Metal Cutting: Plasma vs. the Nibbler – Kevin Caron

Metal Cutting: Plasma vs. the Nibbler – Kevin Caron

(Text on screen): Metal Cutting: Plasma vs. the Nibbler The Voice: Hey, Kevin. What are you getting ready to do? Kevin Caron: I had an email the other day. The guy’s in high school taking welding class, and he said, “Man, we just got to play with the plasma cutter, and it is so cool! But the instructor said something about a nibbler. What the heck is a nibbler? And could I compare the two of them.” Ooh, that sounds like fun! Hang on. We’re winding up. So this is a plasma torch, plasma cutter torch. It runs on electricity and compressed air, and when the air comes up through the gun, there’s a little chamber inside here that make the air swirl, and then inside this little tip, there’s a nozzle. This is the nozzle, and there’s a tip inside there, and you get an electric arc going across that. And that’s what creates the plasma, and then you get the flame coming out. Great for thicker metals. This one will cut up to a quarter inch. It’s very fast. But it’s kind of messy. Not like an oxygen acetylene torch messy, but it’s kind of messy. You’ll see. Look over here. I just drew out a little pattern here. I have plasma on one side and nibbler on the other. Watch this. (using plasma cutter) Real quick. But this is what you get when you cut it off (besides hot): you get the jagged edges. So now you have to come back in and grind all that smooth, plus grind on the back side to get the slag off. And you get a little distortion from the heat, especially on the thinner metals, and it will cause warpage. Now, you see, the nibbler (this is an electric one; you can get them air-powered also); this one’s rated 10-gauge, which is just a little bit thicker than an eighth of an inch. It’s got this little cutter inside here that moves back and forth. And this is a die, and you actually work in this slot right here. That thing will come down and you move forward and it’ll just take a little chunk out as you go, like nibbles. Really, really messy. There’s a lot of little, sharp pieces that come out of the bottom as you’re working along here. And you have to keep this lubricated, so, like, some WD-40 or cutting fluid or something like that, to not only keep the die and the punch cool, but to make it cut a little easier. Where, with the plasma cutter, you just go for it. Here, watch this. (lubricating and using nibbler) See, a lot faster, I think. A lot faster than the plasma cutter as far as getting in there where you want to go. It’s a little more controllable, I think, because you can stop and work along real slow and easy right in there and just shave that portion away, just like this. (using nibbler) It’s not like a pair of shears, like a pair of scissors. You can’t sit here and just follow the line along. You’ll put the die in a bind and snap it off along the base. It’s just for coming in from the open edge and just taking your little bits of material off. It’s kind of fun to play with. It’s great for little, sharp corners. You can come in like here: (using nibbler) They all have their purpose, I guess: the plasma cutter where it’s a thicker metal, and the nibbler for thin metal. When I tried this on stainless steel, oh boy, that was bad. I broke these off just left and right. It was a little too heavy, little too hard for the nibbler to run through. That’s the difference. The Voice: Can you hold up your finished product there so we can see it? Kevin Caron: Oh, God. It’s not finished, but here’s where the plasma cutter cut and you can see the heat distortion; you can see the burning that’s on there. And here’s where the nibbler cut. No difference in the color of the steel at all. Now, if you turn it over and you look at the back side, you see this is all nice and smooth and this is all jaggedy. So I’d have to come in and grind this all off again and smooth this down to get rid of the slag. And I’d have to come in and just trace right along the edge of my line to get it right on the line, where with the nibbler you can get a lot closer and get on in there. I guess it depends on what piece of metal you’re working with, and whether you have this toy or that toy. I mean this tool or that tool! Back to work. Bye! (Text on screen): Plasma: More cleanup. More warpage, discoloration. Handles thicker metal. Better for stainless. Nibbler: Messy. Takes more time. Needs lubrication. No distortion. More controllable. Subscribe to See More Videos, See and Hear More at

45 thoughts on “Metal Cutting: Plasma vs. the Nibbler – Kevin Caron

  1. @xhairsfordemocracy Very well thanks! Been staying busy with a few out of town commissions. Hope to do some work for me in the near future.

  2. interesting i have never even heard of the nibbler but now after watching this video i can kind of see how they can both be used for different jobs

  3. @paulb929 If you get one just make sure you get a good supply of punchs. Use lots of oil and change the punch often. If you think it is just a little dull, change it. This will help keep you from having to replace the die. Those sucker run around $50.00 each.

  4. @pberglin You should have heard the sound of them stuck in my boots as I walked across the carpets! Oh yeah, and the foot prints they leave on the carpets also!

