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Plasma Technology

PlasmaCam's cost-efficient, accurate plasma technology helps Lizard King Fabrication

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Lizard King Fabrication can control cut paths for intricate designs and produce stencils for painted projects with PlasmaCam’s CNC plasma cutting table.

Cost-efficient, accurate plasma technology helps craftsman cut intricate designs and earn new business

September 2018 - When a large sheet of steel grating struck and injured Louis Primeaux in the shipyard where he was refurbishing a drilling rig, the Louisiana native made the proverbial lemonade from lemons. Primeaux had plenty of time on his hands while he recovered from a broken hip so he taught himself how to use a computer, CAD software and PlasmaCam Inc.’s CNC plasma cutting table.

“My dad was an oilfield wireline operator for 28 years,” Primeaux recalls. “When I was a kid he tinkered with ornamental iron as a part-time hobby. I enjoyed working on projects with him and thought I’d try my hand at it again.” In 2003, under the name Deadhorse Iron, Primeaux designed and crafted his first product: a boiler burner.

“A welder I worked with cut out crab silhouettes by hand and welded them to boiler burners made from round bar,” says Primeaux. “I came up with the idea to cut images out of 5/16-in. steel and use them to create the boiler burner’s legs and one-piece top as an integrated but functional structure.” To do that, Primeaux needed the right metal cutting equipment. During his search he came across a PlasmaCam brochure. The machine’s cost-efficient price point made it possible for Primeaux to invest in the automated cutting technology and opened doors to new business. “The PlasmaCam helped me to determine leg positions before cutting them out,” Primeaux says. He assembled the pieces into a 20-in.-tall ‘end table’ with a round top. Coated with high-heat enamel and equipped with a 10-jet propane burner centered below the table top, the boiler burner was then ready to boil seafood.

True tall tale

In 2011 Primeaux rebranded his company and changed the name to Lizard King Fabrication. “I wanted a name people would remember,” he says. “We had a lot of alligator hunters in my family before the practice was prohibited by law. My grandfather told me a story about how my great uncle would jump in the water, swim under the ‘gator, grab its mouth and cut its throat. I wasn’t sure how true the story was, but later that day we were putting up barbed wire fencing. It was so hot my great uncle took his shirt off. That’s when I saw the scars and knew the story was true.  I came up with the name Lizard King in remembrance of him.”

In 2015 a customer requested a fire pit “squared up and plain.” Primeaux told the client, “I don’t do anything squared up and plain.” Over the next eight months, Primeaux thought about a new design for the fire pit while fabricating 1,300 ft. of aluminum fencing and three gates for a different customer. He used the money from that job to make his first geodesic sphere fire pit. Orders for 30 more soon followed. The spheres consist of panels of 3/16-in.-thick steel, plasma cut with intricate designs that allow firelight to shine through. Once cut, panels are beveled, ground and bent by hand before being MIG welded together. Primeaux uses a wire wheel to remove rust, dross and dirt from welds. He finishes each piece by applying a coat of black high-heat enamel paint.

FFJ 0918 plasma image2

This octopus measures 24 in. by 19.25 in., and was plasma cut from 11-gauge steel, requiring 657.2 cut path inches.

Standard fire pits come in 24-in. spheres. Primeaux recently added 26-in. spheres and a 36-in. sphere he says was ‘big enough for my wife to climb inside of.’”

“I couldn’t make these products without the PlasmaCam,” Primeaux continues. “The machine gives me the accuracy and clean lines I need to realize my drawings. People come to me with a picture or an idea, I find the right images on the internet, import them and draw the design with CAD software. I program the machine and then sit there while it’s cutting and enjoy every minute of the process while my design is brought to life.”

The average sphere has 320 to 4,200 cut path inches. The time it takes to complete the cutting process depends on the size and complexity of the design. “The CNC plasma cutting table allows me to control the designs,” Primeaux says. “Every curve and line I draw is exactly where I want it to be.”

FFJ 0918 plasma image3

This 48-in. by 15-in. Dean Equipment Spud Barge with a 40-in. crane boom was crafted and plasma cut to scale.

The right cut

High-quality plasma cuts like those that Primeaux enjoys are achieved by controlling the height of the torch with arc voltage feedback. The cutting tip hovers a precise distance above the metal, moving up and down to follow variations in the sheet. Material is automatically sensed before each cut to set the exact pierce height. Because the PlasmaCam knows when it is crossing an existing kerf or when the cut speed slows down, it automatically keeps the height control from reacting and diving into the material.

While fire pits make up Primeaux’s core product line, boiler burners remain his favorite creation. “I couldn’t have developed the fire pits without first fabricating the boiler burner end tables,” he says.

Lizard King Fabrication also sees a parade of custom jobs ranging from wall art like a 24 in. square sea turtle, finished with Gold Rush Rust-Oleum hammered paint to outdoor and indoor decorations for the patio, garden, camp, ranch, office and home. Crafting awards for events like fish rodeos and the Shriner’s Club chili cook-off take up a fair amount of Primeaux’s time.“I really like doing awards and I do a lot of them,” he says.

FFJ 0918 plasma image4

The PlasmCam gives Louis Primeaux the accuracy and clean lines he needs to realize his creative metal designs.

Many of the awards Primeaux has created are multi-dimensional and multi-colored. “When I need to paint more than one color I use the PlasmaCam to cut out stencils,” he says. “It’s an easy way to paint but you have to have patience. I’m getting better about giving the paint enough time to dry. I like making the awards out of steel because it gives the winners something with a weighty feel to it.”

Primeaux’s works routinely show up at charity auctions for special causes. He made a fire pit last month for Troop C State Police’ Grant-A-Wish program.

At home with the metal he cuts, welds, grinds, bends and finishes, Primeaux says of the myriad custom jobs that come through his door, “When you do a personalized piece for someone the look on their face when they see it for the first time is priceless. It’s the best feeling there is when someone likes what you have done.” FFJ

 


 

Sources

  • Lizard King Fabrication
    Golden Meadow, Louisiana
    985/677-2542
  • PlasmaCam Inc.
    Colorado City, Colorado
    719/676-2700
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