stainless steel). Will also cut through brick, stone, modern composites & tiles for more complex cutting requirements.

Stainless steel cutting disc



Cutting through steel and stainless steel. Particularly useful for small cross sections.

All cut diamond blade


Cutting through cast iron, other ferrous and non- ferrous metals and most construction materials

Diamond grains bonded to cutting edge.

Abrasive grit mop disc


General grinding of metal, particularly useful for edge grinding projects such as de-burring, sharpening, and surface finishing.

Fan shaped radial configuration of grinding flaps.

Slitting disc / thin cutting disc


Cutting slim walled profiles and pipes. Provides a fine cut line. Suitable for use on ferrous and non-ferrous metals and stainless steel.

Thin cutting discs generate less heat during operation, create less tool vibration, completes cut in less time, and less metal wasted in each cut- this can save up to 2mm per cut.

  • Securely clamp the workpiece near to the intended cutting point or ensure the piece you are cutting from is secure and will not drop or fall during working.
  • Check the tool and disc mounting is correctly set up by running the grinder for a minute or so to ensure any balance or fitting problems are discovered before starting work.
  • When beginning the cut always present the blade at 90° to the workpiece taking care to ensure the guard is positioned between the worker and the workpiece. Avoid using impact or bumping the disc into the metal and always present the cutting blade where the metal is thinnest- round profiles are easiest as the surface contact is uniform, profiles such as ‘I beams’ and box section should be started at a corner to reduce friction. Do not apply too much pressure, just let the disc do the work.
  • The use of a  mill bastard file   is useful after angle grinding to de-burr and smooth the rough cut edge if required.

How to cut metal with a jigsaw

(Last modified: March 21st, 2019)

A jigsaw is a hand-held power tool that is operated by a squeeze trigger in the handle and is designed to cut sheet metal, pipework and wood. As with most power tools, jigsaws vary in the features they offer; for the hobbyist or DIY enthusiast a standard model fitted with the right blade will handle most workshop jobs with ease. For heavy-duty metal cutting, a more robust professional jigsaw would be more suitable as these can cut through 10mm steel and up to 30mm thickness on non-ferrous metals.

metals4U jigsaw

Jigsaws are not suitable for plunge cutting metal, however, a hole can be drilled to feed the blade through and then the cut can be continued in the usual way. Jigsaws have good manoeuvrability which makes them ideal to cut quite intricate shapes;, on tight curves it is advisable to make relief cuts to reduce the risk of the blade binding, however, this will only be possible if the cut off side is scrap, otherwise, it may be possible to get as far into the curve as possible then withdraw the blade and approach the curve from the uncut end.

Jigsaw blades have a single row of teeth along one edge of the blade, these are arranged in a small wave pattern from left to right- a blade with 21-24 tpi is recommended for cutting metal and one manufactured with a bi-metal construction will offer the best durability.

Tips for cutting metal with a jigsaw.

  • Wear appropriate PPE, this should include eye and ear protection and good quality gloves. The cut off metal will fall, it is prudent to wear sturdy, reinforced toe work shoes or boots.
  • Mark out or score the cut lines.
  • Securely clamp the workpiece to the work bench. If there will not be sufficient depth clearance for the blade, the metal can be placed on rails and then clamped to ensure blade clearance. Some metalworkers ‘sandwich’ the metal sheet between two thin sheets of wood to add support while cutting- this technique will take longer but will help minimise distortion on soft or thin metal.
  • With the power supply turned off, select the appropriate blade and insert it into the saw, ensure it is secure and correctly tightened. This is also a good time to check the settings are correct for cutting metal; this will include making sure the blade is set in a straight down position for metal cutting and not angled forward on the wood setting. If the surface of the metal will mark easily, the shoe of the saw can be covered with masking tape to help protect the surface finish. When all settings are correct, keeping fingers clear from the trigger switch, switch on the power.
  • If starting the cut at the edge, press the saw shoe firmly on the surface of the workpiece without the blade touching the metal. Slowly depress the trigger and once the blade is moving, glide it into the workpiece. It is important not to force the speed of the cut and just let the blade do the work. If starting the cut away from the edge of the workpiece, simply drill a hole large enough to insert the blade in and continue as above.
  • Once the cut is underway, pause the saw and add a few drops of tapping and cutting fluid to the cut to reduce heat at the blade then continue. Apply cutting fluid as required.
  • Move clamps and rotate the work as necessary to gain the best positioning of the saw to achieve the best cutting line.

