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  #1  
Old 07-15-2006, 02:09 PM
anatomist1 anatomist1 is offline
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Plasma cutting danger?

I found a discussion on another forum about the proper eye protection required for plasma cutting. I wasn't satisfied with what was said there, and posted this response. I thought I'd post it here too, since it is also relevant to people here.

****

Does anyone have any real knowledge about the proper sheilding for plasma cutting and the dangers of using inadequate protection?

I tried to look this up a couple years ago and every manufacturer or safety recommendation I found said to use 8, 9, or 10, as the early poster said. However, there were never any references to any actual science or medicine-based information.

It seems almost everyone uses #5 and believes it isn't hazardous because they like seeing what they are doing better, everyone else does it, and they have done it so far and not noticed any short term effects. To me, these are all completely inadequate reasons to take an unknown risk with my eyesight, or to allow anyone else to, if I'm responsible for them in a shop setting. Wanting something to be true is irrelevant. Hearsay is irrelevant. Often times, long term or cumulative effects of damaging stresses are not immediately apparent. Researchers are just now discovering that hearing damage that occurs in the teens and twenties is the dominant cause of hearing loss and tinnitus that occurs in late middle age, for instance. With chemical stressors and various disease risks, especially cancer, often the 'effect' occurs decades after the cause.

Some things said here are definitely false:

First, the idea that bright light cannot harm your eyes if it goes through a lens with 100% UV shielding is not correct. Bright light in the visible spectrum itself certainly can harm your eyes, which is the whole point behind different darknesses of safety lenses. Almost all sunglasses are equipped with 100% UV shielding... anyone willing to put on a pair and stare at the sun for an hour?

Second, the idea that auto shields turn on so fast that no light gets past them is also wrong. 1/20,000th of a second may sound fast, but light travels at 186,000 MILES PER SECOND. If you imagine this spatially, that "fast" lens is allowing a stream of potentially harmful light over 9 miles long into your eyes every time you start an arc. This may or may not be significant to your ocular health, but it is not nothing, and it could definitely accumulate if it is causing any damage. Whether or not it is significant is a question that I think should be answered with science and research, not convenient or flippant assumptions.

I will be researching this further in the future. I will report anything I find here later. As I stated, if anyone knows of any information resources with references to studies or even speculation done by knowledgable medical researchers, I would appreciate the info.
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  #2  
Old 07-15-2006, 08:19 PM
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Landseer Landseer is offline
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

Quote:
Second, the idea that auto shields turn on so fast that no light gets past them is also wrong. 1/20,000th of a second may sound fast, but light travels at 186,000 MILES PER SECOND. If you imagine this spatially, that "fast" lens is allowing a stream of potentially harmful light over 9 miles long into your eyes every time you start an arc. This may or may not be significant to your ocular health, but it is not nothing, and it could definitely accumulate if it is causing any damage. Whether or not it is significant is a question that I think should be answered with science and research, not convenient or flippant assumptions.
That is right, you may not NOTICE it in 1/20,000th of a second but it's still there. The iris' wouldn't even be able to react in that space of time, so the full blast hits your eyes fully and likely the darker the room is the more this would be the case- the iris' would be open more in a darker area in the basement or shop than in bright sunlight outside.
Years ago came out the issue of florescent lamp flicker, supposedly too fast to see, but you could see a flicker and some people reported headaches and other issues.

Is 9 miles of bright light injurious? probably to a degree and accumulative, and it depends if the eyes can repair damage if any. I's say some research is in order as this makes complete sense (the 9 miles of light before the shades go dark) the eyes are getting some of the light every time.
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Old 07-15-2006, 08:47 PM
anatomist1 anatomist1 is offline
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

Obviously that's my current thinking too. In my overall risk/benefit analysis, I am unwilling to risk my eyes on auto shades or plasma cutting with #5 sheilds. To me, the benefits of these activities over less convenient, safer alternatives are not worth it. In fact, one of the reasons I mostly prefer gas welding is that an occasional flash is inevitable with electric welding. I'm willing to run that risk to some extent, but I wouldn't want to be jamming away at it for 8 hours per day.

I ruffled some feathers over at that metal forum:

http://www.innovationaliron.com/foru...ad.php?tid=438

Last edited by anatomist1 : 07-15-2006 at 09:11 PM.
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  #4  
Old 07-16-2006, 01:01 AM
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

I've often heard of a very specific affliction called 'arc-eye.'


