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Mosaic Cutting Tools: 

Cutting Mosaic Tile:

Mosaic tile is cut with different cutting tools depending on the type of tile. Crystal glass is flat on the back-side but has the coated with the colour film which gives this type of tile its colour & depth. Vitreous "Riverglass" tiles have ridges on one side, (that is the back side). This can be a bit confusing as the sheets of riverglass tile now come with paper on the front of the tile. The ridges help glue bond more securely to the tile. Crystal glass tiles can be cut into smaller shapes using a wheeled glass nipper. When working with material like smalti, marble or ceramic tiles it is best to use a tile nipper. The way you use each nipper varies. The scorer/breaker is used to score and break large pieces of ceramic and glass tile to cut into smaller, more manageable shapes for nipping.

Tile Nippers are used for stone, china and ceramic mosaic tiles.  Wheeled Glass Cutters are used for glass mosaic tiles, stained glass and smalti. Tile Nippers will cut vitreous and glass tile, but a Wheeled Glass Cutter will make the cut glass much cleaner without as much splintering and waste.  Tile Nippers tend to crush smalti and stained glass, and you wind up wasting too much expensive material.

It's recommended that you wear safety glasses when using Tile Nippers and Wheeled Glass Cutters. After cutting, mosaic tiles can be razor sharp. Minor cuts on the hand are not uncommon. Be careful. Keep out of reach of children.  Cut mosaic tiles and glass only where you can vacuum or sweep up easily.
 
2-wheeled Glass cutters
Glass mosaic tile is cut with a mosaic glass cutter (also known as the 2-wheeled glass cutter). This tool is basically a compression tool like a tile nipper, but the blades are wheel-shaped and replaceable. Although the 2-wheeled glass cutter works like a tile nipper, the cuts are cleaner and more predictable.
 
To cut all the way across the glass tile in a straight line you need to cut quickly and efficiently. Place the wheels where the desired cut is to be and cut the tile apart quickly. This is important because if your cut is too slow the cutters can crush the tile. This crushed area will result in a cut that is curved. Also, keep the cutter straight and don't let it wobble. Ceramic tile will dull your wheels a little quicker but not enough to really matter.

It's OK if you end up with a less-than-perfect edge. A ragged edge can be a desired effect of hand-cut tile, as it gives the work a more authentic look. If you must straighten the edge, slowly nip the rough area off. Dont' get discouraged if this skill takes a while to learn. The more cuts you make on glass tile the better you will get. And remember to use sharp wheels. If they are getting dull just rotate them slightly. If the whole wheel is dull, it's time to replace the wheels. Use an allen wrench to change the blades.

An excellent tip is to make a line with a permanent marker where your blades meet and as you rotate them (keep rotating in the same direction every time), when these lines join up again you know that you've used every millimeter of the blades. If you don't have this reference point, you will never know whether you are rotating to a sharp or blunt area of the blade.

 


Standard Nippers
You can use the wheeled cutters or basic nippers to cut the small ceramic or porcelain tiles. Basic nippers are used to direct the cut. Place the tile between the teeth. However, do not place the tile on the full surface. Instead, you will just hold it in the front or back of the nipper's teeth. Angle the nipper to go with the direction you want the cut and squeeze. It takes a lot of practice with these but you can get some great keystone cuts this way. We use tile nippers on china and other types of ceramic dinnerware. Some dinnerware is made from very hard materials that were designed to be unbreakable. Porcelain Nippers are recommended for cutting these extra hard plates.
 
Like the 2-wheeled cutters, remember to cut quickly. Slow cutting is again a risk of crushing the tile. This also takes a lot of practice. They are hard to use with precision but can be a handy tool for cutting small mosaic, standard thickness (4mm) tiles.

 

Hammer & Hardie
This is used for cutting marble, natural stone, and smalti. You can use it for cutting most mosaic tesserae though. For a rough-hewn look, stone can be cleaved with a hammer or mallet and hardie as it was done traditionally. A hardie is a small chiseling tool. It looks like an anvil shaped like a blunt chisel.

Keep in mind that cutting stone that already has a polished or tumbled finish is a big problem because cutting the stone will usually scratch or mar the finish. The secret of using polished or tumbled stone tiles is to buy tiles that are small enough so that cutting is kept to a minimum. A tile nipper can be used to cut stone tile, but the force required can be large, especially for the harder varieties of stone. For this method, the hardie is placed where you want the cut and then hit with a hammer. Of course, a hammer itself is a great breaking tool. You can use it to break up large pieces of ceramic into a workable size. Make sure to lay a towel on top first. You don't want to crush off your glaze.
 
Glass Scoring Tools
Larger, straight edge-to-edge cuts on standard thickness (4mm), smooth tile can be achieved with a simple glass scoring tool and a straight edge. Score the glass lightly on the front face along the desired cut line and snap along this line. To snap the tile, place a piece of thin wire directly under the edge of the score and apply even pressure to both sides.
 
Wet Saws
Larger tiles, especially if they are translucent, white backed tiles, are best cut with a wet saw: it's difficult to score a thick tile deep enough to snap it, and nippers leave inconsistent edges that get more visible the bigger the tile. Wet saws are power saws that are built into a table, with a water sprayer or reservoir that keeps the blade cool as it cuts. Glass tiles require a diamond encrusted blade, to ensure a clean cut.

 

REMEMBER:
Glass is glass and it tends to have a mind of its own sometimes. If you get a piece that will not cut well, then put it aside and try a new one. Glass has fracture points and it will break along its own line occasionally. You have to learn how to direct the cut.

For an authentic hand-made look, don't cut your mosaic tiles too uniformly.  They shouldn't be perfect rectangles.  Ideally, mosaic tiles should be slightly irregular rectangles so that there is a gap even when the pieces are set close together.  This ensures that there will be a small line of grout between each tile, which highlights the design. If you want a level surface, and you are gluing your mosaic tiles to a flat surface, make sure your tiles are about the same thickness.

To cut rectangles, simply place the chip between the wheels of the nipper and apply pressure, to make a square repeat the same procedure with the rectangle.
To cut triangles, angle the material at the corner of the chip and apply pressure.
Circles are a little trickier, if you’re not experienced, you may want to draw a circle on the glass as a guide and nip the corner of the chip and then bit away at the edges until you have a nice circle.

Keystoning can be a little tricky too; keystoning is the shaping of tiles to form a curved design. You will probably want to draw out a pattern if you are planning on incorporating curved designs. This way you can line up squares and draw a guideline on the tiles so you have a reference of where to nip.
 
Videos links with cutting instructions:
How to cut mosaic tiles with the different tile cutters


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