How to cut metal with a pipe cutter

(Last modified: March 21st, 2019)

Pipe cutters are a simple hand-held tool that easily cuts through steel, copper, bronze and aluminium tube sections. The tool is constructed in a ‘C’ shape that has rollers and a cutting blade set within the inside edge.

pipe cutter

Some models need to be manually adjusted while cutting to decrease the aperture and others are self-adjusting. The more basic pipe cutters have a fixed cutting diameter and more professional models can cut pipe with a diameter of between 8mm and 35mm.  Pipe cutters are also available in a choice of handled or non-handled, both perform the same cutting action, however, it is a matter of personal choice of which type to use. A range of pipe cutters can be viewed here.

Tips for cutting metal with a pipe cutter.

  • Ensure eye protection and gloves are worn.
  • Measure the pipe or tube and mark where the cut will be.
  • Put the pipe cutter over the end of the pipe and slide it along until it reaches the cut point.
  • Tighten the grip on the tools and twist the cutter around the pipe until the blade cuts through. If using a manually adjusted pipe cutter it will require tightening after 3 or 4 turns, however, whichever model is used it will only take a few revolutions.
  • Deburr the cut end with a mill file or abrasive paper if required.

How to cut metal with a mitre saw, cut off saw, or chop saw

(Last modified: March 21st, 2019)

Chop saws and cut off saws make a straight cut across the profile at 90° while mitre saws cut across profiles at an angle, however, the directions for using all these machines are the same. Mitre saws, cut off saws, and chop saws have a ‘cutting plinth’ integrated into the design to provide a static cutting area.

chop saw metals4U

Although mitre saws were traditionally used for cutting wood, with the correct blade they can make light work of cutting through steel and aluminium profiles at an angle.

Accessories  such as these mitre saw blades provide easy cutting through aluminium and non-ferrous metals, or these high performance discs  give good results for cutting through steel and stainless steel with precise, clean cuts.

Tips for cutting metal using a chop saw, cut off saw, or mitre saw.

  • As with all metal cutting operations, ensure that eye protection, gloves and ear defenders are worn to protect against injury from flying shards and chips of metal.
  • If using a mitre saw that has open motor housing, simply tape some thin cloth over the openings and vents to protect the motor from metal chips.
  • If sawing through a profile that is hollow or that has a thin wall, such as aluminium angle, it can be advantageous to back the metal with a piece of wood to add support, therefore, minimising the risk of the blade catching on the metal which may cause a deformation in the metal being cut.
  • Before switching on the power to the saw, check that the guard is in good condition and set at the correct position, and that all cables are clear from the cutting area.
  • Place the workpiece on the table and secure the workpiece using any vice adjusters or mitre locks and ensure it is held tight against the fence to ensure accuracy of the cut.
  • One you are satisfied with your machine set up, maintain pressure on the workpiece against the fence then depress the power switch on the saw and listen for the blade to reach full speed before lowering the blade slowly and consistently through the metal. When the cut is complete, hold the saw in the down position and release the power button- keep a secure hold on the workpiece until the blade has come to a complete stop. One the blade is stationary, return the blade carriage to the upright position.