A search engine query with 'arc eye' yielded the following:

http://www.welding-rods-lawsuits.com...r/arc_eye.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc_eye
http://www.easypower.com/arcflash_resource/


I have to agree with you on weighing the health risks, and it is certainly worth serious consideration.
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  #5  
Old 07-16-2006, 02:45 PM
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

Thanks for the links obseq, it's nice to have a point of reference to share with others.
I've always known it as flash burn.

Common sense is a great tool to employ with any work you do. If you experience any discomfort in your eyes, dark or bright spots when you lift your shield or eye fatigue after doing any welding work, then the odds are something is wrong with your equipment. You should immediately figure out what the problem is before continuing to work.

I've been welding for thirty years in a variety of situations and basically use two helmets with no side effects. My primary helmet has a large visor (4"x5") with a #8 gold filter and the other is an ajustable auto-darkening filter with solar cells and four triggering points to engage it. Many welders prefer slim lenses that restrict focus and limit visual distractions while welding and I do use one other helmet with a flip-up 2"x4" #9 filter when there is a lot of close grinding to be done. It's filter has poly-carbonate clear lenses front & back to protect it when it is open and exposed.

The #8 gold is my primary arc welding filter, it gets away with being lighter because it reflects back light. If it ever got scratched it would be trash. I use a darker #10 or #11 for an occassional TIG weld, but don't do much of that kind of work.

I've never received a serious flash burn --knock on wood-- but a good friend got nailed on a large welding job. They would all nod helmets and strike arcs simultaneously on opposite sides of a beam --intending to limit warpage-- and got flashed a lot. The next morning he woke up and could barely open his eyes, they were so sensitive he couldn't go outside in the daylight. It said it felt like there was grit poured into them, a doctor gave him some nasty ointment to ooze into them and it took five days for him to mend. There was no permanent damage, but it's a mistake he swore he would never repeat.
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  #6  
Old 07-16-2006, 03:56 PM
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

My photo cell went bad in my miller helmet,and it kept lightning up in the middle of welds.After about the fith freeking time I threw it across the room,although I still needed it.The sensors went bad and there were only two.My new helmet has four so when you get blocked by your work as you weld it has a better chance of working right.I use #11 cutting torch goggles to plasma,depending on light in the shop some times it is hard to find a pencil line on stainless,so I use a sharpie.I wonder if the sharpie could be blowing bad smoke when it burns,or would it be so hot it just nukes it?I know fools that cut without goggles,just does not make sence to me...IA
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  #7  
Old 07-16-2006, 04:08 PM
Arrow Arrow is offline
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

I grit my teeth every time I see people spot welding without helmets or gloves. It's not just your eyes but your skin too!
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  #8  
Old 07-16-2006, 04:37 PM
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arrow
I grit my teeth every time I see people spot welding without helmets or gloves. It's not just your eyes but your skin too!
I am agree with Arrow, you must protect your skin when you work with dangerous materials. Work can be really satisfactory but if you cant take the precautions could be a disaster!!!!
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  #9  
Old 07-16-2006, 06:02 PM
anatomist1 anatomist1 is offline
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

I guess I'm in a different camp on skin.

I am very cautious about my eyes and ears, and trying to be ever more cautious about my lungs. To me, the added convenience of doing something - even a small thing - without whatever earmuffs, glasses, respirators, and/or ventilation required doesn't seem like much of a benefit to be worth the risk. That is why I was somewhat aghast when I encountered the thread on that other site where people were advocating ignoring OSHA standards and manufacturer recommendations with regards to eye protection for plasma cutting. When it comes to what I'll recommend that other people do, I have a stricter safety standard than the one I apply to myself. Even if I was willing to risk something like that, I'd never advocate that anyone else do it.

Thus is the case for me with skin protection. I spend so much time oxyfuel welding that I simply could not stand to wear the standard big insulated gloves, leather jacket and face shield - it is too uncomfortable and restrictive - especially those damn gloves. The only protections I use are #5 wraparound glasses and thin suede work gloves. I often wear shorts and a t-shirt when it's hot. To me, the threat to my skin is not that great. I can take a glove off pretty fast if I touch something hot, and for the most part I protect myself from burns by paying close attention to what I'm doing. I haven't been burned in a long time, and even when I did get burns, it wasn't that big of a deal to me. Like I said though, I wouldn't advocate it for anyone else. I simply choose to run the risk.

With regards to flash, I've gotten minor flashes lots of times with a MIG and the whole nod-flip-down system. It never hurt all that bad, but I wish it hadn't happened. I will buy an auto darkening hood when I start to use electric heat methods again, but I will close my eyes momentarily until it darkens each time an arc is started. I am still unconvinced that the amount of light let through before it darkens is safe, even if no ill effects are noticed. I think it will reduce the chances of flash over nodding for me, otherwise I would just continue with a solid shield. With electric welding, I do protect my skin with denim.