  5. With the plasma the trick is to use as little amps as possible and keep the speed up if you get lots of dross with the plasma theres too many amps, also after plasma cutting you can usually knock the dross off with the edge of an old file or a scrap piece of metal before grinding, it makes life a lot easier, as for a nibbler I would only use one where you cannot access the rear of the material as in car panels and double skinned things.

  6. @Mentorcase Great advice!
    Thanks for posting.
    Don't forget to stop by my site and check out the rest of my work.

  7. You know Kevin,I remember when nibblers first came out,they were cool,expense and broke alot cause the cutter never got lubed like you say.Maybe if they were set up a little bit looser.Never get used to those chips,they suck.
    Paisano, TheFlyin Wop

  8. @theflyinwop I wonder if someone can make a self-oilier for one. A little cup that would be part of the machine and drop a little oil every few strokes. Something to ponder in the dead of night.

  9. I don't think they make Chi** men that small yet Kevin.Maybe if there's enough market for them they'll find a way to steal "OUR" technology and mast produce them
    Paaisano-The Flyin Wop

  10. @dustin90gsx Yet the manual that came with the nibbler recommends using a light weight oil for cutting. Go figure….

  11. @dustin90gsx You should put together some how to videos, with all your experience, instead of just trashing another mans video.

  12. I've been catching up with your videos. I recently was gifted with a DeWalt 18V cordless metal shear. Really nifty for light gauge metals. Cuts a slot out that is maybe 1/4 inch wide. Very clean and ripple free edge! Thanks again for introducing me to another way to do things.

  13. @kazl1m Just got an air powered hand shear from the Matco guy. Got to get a short hose and swivel so I can hook it up. Will make short work of the aluminum I am working with now.

    Thanks for posting….

  14. Kevin,
    Si vales, bene est. Valeo.

    just wanted to say thank you not only for the videos, but your gallery online – nice work, friend, nice work. Very soothing. Bought my wife a Longevity last year – good to see it's a valid tool for her.

    Your work provides yet more inspiration for me to support her – to listen, find ways to make her ideas work, follow her lead.

    Anyways, thank you for all your sharing.

    Peace and Prosperity,


    The trefoils knots catch in one's head, nie?

  15. Thank you for your kind words!

    always better for get a pat on the back then a kick in the butt..

    and yeah, the knots just drive me to milling…….

  16. 3:04 never use wd-40 on MOVING parts that need lubrication.IT IS NOT AN OIL! It is a penetrant for things that are stuck but after you use it you MUST use an actual oil for lubricant.
    look at any moving part that you have previously sprayed with WD-40… I bet it's rusty!

  17. Yeah, you got me on that one.

    Didn't have any cutting oil so just grabbed a can…

    Head bowed…..

  18. It's not a penetrating oil, either. It's a water displacing spray (hence the WD in the name). It's as poor a penetrating oil as it is a lubricant, in my experience…

  19. Hi, thanks for this video, it help,,do you think that for cut shapes on aluminium sheet is better the nibbler or the jigsaw,,,,thanks in advance,,

  20. Tough question!

    The jig saw works very well for the larger pieces but the nibbler is great for the smaller ones. Best be safe and get both!

  21. Interesting video Kevin, Really, I always enjoy & look forward to your videos…but for Cutting, the plasma is in my opinion the most efficient if done using proper techniques (you get dross not slag when your travel speed is incorrect)if done correctly there is very little to No prep needed on plasma cut material …that "nibbler" isn't Cutting like a plasma or even oxy/acet as you compared it to…it's basically a grinder that takes more material off each time you touch the material with it. And how would you center cuts if you have to start with an edge or pre~made hole?
    Anyway, cool little tool…

  22. Pipe threading/cutting oil is fine. WD 40 or motor oil works in a pinch. Trichloroetane was great cutting lube, & solvent, but the econazis decided to ban it. If trich was a bi-product of refining gasoline we would still have it around, just like toluene.

  23. Very nice video. If you look at other nibbler videos, they are using it to make cuts through the sheet too. (Its just a wider cut)

  24. Thank you Kevin. Do you think some nibblers give a cleaner cut than others? I am thinking of the canibbler which has some compelling promo vids. Also which tool discarding the guillotine do you think would give the cleanest cut to 0.9mm zinc sheet for making a threshold cover? Much appreciated.

  25. Kevin sir, I may be misunderstanding your comments, but you can absolutely cut out shapes, follow lines, etc with a nibbler. it seems like you are saying you cannot cut, say, a circle with a nibbler, and you can

  26. Plasma hand held should shit and messy, but in a CNC table beautiful. Nibble well it’s for roofing and building panels. I don’t think fabrication so much as it will work but causes so much clear up.

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