The number of projects we encounter when working on our hot rods are endless. The proper tools will make any job go more smoothly and quickly, yielding a better looking job and saving you a great deal of exasperation. We visited Hot Rods by Dean in Phoenix and watched them work with their Eastwood Versa-Cut Plasma Cutter to pick up a few tips and get their impression.

The Eastwood Versa-Cut Plasma Cutter (PN 12740) is ideally suited for the at-home builder as it will cut through steel, stainless, or aluminum as thin as 24-gauge or as thick as 3/8 inch. (Most sheetmetal we run into on our car projects is in the 14- to 16-gauge range.) It's lightweight at 29 pounds, making it easily portable, but the major selling point of the Versa-Cut may be the inverter technology that allows you to plug into 110 or 220 V. The unit is equipped with a 220 plug but comes with a 1-foot 240V to 120V grounded adaptor cord. (While not recommended, if you do use an extension cord make sure it's in good condition and has a minimum rating of 12 gauge at 25 feet. Also, your garage electrical panel should be equipped with a 20-amp fuse for 120 V, and 30 amp for 240V operation.) Something else to consider is the use of dry air. While the Versa-Cut comes with a "last chance" moisture separator and drain on its underside, it's highly recommended that your air compressor has an external water trap. The compressor also needs to deliver 5-7 cfm at 60 psi.

Plasma cutting is relatively new, having come into common use in the '60s. It was developed as an efficient way to cut sheetmetal and plate. The major advantages of plasma cutting over mechanical cuttings is it produced no metal chips, yields accurate cuts, and left a clean metal edge.

The Eastwood Versa-Cut will begin cutting after the torch trigger is depressed to ignite the pilot arc. The tip of the torch must be touching or within a short distance to the work piece to begin the cut. The Versa-Cut has a duty cycle that's rated at 60 percent at 40 amps. Basically that means if you are at 40 amps you can cut for six minutes followed by four minutes of cooling time for the cutter. To increase the duty cycle you can turn down the amperage output control but this will also determine how thick of a material you can cut through.

In working with Jerry Miller from Hot Rods by Dean, he told us that the Eastwood Versa-Cut was easy to use and worked well with the typical sheetmetals any of us would find working on vintage tin. Since 3/8 inch is also another common thickness we will find when working on a frame it will get the job done when it comes to cutting out old crossmembers, motor, and shock mounts.

If you like fabricating with sheetmetal or plate you will find yourself in need of a mechanical or plasma means of cutting metal. Mechanical cutting is messy and slow while the alternative, plasma, is much cleaner and quicker. The time you save is better spent fabricating the new pieces that you will need for your latest project.

1. We stopped by Hot Rods by Dean to check out the Eastwood Versa-Cut plasma cutter.

2. The ideal home-use plasma cutter from Eastwood works with advanced inverter technology that supplies cutting power using either 110 or 220 V via an Eastwood adapter cord. Lightweight at less than 30 pounds makes it portable.

3. The front panel houses all of the unit's controls; make sure to check that the on/off switch is in the "off" position before plugging it into the power outlet. There are warning lights showing when the cutter is on and when it's in an overload condition.

4. The air pressure gauge will read between 30 to 60 psi; lower pressure for thinner metals and higher pressure for thicker or harder metals.

5. Red-colored cable to the far right is the ground cable, moving left is the black torch switch connector, pilot arc ignitor (black), and air supply line (black).

6. You will have to install a 1/4-inch NPT fitting on the rear of the cutter box, compressed air hookup. (A drain on the underside corner requires the collected moisture be drained after each use, "last-chance" moisture separator.)

7. The torch has consumable components; within the external nozzle are the nozzle, air diffuser, and electrode.

8. The 10-foot ground cable clamp should be attached to a clean and bare area of the material you are working on; a good ground is imperative; scrap, wire brush, file, or grind area where ground clamp attaches.

9. The Eastwood Versa-Cut utilizes voltage-sensing technology letting you plug into either a 110V or 220V outlet with the Eastwood-supplied adapter cord. (1-foot NEMA, National Electrical Manufacturers Association, 50P plug 240V to 120V grounded adaptor cord).

10. The Eastwood Plasma Cutting Guide is adjustable to cut clean, accurate circles and holes from 3 to 16 inches in diameter in material up to 3/8-inch thick. It has 1.375-inch-diameter wheels.

11. Before tackling any job, take your Versa-Cut for a test "ride" by practicing on similar metals. You can see that the plasma cutter is capable of "fine" cuts; ideally suited for hot rod projects.

12. The Eastwood Versa-Cut Plasma Cutter will work ideally on steel, stainless, or aluminum as thin as 24-gauge, or as thick as 3/8 inch.

Eastwood Tech Tips:

To help avoid breaking a rusted fastener when removing, in addition to using penetrating oil, first break it loose, then only loosen it a very slight amount, switch to tighten, back to loosen, and do this progressively to avoid a buildup of rust in the threads, binding, and ultimate breakage. It works!

To start threading a spark plug into a difficult-to-reach area, slip a suitable-sized fuel line or similar hose over the end of the plug and use it as a flexible extension to start threading the plug-in. This also helps prevent cross threading and saves hands. When snug, you can do the final tighten with a wrench.

Hot Rods By Dean
1 West Lone Cactus Drive
AZ  85027
The Eastwood Company