One other eye hazard that I find is underappreciated is the radiant light coming off of freshly welded metal. I have heard of people who noticed problems from regularly looking at their welds immediately after welding them and it makes sense that it would be bright enough to cause damage - especially glowing slag and carbon deposits. Since there is no reason not to wait a few extra seconds, there is no reason to run this risk.
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Old 07-16-2006, 09:13 PM
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

Just thought I would mention this because I didn't see it suggested on the thread. I think it would be wise to wear sunscreen while welding if you don't want to wear the big leather gloves it's the same kind of UV light that you get from the sun so I think that a litle bit of sunscreen wouldn't do any harm. I've seen what the welder can do without skin protection and it can be really nasty and that's just from the light exposure.
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  #11  
Old 07-16-2006, 10:01 PM
anatomist1 anatomist1 is offline
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

I take your point Jamo. I've seen the sunburns too - right through thin fabric. But gloves? Virtually any glove is thick enough to block most UV rays, especially anything made of animal skin, which probably what most anyone would use to weld.
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Old 07-17-2006, 08:57 AM
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

Around the studio where we work we use dark sunglasess for plasma cutting and I prefer an autodarkening helmet for MIG to a solid flip-type shield any day of the week. We wear heavy cotton clothes, sometimes multiple layers (canvas shirts, jeans, leather workboots, regular old gardening gloves - canvas back with hvy suede palms and fingers) and no plastic/artificial fibers because if we get splattered plastic will melt onto you compounding the burn problem.

Maybe a darker set of goggles for plasma cutting is a good idea but I haven't noticed much of a problem with sunglasses - just watch your feet when cutting that spatter will eat through a boot upper PDQ!

The cheap gloves are nice because gloves get trashed all the time between hot spatter and 'in close' bench grinding - easy and cheap to replace.

We keep buckets of water next to every work station and we use them. When a spatter drop is bruning through your gloves the time it takes to flick off the gloves and stick that hand in water is amazingly short (it is also useful for quenching small pieces & work faster).

No safety arrangement will be 100% with welding - but protecting against the radiation kicked out by arcs should be a no brainer.
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Old 07-17-2006, 04:24 PM
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

Could we assume that if the auto darkening duration is 1/20,000th of a second, that we would need to start and stop 20,000 times to accumulate 1 second of flash? Is the arc in a weak or strong state in that first instant?

Since it is not UV (the primary danger) as it is filtered in the off state, but visible light (also filtered to #5 in the off state), then the major factor (in my limited understanding) is duration. A single longer flash, is far worse than numerous single extremely brief ones. But if you ever get a temporary black spot in your vision, then you are potentially damaging your vision. This will occur if the lens does not darken.

Perhaps a helmet manufacturer can be drawn on this.

As for skin damage, this cannot be underestimated. Skin cancer is a major concern and potentially life threatening. Simply do not allow your skin to be burnt.
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  #14  
Old 07-18-2006, 08:32 PM
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

What about this answer that I found at http://www.weldinginfocenter.com/health/hs_10.html

"Many people mistakenly think that the lens shade number corresponds to the amount of protection that is provided to the eyes and hence the higher the number, the better the protection. But in reality, all well-constructed quality welding lenses, have a screen that filters out 100 percent of the harmful ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) wavelengths and provides protection to the eyes. The number just denotes the amount of darkness provided by that particular lens and should be used by operators as a guide to select the one that is most comfortable and yet provides good visibility for the particular application.

Of course, there are some suggested lens shade numbers that you can use as a guide if you are unsure what to select for your application. These correspond with the amperage being welded."
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Old 07-18-2006, 11:30 PM
anatomist1 anatomist1 is offline
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

I already covered that on the other site. Visible spectrum light certainly can harm your eyes. If you don't believe it, put on a pair of sunglasses or #3 goggles and stare at the sun for a while. To me this just seems like basic logic. Your retinas are 'designed' to sense visible light, so of course a massive overload of it can harm them.

I am really surprised so many people are so cavalier about giving out potentially harmful safety advice that is obviously not well researched or considered. That site even calls itself some kind of official welding safety center. I guess it's just an object lesson in how unreliable the net can be for certain types of info.

