Plasma-Cutting Through The Jungle Book

by:  Nick Hernon, Scenic Carpenter at 08/26/2013


Scenery Mechanic Jesse Washburn, slicing through the brush of the jungle with his handy plasma cutter

What helps the Huntington take a show built by our Chicagoan comrades and fit it into our own home-on-Huntington-Avenue?

What can eat through half-inch steel, spitting the sparks out like so many watermelon seeds?

What fourth state of matter exists in neon signs, stars, and the Huntington Theatre Company's metal-fabrication shop? The answer to all three of these questions is plasma.

Here's our very own Scenery Mechanic, Jesse Washburn, using a plasma cutter to slice through half-inch steel and build a part for one of The Jungle Book's scenic effects. The plasma cutter uses an electrical arc and compressed air to generate a narrow stream of super-heated gas (plasma) hot enough to melt metal and fast-moving enough to blow the molten metal out of the cut.

That is what makes the plasma-cutter work. What makes Jesse work is 10 years of experience as a theatre technician, eight seasons with the Huntington, and a serious appreciation for ice cream.

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