How to cut metal with tin snips

(Last modified: March 21st, 2019)

Tin snips are an inexpensive and invaluable addition to any tool box. For most cutting jobs regular tin snips will be perfectly adequate, but for some projects it is worth upgrading to one of the more specialised blade configurations to achieve better results and perform the task with as little effort as possible.

tin snips metals4U

As a general rule, the larger the tin snip tool, the thicker gauge of metal that can be cut. There are two main types of tin snips available; tin snips, and aviation shears- within each type there are several different configurations available.

The different types of snips are outlined below.

Standard tin snips. This style of tin snip is also commonly called ‘tinners’ and ‘Gilbows’ and are mainly used for long straight cuts. Tinners have a basic construction of two bladed handles being fixed together with a nut and bolt. These are good for cutting thin gauge metal sheet, metal mesh, and other mainly flat metal items.

Types of tin snips available;

  • Curved tin snips have curved blades that can perform tight radius cuts in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions.
  • Straight tin snips that cut straight lines with minimum effort.
  • Right hand tin snips are suitable for cutting straight lines and cutting off in an anti-clockwise direction. Best suited for right handed use.
  • Left hand tin snips are suitable for cutting off in a clockwise direction and for cutting straight lines. Best suited for left handed use.

Aviation Snips. These are also often referred to as ‘compound’ snips. These have 2 pivot points instead of one, therefore, less force is needed to maintain a clean cut. Aviation snips are not designed to make long cuts in sheet metal, but rather to perform more specialised tasks. Compound snips are suitable for cutting through aluminium and sheet metal up to around 24 gauge. Aviation snips are available in a wide range of configurations to suit specific project requirements.

  • Vertical snips. These snips have the blades set at a 90° angle to the handle. This configuration enables overhead cuts, or cuts in tight places, to be performed with ease.
  • Offset snips. These snips have the blades set at less of an angle than vertical snips and are particularly useful during projects where no free hand is available to move the offcut away from the blade; the offcut moves to the side unaided as the bottom blade is ‘offset’.
  • Straight snips are often colour coded with yellow handles, these are the type to use for straight cuts and wide curves.
  • Right cut snips are colour coded with green handles, these will cut straight both lines and curves angled to the right.
  • Left cut snips are colour coded with red handles and cut straight lines and left angled curves.

Choosing the correct snips.

Although the wide range of tin snips may look daunting at first, it is worth ensuring you pick the correct snips for the project. It is important to ensure the left hand and left cut, or right hand and right cut specifications don’t confuse- remember, aviation snips can be used in either hand to perform their intended purpose; use the colour coded system for guidance, whereas, left and right hand tin snips are intended to be used in either the left or right hand according to their designation. ‘Left hand’ snips cut clockwise while ‘left cut’ aviation snips cut anticlockwise and ‘right hand’ snips cut anti-clockwise while ‘right cut’ aviation snips cut in a clockwise direction.

Tips for cutting metal with tin snips.

When using tin snips, it is important to wear protective gloves as the cut edges of the metal will be very sharp and any slips could result in a deep cut. It is always recommended to wear eye protection to prevent injury from shards of metal that may fly off.

Essentially, tin snips are used in the same way scissors are used to cut paper. It is worth taking the time to mark out the desired cut line with a simple marker pen to make the whole operation simpler, especially as the metal may need to be manoeuvred and moved during cutting.

Clamping the work piece may be necessary for some projects, however, for smaller pieces it is often easier to just hold it.

Most projects will be straightforward and do not require any special techniques; some tips for cutting circles and thicker metal are outlined below.

Cutting a circle.

  • Mark out the circle with a marker pen and puncture the metal in the centre of the circle using an old screwdriver or a punch to make a hole large enough to slip the end of the tin snips’ blade in; placing the metal on a folded cloth or sponge to help keep it raised while making the initial slit is helpful. Offset aviation snips and curved tin snips are recommended for this task.
  • Make small snips in a gentle spiral shape until the marked-out edge of the circle is reached. If using red handled, (left cut) tin snips, cut in an anti-clockwise direction, if using green handled (right cut) snips, cut in a clockwise direction.


