Straight Cutting

This in light tiles is a fairly straightforward operation.  After the tile is marked, put it face up on a strong surface.  Using a metal ruler, scribe a clean line into the glaze using either a tile scriber or a good glass cutter.  Put a support under each end of the scribe and in the line with it.  (Matchsticks are sufficient when you initially attempt it.  You’ll use a short, thin straight edge once you become faster).  Press down firmly and evenly on each side of the tile and it will break neatly on the line.

All other tile cutters that work on the ‘scribe and break’ technique use the same rule of forming a line of weakness and then applying pressure until the tile breaks.  With a hand tile cutter the tile is inscribed using the built-in cutting wheel and then put in between the jaws with the scribed face upmost. The top jaw has two flat flanges which apply force evenly to the tile on either side of the scribe line.  The lower jaw is a single thin metal bar that does an identical thing directly underneath the scribe and in line with it.  Force on the handles will make the tile to break on the line.

Using a bench-kind cutter, the tile is laid, face-up, and flat on the bed of the cutter.  A handle that travels on rails has a cutting wheel joined to it that can be replaced.  The cutting wheel is lined up over your line and the wheel pushed across the surface of the tile whilst applying an even, gentle, downward pressure on the handle.  After the scribe is done, a descending movement of the handle makes two flanges come into action that press the tile down onto a ridge in the bed of the cutter, which breaks the tile on the scribed line.  There are plenty of variants on this idea, although usually they will work on the same theory.

Using Tile Nippers

Practice pays off with this tool.  Even though it’s slow, with practice it’s possible to do complicated cuts that are difficult to equal by any other way.  With regards to the alternate cutters, what we’re attempting to accomplish is a controlled break or in this situation a set of controlled breaks.

It is worth scribing the tile initially until you have worked up a level of experience with nippers, like you would for any other cut, because it helps to get a neat line.  The skill after that is to hold the tile in one hand, facing upwards.  The border of the tile is put between the jaw as of the cutter and the handles squeezed while making a small downward bendy movement of the wrist.  A section of the tile will break off on the line of the jaw with the break running to the border of the tile.  This procedure is replicated until the required line is attained.

If forming a notch in a tile you work alternately from each side and the last bit is removed from the internal corner with the file or abrasive block.

The part of your tile you’re taking away will break on the line of the least resistance and you need to attempt to retain this in the waster part of the tile.  The simplest way of conducting this is to stick to the theory of ‘little and often’.  Attempting to take out too much in one go is ta guaranteed way of breaking tiles.


Hand sawing tiles can take a lot of time, although it gives a great finish and offers a simple method of doing tiny radius internal curves that are hard by other methods.  The use of the saw is self-evident.  Like with all saws, do not apply an excess amount of force.  With slim, light tiles or awkwardly moulded cuts the pressure of the saw will occasionally cause the tile to crack.    It can be beneficial to put a bit of plywood or MDF underneath the tile and then to cut through both the tile and the board.  It won’t make a significant difference to the saw and the board will generally provide adequate support to prevent the tile from breaking.


You are likely to spend the same amount of time notching tiles as you will in doing all the other cutting put together, therefore, any time savings are worth taking.  You’ll develop your preferred individual routine.  Notching with nippers is the most common technique.  An alternate method is to saw the shorter leg of the notch and then to inscribe the additional leg and break off the waste.  An electronic saw is the simplest way and can make this a fairly speedy operation.

Split and Notch

Spilt and notch is the conventional and most popular method of cutting around pipes and brackets.  The tile is initially cut into two parts in the middle of the line of the pipe.  After that, each half of the tile is notched around the obstacle and the tile is placed back together as one unit after its mended.  Accurately and cautiously done with the cut plastered to match the tile, it can make an incredibly neat finish.


If the plumbing has been ‘first fixed’, meaning all the pipes are in place except for the sink,  W.C  etc. haven’t been fitted yet, you can pre-drill a tile to fit around a pipe.  It does call for the tiles have to be marked precisely if you desire a great finish.  Drilling is best done in a wet drill stand using a diamond core bit with the tile completely supported on a flat piece of board.  This is basically the only way for certain high-quality porcelain tiles can be drilled.   Unfortunately, the everyday DIY person doesn’t have access to that type of equipment; however, certain suppliers will do it for you if you mark the tiles up.

It can be done too, although more slowly, by ‘stitch’  drilling the tile using a good brickwork bit, which entails drilling a series of holes close together around the border in the waste material of the marked hole. A few extra are then drilled in the waste material unit until its weak enough to be broken out.  After that, the edge of the hole is tidied up using half round file or a rolled piece of coarse emery fabric folded around a piece of rod.

Another substitute method is to use one of the drilling attachments that can be bought as ‘add-ons’ to some of the bench-kind tile cutters.

Power Machine Cutting

There is a huge variety of electronic power tools obtainable nowadays that it’s vital to provide a lot more than simply general guidance.  Each one of the machines of this kind cut by grazes. The abrasive wheels that do the cutting are typically created from steel with diamond cutting frames.

The lighter kind of electronic saw is constructed similarly to a small bench saw.  The key variatiation is that it has a water bath where the lower half of the blade runs.  This is to provide lubrication for the cutting process and to stop the blade from overheating.  The cost of some of these is fairly reasonable.

The heavier kinds, generally intended for commercial usage, have the blade attached to the arm that is pulled across the tile.  Water is squirted onto the blade whilst it cuts.  On certain cutters the tile is gripped on a wheeled bed which can be shifted to and fro under the cutting wheel, which is brought down onto the face of the tile.

All electric machines are more costly in comparison to hand tools, although you might be able to hire one.  If you do decide to purchase one instead of hiring, make sure that you can get spares.  With all power tools follow the manufacturer’s guidelines exactly at all times.  A machine that can cut a hand ceramic tile in half will have no problems doing the same to your fingers.

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