Recently, I spent quite a bit of time researching tools and metal-working techniques again and I thought it would be nice to share the information and maybe get some professional tips from you guys.
Plasma Cutting: The reason why I had a look into plasma cutting was because of my frequent use of laser cut elements in my art & design work. Ideally, I would LOVE to have my own lasercutting machine but even the used ones are still super pricey. The second-hand machines I found that are capable of cutting 1mm stainless steel sheet started around $20k. This is a price I can’t afford at the moment… not sure if I ever will but I very much hope I might be able to purchase one further down the road.
As ‘Plan B’, I heard about the possibility to plasma cut pieces and I decided to have a look into that technique. I found a company, PlasmaCAM, that offers plasma cutting systems. The system is made from a cutting table that holds a hand-held plasma torch and plugs into your personal computer (needs to be Windows). It comes with a software that enables you to cut customized shapes. I watched the demo-video and it seems pretty easy to me to operate. The system does not come with a plasma torch, so this machine needs to be bought separately. I guess this is good on one side, given that you can choose yourself which machine to work with and how pricey it can be. On the other hand it is an additional cost. I called up the guys from PlasmaCAM to inquire about the price of the 4×4 table, which comes to $6980. I was further told that a plasma torch for my needs would approximately be around an extra $2000. The shipment of the table would approximately come to $190, so the final price is somewhere around $10k. For me, this is still a pretty steep price that I cannot afford right now but I am happy to know that there is something out there that I could use for big designs further down the road. For my jewelry, I think I will have to stick to lasercutting after all. The cutting line of the plasma cutter is too wide for my designs. I need to be able to get more into details. Also, I heard that the cut on the back can be pretty messy and needs a lot of cleaning. I wonder if this depends on the plasma torch one uses? Probably also speed and temperature?
PlasmaCAM cutting table
Sandblasting: Further I had a look at a sandblasting machine. I will need one for my enameling-work and I was once again surprised by Rio Grande. (My new pink kiln arrived by the way and it waits for me to start working with it once the studio is set up. Read more about the pink enameling kiln story on the Rio Grande ‘The Studio’ blog ‘A Kiln of a Different Color’ and my research on ‘Enameling Kilns’). For the studio in Shanghai, we bought a sandblasting cabinet from Italy that I believe was around 2000€, so I started having a look at DIY home-built options, since I did not want to afford that much. Luckily, it seems like I will not have to go that far and build it myself, since I found a cabinet, the ‘Small Benchtop Pencil-Style Bead Blaster’ on the Rio Grande website starting from $145. It is not massive but big enough for my use and they also offer a bigger version for $185. All you need in addition is an air-compressor, which comes to $150-200.
Rio Grande ‘Small Benchtop Pencil-Style Bead Blaster’
Powder Coating: Yesterday night, Barry and I went to visit the Meyda Lighting company and workshop in Utica NY, and I was amazed by the dimension of their production! This place is glass and metal-working paradise! They really build all their beautiful lamps from scratch. Even the metal parts are hand-made. I was very impressed.
During the tour, we passed the powder-coating facility, which intrigued me quite a lot. I love using color in my work and I had heard of the technique before but I did not know how to use it. I conducted some research on it this morning and to my surprise, it does not seem to be complicated at all. I think I will give it a go in the near future. Have a look at this DIY garage-made video to see how it works.
Further, I had a look at the Eastwood website, a company that specializes in automotive parts and powder coating. They offer powder coating kits from $99.99 for the ‘Original HotCoat Powder Coating Gun’ and $169.99 for the ‘Eastwood Dual Voltage HotCoat Powder Coating Gun’. They also offer pretty attractive starter kits. In addition to the gun and the powder, you need a compressor and either a toaster oven or normal cooking oven that reaches a temperature of 400F.
Eastwood ‘Dual Voltage Powder Gun Starter Kit’
I am still trying to get everything together for my studio and nothing is set in stone yet, so if you have suggestions or better information on the mentioned tools, please let me know. I would appreciate your opinions and experiences.