Cutting thicker metal.

  • Using straight aviation snips, open the handles wide and place the metal in the jaws where the 2 blades meet. Using a steady but firm force, squeeze the handles closed. Take care to not close the blades too quickly or the metal may ‘jump’ out of the blades creating an unsatisfactory cut or cause an injury.


How to cut metal with a guillotine

(Last modified: March 21st, 2019)

Guillotines cut metal by using 2 blades; one is fixed under the workpiece, the other moves downwards to cut through the metal. Guillotines come in many different sizes and are known by an array of names such as; guillotine shear, plate shear, squaring shear, Beverly, and throatless shear, but essentially, they all utilise the same mode of cutting.

cnc guillotine metals4U

Guillotines are available in mechanical, pneumatic and hydraulic models for use across a wide variety of projects. Hand or foot operated models are a useful addition to the hobbyist or DIY enthusiast as they make light work of cutting through aluminium, bronze, brass, and mild steel without the need for a large workshop or financial investment. For the metal worker needing fast and multiple sheets cutting regularly, a larger CNC pneumatic or hydraulic model would be more appropriate.

The cut edge of the metal may need deburring or finishing after being cut with a guillotine, this can be done with a mill file or an aluminium sanding sheet.

The different types of guillotine are looked at more closely below.

Squaring shear, power shear or guillotine.

This is most commonly used in industry as a hydraulically powered CNC machine, although they are available as foot or hand powered units. Guillotines can have either a fixed or variable cutting angle that reduces the risk of metal becoming trapped in the blades, although setting this ‘rake’ angle will compromise the exact squareness of the cut edge- this can usually be set to between 0.5° and 2.5°.  The force of the cut can also be reduced by adjusting the ‘shear angle’; this alters the rocking action of the blade to increase the stroke- this makes the cut from one side of the metal to the other as more of a scissor action than a chopping action.

Tips for cutting metal using a guillotine.

  • Eye protection and gloves should always be worn when cutting metal to provide protection from cuts and metal splinter injuries. Guillotines powered by electricity are incredibly noisy so ear protection should also be used.
  • Adjust the settings on the machine by following the manufacturer’s instructions to the desired length of cut, shear angle, and rake angle.
  • Ensure that all guards are in good working order and correctly in place. The blade and clamps should be correctly isolated by the guards to avoid entanglement. The force used within guillotines could sever a limb, so do not rush the machine set up or ‘make do’ with any element of the equipment that is not fit for purpose.
  • Place the metal into the front of the machine and feed it through until it touches the back gauge then activate the clamps to secure the metal.
  • Engage the blade mechanism which may be a key pad, treadle, or lever depending on the machine. The blades will shear off the metal which will drop into the collection chute to the rear of the machine.
  • If the metal does not drop out from the machine, do not try to free it manually as the blades may be jammed against the cut off metal, removing the metal may cause the blades to slam closed or the metal to drop suddenly causing catastrophic injury. Switch the machine off and call a qualified engineer to clear the machine.

Throatless shear, Throatless guillotine.

Throatless guillotines have no plate in front of the blade to support the metal and no ‘throat’ to dictate a particular way the metal must be fed into the blades. This configuration makes it easy to manipulate the metal easily into the cutting blades. The blades are raised and lowered into and out of the metal by a hand operated lever.

How to cut metal with a throatless guillotine.

  • Ensure eye protection and heavy-duty gloves are worn.
  • Mark the metal with marker pen, or a scoring scribe, along the cut line.
  • Feed the metal between the blades and lower the lever in small or long drags to make a series of short snips or longer cuts while continuing to manipulate the metal into place; this simple technique allows almost any shape to be cut from sheet metal.

Bench shear.

