Cutting Glass Tiles
There are three main tools used to cutting glass tiles: nippers, glass scoring knives, and wet saws.
Nippers, also called “tile nibblers,” are pliers with sharp hardened carbide tips designed to cut small format tiles. These tools are the original tile cutting tool used by tile setters around the world. Though hard to use with precision, nibblers can be a handy tool for cutting small mosaic, standard thickness (4mm) tiles.
If used gently, they can also be used to trim flares, to cut around pipes or to break off pieces of scored tiles. Nippers are relatively inexpensive, usually costing in the $15-$20 range.
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. For step-by step instructions on glass scoring and breaking, click here.
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. For step-by step instructions on cutting glass tiles with wetsaws , click here.
Wet saw blades for cutting glass tile are much like blades for cutting ceramic tiles. They are made with tiny chips of synthetic diamond embedded into a soft metal base. As the blade rotates, some of the soft metal wears off and exposes the cutting diamond surface.
Coarser material like ceramic or granite can be cut with fewer, larger pieces of diamond. Glass requires a much larger quantity of very fine diamond chips. Using diamond blades designed for ceramic tiles can put your tiles at risk - coarser blades can rip the tile's edges. A glass tile blade is necessary, and can cost as little as $35.
Saw blades are selected according to the saw brand and size, including the outside diameter and arbor size. Manufacturers include Felker, Gemini Saw and Mk Diamond.
Wet Saws – Rent, Beg Or Buy?
If you have only a few cuts to do, some home suppliers and tile shops, sometimes allow customers to bring in their tiles and cut them for a very nominal fee.
Most towns have wet saws for rent, though the saw you may end up with may be more than you need. Bigger saws also call for much more expensive blades, which you may have to purchase or pay a steep usage fee for.
On most jobs, a smaller, $100 US tile saw will do the trick, and may be about the same price as renting a tile saw for two or three days. Makita and Felker are two popular brands. At the end of the job you'll own the saw and blade. Keep the saw, or sell it to someone you know or put it on Ebay when you're done.
There are also small cordless glass tile saws on the market, for instance this one from Makita . You can also take look into the generic, low priced tabletop saws on the market, usually Chinese made and with a stainless steel tabletop.
- John Dumbrille
Information on these pages is offered as a background and guideline. No warranty is implied. Always check with your manufacturer for an installation method that they will stand behind.