When fabricating steel, one of your primary concerns should be what tool to use for cutting. The two basic methods for cutting are the use of a plasma arc cutter or the use of an oxy-fuel torch. Choosing one, the other, or both for your shop will depend on the type of work that you typically do.
What Metals Do You Work with?
Oxy-fuel torches will cut ferrous metals rapidly because the oxygen jet used in the cutting process will turn iron to slag which then runs out of the kerf, i.e. cut. Furthermore, an ox-fuel torch can cut through metals up to 24 inches thick. Thus, if you have to do a lot of work with thick pieces of iron or iron alloys, then an oxy-fuel torch is the right choice.
On the other hand, a plasma arc torch can cut through any metal which conducts electricity. This gives the plasma arch torch more versatility in that it can be used to cut not only ferrous metals, but also stainless steel, aluminum, copper, etc. Plasma arch torches are ideal for cutting thin sheets of metal, but they are not as good at cutting thick metals Thus, if you do a lot of work with thin pieces of various kinds of metals, then a plasma arc cutter is a good choice.
A second consideration is whether you will have to travel to jobs. For example, if a farmer's tractor breaks down, and you have to travel to the site of the break down to help make repairs, then an oxy-fuel will likely be the best choice. An oxy-fuel cutting rig consists of a fuel tank, an oxygen tank, regulators, hoses, and a handheld torch. Thus, you can easily load up your tanks and travel to a job site.
On the other hand, a plasma arc cutter consists of a bigger machine and tends to be more awkward to transport from job site to job site.
The decisions between a plasma cutter or a oxy-fuel torch will depend mostly on the type of work you or companies like Jackson-Cook Cranes will do. If you only work with steel, then the only torch you will need will be the oxy-fuel torch. You can use it in shop or on a job site, so it is a highly versatile tool. However, if you want to expand your abilities, so you can work with many different materials instead of just steel, then you should add a plasma cutter to your shop.