Bench shears are mounted on the workbench to provide a secure working environment. The lever operated mechanism provides a forceful cutting action. Bench shears can be used to cut out rough shapes and straight cuts in sheet, however, they are not suited to the more intricate cutting that is achievable with throatless shears.

How to cut metal with bench shears.

  • Ensure correct PPE is worn.
  • Measure and mark or score the cut line if necessary.
  • Place the metal between the blades and pull the lever downwards to engage the blades and push it back into an upright position to open the blades.

How to cut metal with a reciprocating saw

(Last modified: March 21st, 2019)

Reciprocating saws fitted with the correct metal cutting blade make easy work of sawing through bolts, rods, rebar, pipes, profiles, and nails in studwork.

Reciprocating saws cut by the blade travelling in a backwards and forwards, push- pull movement. Many tool models include an oscillating setting which enables the blade to also travel in a movement running perpendicular to the cutting motion- this means that the blade completes an oval cutting motion; this is exceptionally useful when using a reciprocating saw to cut through wood, however, this is best switched off when cutting metal to fully utilise the ‘straight’ cutting capabilities.

reciprocating saw metals4U

These types of saws are really easy to adapt to all types of metal cutting projects due to versatility of the orientation when inserting the saw blade; the blade can be inserted with the cutting teeth facing downwards or upwards and in most modern saws the blade can be inserted in four positions to enable flush cutting and ease of use regardless of operating position. Reciprocating saws are also fitted with a ‘shoe’ that can be adjusted to increase or decrease the available cutting area of the blade; this helps extend the life of the blade and control the depth of cut. The shoe can also be used as a fulcrum to gain purchase on the material being cut and to increase control over the reciprocating action of this power tool.

Tips for cutting metal using a reciprocating saw.

  • Eye and ear protection must be worn when using a reciprocating to protect the user from injury from flying offcuts and chips. Sturdy gloves are also advised to protect against cuts.
  • Select the correct blade for the metal being cut. The recommended blades for thin metal are those with 20-24 teeth per inch, for a medium thickness of metal between 10-18 teeth per inch, and for very thick metal a blade with around 8 teeth per inch is recommended. A Bi-metal saw blade set that contains a selection of blades suitable for a range of commonly performed projects is a worthwhile investment.
  • Choosing a longer blade is useful when flush cutting as it will bend to enable a greater proportion of the cutting edge to ride flat. Cutting thinner materials with a smaller blade will help limit ‘waggle’ during use; usually the blade should only be a couple of inches longer than the depth of cut required.
  • Insert the blade into the saw in a way that that best suits the application. For example; if cutting through a material that is flush to the floor, it can be useful to insert the blade with the teeth facing upwards and then switch the orientation of the tool (flip it upside-down) so the handle does not get in the way.
  • Setting the saw to a slower speed than for wood cutting will extend the blade life and provide more control and precision. Adjust the shoe to ensure it is set at the most appropriate point on the blade.
  • Place the blade where the cut will be, using the shoe as a pivot or fulcrum will help guide the blade until it gains purchase in the metal. Slowly squeeze the trigger and keep a firm hold on the tool housing.
  • Changing the cutting angle by lowering or raising the trigger hand (in relation to the workpiece) can speed up the cutting time.
  • When the cut is complete, let go of the trigger and withdraw the blade back through the cut.

Prolonging reciprocating saw blade life.

If a saw blade becomes buckled it can be easily straightened by placing on a flat surface, put a flat piece of wood over the damaged area and hit the wood a few times with a hammer- be careful to not damage the teeth.

Blades that have become too worn to cut metal can often be repurposed for use cutting plastics.

How to cut metal using score and snap

(Last modified: March 21st, 2019)

‘Score and snap’ is a hand-cutting technique that is simple to complete on light gauge sheet metal and thin aluminium and steel profiles. This technique needs very little equipment and is very quick. The only equipment you will need is a utility knife, a marker pen, a clamp can be useful for some profiles, and a metal square or metal ruler.

score and snap tools metals4U

Tips for cutting metal using the score and snap technique.