You might want to do a little research on eclipse viewing regarding the visible light spectrum issue. Eclipse viewing info is generally put out by scientists, who presumably at least know some basic things about logic and evidence. I think you'll find almost all say that it is never safe to look directly at the sun, no matter how much filtration you have. I have seen it said that #12 to 14 might be ok, but still no one responsible is willing to recommend it.

****

The thing I like to keep in mind about various safety issues is history... namely the history of knowledge. At any given time, humans mostly think they know everything, but if you look back at any given prior time, the state of human knowledge looks laughable. It doesn't take much imagination to envision yourself in the future looking back at us now and laughing.

As mentioned earlier in this thread, skin cancers are some of the most deadly, yet the first useful sunscreen was only invented about 60 years ago, and it wasn't in widespread use until the 80's. When my dad was a kid, they had super-powered x-ray machines - many times more powerful than those used sparingly for medical purposes today - at shoe stores, so you could look at your feet bones in shoes for fun. Medicine? Trepanation anyone? Bloodletting? I could go on about this stuff for hours, as I've always been fascinated with the folly of the juxtaposition of human certainty and ignorance.

When it comes to a specific issue like the tiny interval with auto darkening shields or inadequate shading for plasma cutting, I doubt anyone really knows, as this would require multiple expensive, specific studies lasting decades that simply haven't been done. For me, the bottom line about health risks that attend welding and other art processes is that I would rather default toward safety than later regret. The only real benefit of less safe options is usually avoiding a minor inconvenience, whereas the potential hazards are things like going blind and getting cancer.
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Old 09-06-2006, 10:55 PM
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

I hope this isn't too off base but, there are what I would consider institutionally affordable plasma cutting robots now. I'm not a saleman for one set-up I know of, but how does less than ten thousand dollars sound for one?

Especially if you are doing repetitious work and need accuracy, why not set up the thing to do the cutting and go into the office and draw another part on the computer while it cuts the pieces out?

I'll let anyone know the rig I'm referring to if there is any interest. It just so happens that I spent a lot of time painting this mechanical engineering "boy wonder's" Victorian mansion in the woods. Lives nearby. He's maybe 30 years old and invented this plasma cutter that is like $40K less than everywhere else. Sold one to every branch of the military already. You would think, well that puts making kitzchy artwork within range of any farmer used to fixing his own machinery. I think it should make doing direct metal sculpture all that more challenging by eliminating some of the tedium.

I wish I had one. I take donations!
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Old 09-07-2006, 06:00 PM
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Aaron Schroeder Aaron Schroeder is offline
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

I arc weld and plasma cut frequently, almost every day. Steady for the past 10 years. I use an auto darkening shade. I haven't noticed any damage yet. If I worry about anything as it relates to my plasma cutter, its not the light, its the fumes. To me that's much more of a concern. I make an effort to protect myself as much as possible but I know damage is being done. Chances are I'll age and die just like a typical person. I'm getting killed by a long list of environmental influences, I'm just glad that my plasma cutter and welder as well as my car, as dangerous as they are, enable me to make a living.
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Old 02-06-2007, 10:30 PM
abeferraro abeferraro is offline
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

Regarding the proper eye protection level for plasma cutting:

Like many of you I was instructed as a student that a shade 5 lens was adequate protection, but stumbled across info that suggested otherwise: Ie, 300 Amps or less requires shade 8. However, most manufactures and OSHA are willing to include that in normal cutting operation the arc is not clearly seen and a shade 5 lens is adequate. Below is an excerpt from OSHA and a Miller Plasma Cutter PDF. For me shade 5 will do under proper cutting procedures, but the student factor is still an issue.

http://www.ehso.com/OSHA_PPEFedReg.htm

OSHA Federal Register
Personal Protective Equipment for General Industry -
FR 59 Pages 16334-16364

Plasma arc
cutting (light)**.............. less than 300. 8
(medium)**............. 300-400....... 9
(heavy)**.............. 400-800....... 10
Footnote(**) These values apply where the actual arc is clearly seen.
Experience has shown that lighter filters may be used when the arc is
hidden by the workpiece.

http://millerwelds.com/pdf/safety/pom4_05.pdf

Couldn't copy and paste this one, but it clearly states in table format that in normal cutting procedures the arc is not in clear view and a shade 5 face shield can be used.
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Old 02-09-2007, 08:18 PM
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

I use a 5 shield but the arc is behind the tip so I guess I'm okay, but I'm kinda guessing the cut (its easy to be 1/4 inch off). When I use the 10 and actually try to see the arc cut, the brightness obliderates my chalk marks and I cant tell where the hell I'm going. Is there a way to see the cut, so you know your on the money, without being hampered by the arc? I hate making patterns and templates. I like to just draw on the steel and they take all the "free" out of freehand.
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Old 02-10-2007, 06:11 PM
anatomist1 anatomist1 is offline
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

