How to Use Templates for Plasma Cutter Metal Art

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Plasma cutters use extremely hot gas to cut metal. These cutters are so precise that they allow metal artists to render fine detail out of sheet metal. A design template is useful for creating multiples of the same piece of art. The artist has two options for using a template: trace the template design onto the sheet metal or clamp it directly to the sheet metal to guide the plasma cutter.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil
  • Cardboard
  • Particle board or plywood
  • Ruler
  • Jigsaw
  • Soapstone
  • Two or more metal clamps

Tracing Method

  • Draw the design onto a stiff piece of cardboard.

  • Cut out the design using a sharp knife.

  • Clamp the cardboard template to the sheet metal. Use at least two clamps; for a large design, use three or more clamps to hold the cardboard firmly in place.

  • Trace around the cardboard with soapstone. Go slowly, especially when working around the clamps.

  • Remove the clamps and the cardboard. You should now have an outline of the design exactly as it appeared in cardboard.

  • Cut the metal with the plasma cutter. Hold the tip directly over the line, and work slowly to maintain an accurate cut.

Clamping Method

  • Measure the distance from the center of the cutting tip to the edge of the tip.

  • Draw the design to be reproduced on a piece of particle board or plywood, subtracting the measurement from Step 1. For example, if the center of the cutting tip measures 1/8-inch from the edge, draw the design 1/8-inch smaller than desired.

  • Cut the design from the piece of wood using a jigsaw. Work slowly to ensure a smooth cut. This is especially important with this method, because the cutting tip will rest against the template as it follows the design.

  • Mount the finished cut piece onto a piece of sheet metal using the metal clamps.

  • Trace around the template with the plasma cutter, keeping the edge of the cutting tip against the template. As the tip approaches a clamp, it might be necessary to stop cutting and move the clamp to a new position, then continue cutting along the line.

Tips & Warnings

  • Create a long-lasting template from a scrap piece of sheet metal instead of cardboard or wood.
  • Always follow manufacturer's instructions and wear safety equipment, such as welder's shield and leather gloves.

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References

  • Photo Credit steel puzzle image by robert mobley from Fotolia.com
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