  • If necessary, measure and mark out where the cut needs to be made.
  • Don’t forget to wear protective gloves and eye protection. If wearing prescription glasses to help your vision, ensure you wear goggles over the top to ensure protection from small shards of metal that may fly off at speed.
  • Hold the straight metal edge of the ruler or square along the mark-up line and score with the utility knife blade or scribing tool- to reduce the risk of the blade slipping and making unwanted marks on the metal surface, or worse causing an accident, it is better to work slowly using moderate pressure and make several lighter score marks.
  • Clamp the metal securely on one side of the cut line if appropriate, smaller pieces may be hand held.
  • Bend the metal back and forth along the scored line until it snaps.
  • To cut through rivets or studs that are fixed through metal sheeting or wood boards, simply score lines on either side of the riveted through material and simply work the area to be removed backwards and forwards until it snaps off.

How to cut metal with a plasma cutter

(Last modified: March 21st, 2019)

Plasma cutting was discovered in the 1960’s when welders tried to turn the gas up on their arc welders to improve speed and productivity; what they discovered was that once you reach a certain intensity, the equipment no longer joins metal, but cuts it. Plasma cutters work by combining an electric charge with compressed air being discharged at the tip of the cutting torch- the arc ‘super- heats’ the compressed air to form ‘plasma’.

metals4U plasma cutting

Tips for cutting metal with a plasma cutter.

  • Ensure you have a suitable workspace for using this cutting equipment, this includes a stable workbench and all your PPE to hand; plasma cutters function at around 45000°F / 25000°C, so regular Tig and Mig gloves will not be adequate. We recommend these  Skintex welders’ gloves to offer superior protection when working with plasma cutting equipment.
  • Ensure the plasma cutter is switched off and plug it into the power supply ready to start. Check that cables and hoses are in good condition and not crossing over or caught on the metal you are intending to cut.
  • Attach the air compressor hose to the plasma cutter- make sure the connection is secure then turn on the air to the correct pressure-too high will blow out the plasma, too little will not enable a cut to be made. This will typically be between 60-65 psi.
  • Ensure there is at least one water trap filter/ disposable air filter in the hose to maintain a dry air supply to the arc; this will prevent splutter or maybe worse- water and electricity are best avoided being mixed during any operation.
  • Place the metal to be cut on a bench or cutting table and secure the ‘Earth Clamp’ on the metal, close to where the cut will be.
  • Switch the plasma cutter on and adjust the current to the desired setting.

General guidance for amperage suggests 20amps will be enough for a 3mm deep cut, after this, the amperage can be increased by 10 amps per additional 3mm of cut depth.

Thickness of metal in mm Suggested amps
3 20
6 30
9 40
12 50


  • Put on your PPE.
  • You are now ready to cut the metal- the standard technique for plasma cutting is to ‘drag’ the cutting tip across the metal. Hold the tip at a 45° angle facing away from you and drag the cutting tip towards you; this will blow sparks away from you- but stay vigilant, the sparks will still fly around randomly at times. Once cutting has begun the torch is best held perpendicular to the metal being cut; if sparks travel backwards, simply adjust the angle of the torch to face away again.
  • Regular checks of the cutting tip, nozzle, and electrode for signs of damage and wear will help protect against unpredictable and erratic cutting and machine performance. Be careful to not touch the plasma cutter to the metal as this may fuse the cutting tip to the metal and may cause the cutter to go out; using ‘drag cups’ or a ‘drag shield’ can keep the tip from coming into direct contact with the metal. If no drag shields are available, try to maintain a 6mm gap between the metal and the cutting tip.
  • Once the cut has been completed, turn off the machine and disconnect the ‘earth clamp’ and then turn off the air. While tidying up the cables and hoses it is a good opportunity to carefully check them and replace anything that show signs of excessive wear or damage.