Quote:
Originally Posted by evaldart
I use a 5 shield but the arc is behind the tip so I guess I'm okay, but I'm kinda guessing the cut (its easy to be 1/4 inch off). When I use the 10 and actually try to see the arc cut, the brightness obliderates my chalk marks and I cant tell where the hell I'm going. Is there a way to see the cut, so you know your on the money, without being hampered by the arc? I hate making patterns and templates. I like to just draw on the steel and they take all the "free" out of freehand.
You seem to have illustrated the dilemma perfectly. It seems like you have to choose between inaccurate cutting and eye damage. You could try getting 8 or 9 shields, or perhaps getting a really bright light, like a 400 watt studio lamp or halogen work lamp and putting it really close to the work, or both. If the material is thin enough, a nice Bosch jigsaw and liberal blade expenditures might be a solution.
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Old 02-11-2007, 09:32 PM
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

In some case I have used the jigsaw (for 1/8 hot rolled)but its slow and the blades go fast.
regarding other issues I dont ever really wear the welding costume, especially in warmer weather. Never have owned a pair of those sleeve things or a leather apron. I would just lose them immediately like everything else. Sweatshirts work great. One in the summer and as many as you need in the winter. Gloves for cutting but not for welding. another pain, seems that whenever I'm wasting precious time searching for a lefty the enrire bin has magically changed into righties (and vise versa).
There are usually slag-speckled remnants of goggles and masks around on the floor somewhere within reach (Oh, just go ahead and drive back 50 miles to your studio to get your mask when you forget to bring it on a job ; a brown longneck bottle really doesnt work all that well)
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Old 02-12-2007, 01:21 AM
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

Having reach the half way point in my life, I hate to say this, I 'm more or less suicidal when it comes to my plasma cutter. yah it's bright but not like a sunny day. Ok I'm looking at the arc, yes I'm doing damage to my eyes but it's for my art. After that I have a cigerate and a shot of vodka and I lament my mortal condition. At it's longest life is to short. It seems that every piece I make is yet another tombstone to be studied by an art historian. My days are numbered no matter how careful I am. I make alot of patterns and cut with the auto shield but nothing beats the speed of free hand. To plasma cut or not to plasma cut, that is the question.
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Old 02-12-2007, 11:51 AM
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

Some people get half a life out of 80 years while others get three or four lives out of 40. Intensity is the stuff inside The Cup. It will let you do everything you've ever wanted to for as long as you like. And finally, after having omni-penetrated the reaches of existence, you will resound forever by the strength of all your doings.

Last edited by evaldart : 02-12-2007 at 01:12 PM.
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Old 03-10-2007, 04:46 PM
Rick Clise Rick Clise is offline
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Schroeder
I arc weld and plasma cut frequently, almost every day. Steady for the past 10 years. I use an auto darkening shade. I haven't noticed any damage yet. If I worry about anything as it relates to my plasma cutter, its not the light, its the fumes. To me that's much more of a concern. I make an effort to protect myself as much as possible but I know damage is being done. Chances are I'll age and die just like a typical person. I'm getting killed by a long list of environmental influences, I'm just glad that my plasma cutter and welder as well as my car, as dangerous as they are, enable me to make a living.
Hi Aaron, I agree with you about the fumes from plasma cutting being a concern. I use a mobile 'spark catcher' bin when oxy or plasma cutting to catch the sparks and dross. When I first started plasma cutting I'd end up with more black gunk in my nose from 10 minutes of cutting than half a day of sanding metal. Now I wear a filter mask along with ear muffs and #5 welding goggles, unless I'm cutting really thick steel (by plasma cutting standards) and have to crank the amps up when I'll wear a welding mask - keeps the heat back too.

The warning on my plasma cutter says to use a #10 welding mask when even using the lowest amps but I can't see the work when doing this.

Rick Clise
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Old 03-10-2007, 08:42 PM
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Re: Plasma cutting danger?

I been getting better results recently, taking clues from this thread, and have settled in with a #5 full face shield (not a 4 x 5 or the little one, the Whole piece of plastic) and a big fat drag cup on the tip of the gun. Cant exactly see my chalk line but its been working out pretty good. The fat cup hides the arc so I can look right at what I'm doing, up pretty close. I do it outside mostly so I dont worry about fumes...just catching the grass on fire.
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