Ceramic tiles are a fantastic material to use; they are vibrant in colour, economical, durable and can be cut to larger sizes than glass mosaic tiles. As they can be more difficult to cut than glass mosaic tiles, some people prefer to stick with glass tiles rather than exploring the possibilities of ceramic tiles. In this how to mosaic article I will look at the tools that you can use to cut ceramic tiles and the techniques you can use to cut them. It is definitely worth giving ceramic tiles are try as it opens up the range of materials you can use and the finishes you can achieve.
Curved Nippers - Can do most cuts with curved nippers except straight edge.
Parrot Beak Nippers - Can be used to nibble away at small sections, and to create shapes or curves that are not possible with other nippers.
File - Useful for smoothing the edge of your tiles and straightening up lines. If purchasing a tile file get one that is reasonably fine, a coarser file can remove pieces of the glaze off the top of the tile. You can get flat and round tile files, round ones are essential if you want to file concave curves.
Tile scriber - Used to score the tile to get a cleaner cut. See instructions below on how to use this tool.
Sliding Tile Cutter - These are a great investment is you are planning on cutting a lot of straight edges. Helps you cut square and rectangles with easy. You get what you pay for with this tool, the cheaper ones will work but can be difficult to use. They are readily available from hardware stores.
Cutting Ceramic Tiles
Using Hand Held Tile Cutters
Hold the nippers as close to the end as comfortable, this gives you better leverage and helps to avoid over straining your hand.
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 you position the top edge of the nippers 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.
To cut an accurate shape draw it on the tile and then cut away small sections at a time. You can them use a tile file to smooth the edges and straight the lines.
How to use Tile Scribers
Tipped with tungsten carbide, a tile scribe will score the glaze on any tile.
Mark where you would like the cut on your tile, then pressing down firmly with scribe score a line in the tile. Make sure you have a well defined score at the start and end of the line. If the glaze isn't scored across the complete length of the cut you will risk breaking the tile.
When the tile has been scored, place it over an edge with the score line facing upwards. The piece that you want should be lying completely flat on work surface, with the other section over the edge. Apply downward pressure on the piece that is overhanging. This should then give you a clean break on the section of tile that you want.
If you are just starting out, keep it simple by investing in a pair of ceramic tile nippers and a tile file. This will allow you to cut shapes from your ceramic tiles.
Tip: Make an allowance for wastage when determining the quantity of ceramic tiles you need.