Cutting Tiles - Tools, Tips, Techniques

December 15, 2014

CUTTING TILES - TOOLS, TIPS, TECHNIQUES

The cutting of glass and ceramic tiles is a fundamental mosaic skill that, when mastered, will bring you one step closer to creating the mosaic design that you've envisaged. This 'How To' looks at tools for cutting tiles and techniques.

Facts about Cutting

  • Mosaic tiles are cut with different cutting tools depending upon the type of tile.
  • You are not actually cutting the tile; rather you are trying to control the fracture.
  • When pressure is applied to tiles they will tend to fracture along the path of least resistance, which most often isn't where you want the break to be. The skill is learning how to control the fracture to achieve the shape you want.
  • The jaws of nippers don't actually meet. If the jaws met they would crush the tile rather than just nipping it.
  • Different kinds of tiles and colours cut differently.

Wheeled Glass Cutters

  • These tool is primarily used for cutting glass tiles, stained glass, smalti, mirror and glass gems
  • Don't use this tool to cut ceramic or stone because the wheel blades can shatter and break
  • Makes cleaner & more predictable cuts when cutting glass than tile nippers.
  • The two wheels which are made of either steel (cheaper ones) or carbide. It applies even pressure to the top and bottom of the tile causing the glass to fracture along the lines of the wheels.
  • If you notice the tool becoming dull use an Allen key to loosen the wheels and rotate them slightly. When you first get your nippers draw a line with a permanent marker where you first use them to cut. As you use the wheel and turn it, make successive marks until you have used the wheel.
  • Be careful not to drop this tool as the wheels can move out of alignment which can't be fixed.
  • When cutting keep the tool straight (don't get the wobbles) as you can get a curved cut leaning the tool one way or the other. The wheels of the cutter need to go in the middle of where you want the cut to go.
  • To cut the glass tile in a straight line you need to cut quickly, cutting slowly can result in crushing the tile.
  • Glass mosaic tiles usually have small glass ridges on the back side to allow adhesives to bond to the tile more securely, but they can created problems when cutting. Cutting with the bumpy side up will allow you to see what you are doing.

Wheeled nippers for mosaics

 

Tile Nippers

Tile nippers work best on ceramic tiles, porcelain and china.They are not recommended for glass because they tend to crush and splinter the glass tiles.

To cut the tile, overlap the edge of the tile by 3 to 4 mm and squeeze down. Don't cover the entire surface of the nipper with the tile, this will help stop the tile from becoming crushed and your hand from tiring. By applying pressure to a small amount of tile at the edge you create a fracture along the surface.

How the top edge of the nippers lines up with the tile will determine the direction of the cut. Angle the nipper to go in the direction you want the cut. For a straight cut align the top edge of the nippers parallel with the top edge of the tile.

 

 

Tile nippers for mosaics

 

Porcelain Tile Nippers

Used to harder materials such as heavy duty ceramic dinnerware.

 

Tile cutting takes lots of practice, if you find a technique that works for you stick to it! A word on safety - You only have one pair of eyes! Make sure you protect them every time you cut tiles or glass by wearing safety goggles. Don't risk a shard flying hitting your eye.


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