Some times you need a slegehammer.

Posted by Joe Amick on June 20, 2023

One thing I learned early on in machinery was to look to the future. Many times folks will look at a situation with blinders on. The issue here is they miss the larger picture and only see the topic right in front of them. If you focus on just the issue at hand your decisions may let you down later when other issues come to light.

Do you need a tack hammer or do you need the hammer of Thor?

Tack Thor

Well that would depend. If you are tired of asking then Thor's hammer would cure the situation no matter what or who it is. But it would not work to well at putting tacks into furniture. You have to look at the whole situation and be honest with yourself. If you need a sledgehammer but want to get the tack hammer as its lighter weight and easier to swing you are going to have issues. If you look at finishing and need a large high power machine to do what you need then that is what you need to get. The time, effort and money that ends up wasted from struggling to do the work with less cant be recovered.

If you have a good laser and are cutting .060" aluminum you should have a small bur. Aluminum is soft in the metals world so you don't need to get carried away with finishing. Going for a compact machine with some extra size capacity should do you well.

Laser cuttingLaser cutting flat stock produces less bur


Once that machine is installed and running, there will be someone who brings over stainless steel, carbon steel or choose your material. When they try to run plasma cut steel they don't like what the machine produces. It takes more than one cycle to get the part the way they want it so they are not fond of that machine. The issue in that situation is not the machine. If you need to work with plasma cut steel that is a different machine. You are asking the tack hammer to do the work of Thor's hammer.

Flame_SQ_DSC3873Plasma or flame cuts tend to have a much larger bur or slag


The two tasks call for different tools. Can you get a machine that could handle both tasks? Yes you 100% can get that machine. The issue is that machine is larger and costs more. So do you go for the larger more expensive machine that has the added abilities or the more compact lower cost machine? This is where things tend to go sideways for a lot of people. You save floor space and money going with the lesser machine so that is what happens. They then try to push that lesser machine to do the work of the large machine and that is what brought us here in the first place. If you need a sledgehammer, that is what you need plain and simple. Pushing the smaller machine will only lead to damaging the machine, faster consumable wear as well as lost time and money.

The old saying of "Fast, Cheap, Easy pick any 2" holds weight. If you want fast and cheap then it wont be easy and will likely need more labor or materials. If you want easy and cheap it will not be a fast process so expect lower volume and throughput. When you go in understanding that you are entering a compromise so be it. When you go into that compromise but do not acknowledge it up front you are in for trouble. Compromises are just part of life and to be expected. If you need Thor's hammer but get a tack hammer expect to do tack hammer work. Be sure to look at the larger picture and not just the problem at hand.


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