Cutting Ceramic Tile
Straight, curved, or circular cuts can make or break a day of setting tile.
Synopsis: From simple tile nippers and cutting boards to diamond-bladed angle grinders and wet saws, here is an overview of the tools and techniques a professional tilesetter uses to cut straight and curved lines in ceramic and stone tile.
If it weren’t for the cutting, tilework would be relatively easy. But tile is both hard and brittle—about as unforgiving as a material can be—and you always need to cut tile during an installation. Luckily, specialized cutting tools and techniques make this job much easier and can keep a potentially beautiful tile job from becoming a mediocre one. Because the tools are specialized, though, more than one type of cutter is needed to complete all but the most basic installations. I never show up on a job with fewer than three different tile cutters. Also, remember that working with tile is like breaking glass all day long: Safety glasses are a must, and gloves are a good idea.
Cutting boards: a basic straight-cut tool
Manual cutting boards are easy to use and cut most common types of ceramic tile. These simple cutters work much like a glass cutter and use a carbide wheel mounted on a handle to score the tile’s ceramic surface. After the tile is scored, the same handle is used to snap the tile along the scored line. I can cut a tile this way in seconds, and I have to set only the cutting board’s stop to make repeated cuts.
Cutting boards are available in a variety of models that handle up to 20-in.-wide tiles. I own a smaller board, which cuts tiles up to 10 in., and a larger two-rail model, which has a 20-in. capacity. Both cut tiles on a diagonal, although a wet saw makes those cuts faster and…