With a seemingly endless choice of tools required to do a tiling job, deciding exactly which tools you need for cutting the tiles can be quite confusing. The picture to the right shows an industrial masonry saw used for cutting asphalt roadway. The tile cutting tools you can buy and are likely to need for cutting ceramic or stone wall or floor tiles are somewhat more compact and affordable.
Choosing a Tile Cutter
Tile cutters can be split into manual and powered ones, where the powered ones are invariably driven by electricity. Generally speaking manually operated ones are fine for DIY or home enthusiasts, unless you’ve got an awful lot of tiling to do – in which case you might consider an electric powered one.
How much you spend on tile cutters depends on four things really – so in no particular order: how much can you afford, how confident/competent are you with tools, are you doing a lot of tiling and finally, do you want to spend more on tile cutting equipment than the tiles.
The reason for the last point is; some years ago I tiled a window ledge in a bathroom, it only needed 4 tiles and tile edges. The cost of the tiles was only a few dollars – but I could have spent six times as much on a tile cutter.
Basic Tile Cutting
For a small job, such as a small bathroom window ledge using ordinary ceramic wall tiles with no awkward angles to cut around, you might as well just buy a tool simply called a tile cutter; which is simply a tungsten tipped scouring tool.
Having measured the cut you need to make, mark a line on the ceramic side of the tile, then scour along it with the tile cutter. Turn the tile over and lay it on top of a thin lath of wood, apply pressure and the tile will fracture along the scoured mark.
Where an arc or radius is involved a straightforward cut across a tile might not be possible. In which case you’d need to cut out the required shape approximately with the tile cutting tool and then use a tile nipper to ‘nip’ out small pieces of the tile to get it to fit the required shape. Tile nippers look like a pair of pliers and are useful for getting tiles to fit around awkward shapes.
Tile Cutting Machines and Saws
If you have a lot of tiling to do then you should consider investing in a mechanical tile cutter. These machines look not dissimilar to the old hand operated paper guillotine machines. They typically have a heavy foam covered base onto which you place the tiles, there’s a measuring gauge incorporated into it and they have tungsten carbide cutting wheels which are operated by a lever.
Tile cutting machines allow you to cut more tiles more efficiently and with greater confidence, ensuring that the tile shape you cut is exactly what you want. These days you can buy tile cutting jig-saws, capable of cutting out any radius or awkward shape you’re likely to come across. Using a saw for these awkward angles will produce a better ‘edge’ than using tile nippers.
Powered Tile Cutting Saws
To cut through ceramic let alone stone floor tiles with a saw, generates a lot of heat and needs a fast sawing action. Subsequently, tile cutting saws used for big jobs are electric powered and are known as ‘wet’ tile cutting saws, as they use water cooling. If you have a large surface area or many rooms to tile – you are advised to invest in an electric tile cutter.
With a heavy steel bed, a diamond tipped circular saw runs at high-speed to cut through the tiles. You can also get hand held and cordless electric tile cutters, which can be useful when working with floor tiles. Dependant on the stone used in floor tiles an angle grinder can also be used as a tile cutting tool.