New shop class plasma torch doesn't cut into school budget

A new plasma torch purchased by the school district will provide shop class students with a more versatile way to cut and build metal projects - and it won't cost the district a penny of borough funds.

The new computer numerical control (CNC) machine is like the shop's current CNC machine, a computer-driven router, but it uses a plasma torch, which cuts with electrically charged, superheated gas. It will give students much more choice in projects, according to shop teacher Winston Davies.

"I've come to realize that in order to build up our welding program, this is where we needed to go," Davies said. "We have many options when cutting wood and aluminum, but steel is not as easy to cut and shape."

Davies said the plasma cutter will combine the skill sets of computer-aided design, fabrication and welding. "Not every kid has the resources to build a boat in marine fab, but may want to build a barbecue pit, sign or (create) metal art."

The school board voted in a special session last Saturday to purchase the plasma cutter, made by Arclight Dynamics in Bend, Oregon, for a cost of $34,592. Though the board approved the purchase, the funds will not come out of the school budget. Funds for roughly half the purchase price came from a federal grant and the rest were donations from businesses in the community, the Stikine Sportsmen Association and Bearfest.

Davies said the machine should arrive in May.

"I'm not sure if we'll get it up and running before school gets out, but hopefully, we'll at least be able to get it assembled and all ready to go for next school year," he said.


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