Mosaic Media and Tools—Part 3

If a mosaicist wishes to include ceramic tiles in her range of media, then a couple more tools become necessary to acquire. Ceramic tiles are cheaper and rugged so prove useful for outside applications. Garden paving stones, planters, walls or staircases can be more effectively mosaicked with ceramic tiles than vitreous glass alone so a mosaicist’s ability to use them can broaden her range of mosaic products to create.

As of now, my use of ceramic tiles has been limited to those I’ve broken with a hammer and applied on a yard step but I do intend to cut these tiles in a more controlled way so I’ve been researching the tools necessary for them. Here they are.

Hammer: This is the most common tool in use for breaking IMG_2715ceramic tiles for large wall murals or other cemented structures. Tiles can be placed inside newspapers and broken with a hammer to prevent the pieces from flying or the tile dust from getting into one’s lungs. These pieces can then be arranged in Opus Palladianum or random style to fill the drawn shapes.

Scorer-cum-snapper: This tool has a scoring wheel on one side and a fat movable plastic wing on the other side of its mouth. It is used to run a deep score on a ceramic tile which can then be held by the black wing and snapped. Strips of tiles can be cut with this tool that compound nippers can further nip into shapes. I haven’t found this to be an easy tool to use but with more practice it may act as intended.

Compound nippers: These are used to nip off small bits of a tile to create circles and other shapes. This is an essential tool to keep for ceramic tiles.

Side biter or nippers: Much like a pair of compound nippers, this tool nips off small pieces of cut or broken ceramic tile to give it a defined shape. This is another tool I’m trying to come to grips with! Many mosaicists find it effective enough. Commercial tile layers in India call it ‘Jamboora’ and do use it for nipping.

Manual Tile saw: I find this saw to be the most essential tool to cut ceramic tiles. Its function is also to score and snap a tile along a score which can be made vertically or diagonally. Its scorer on the lever does an effective job in comparison to the hand-held scorer-cum-snapper. Thin strips of tiles can be cut with this saw that can be further shaped using a pair of compound nippers. As this is a heavy tool to get shipped from another country, I’m pleased to learn after making multiple enquiries from Amazon India that a local hardware supplier in Mumbai (NBHT) has been importing them and can provide them easily. They also give a 2-year warranty on them. Prior to getting this response from Amazon India, I’d learned of Somany Ceramics providing a similar saw (not Rubi) as part of their 11-Tile Master Kit. After some follow-up, their Sales Manager was kind enough to bring over the kit to give its demo. I’d found their saw to be heavy to handle but it did work as intended. I’d have liked a lighter and smaller saw but I’ve just learned from a user that Rubi 12978 was easy enough for her to manage and made her wall mural-making a less strenuous process for her.

Grinder: It is used to smoothen the edges of tiles. There are wet grinders by Gryphette that are mostly used for stained glass pieces or stone grinders used for glass or ceramic tile pieces. I’m still to establish their necessity for ceramic mosaics as with practice nippers can do an acceptable job of giving usable edges to ceramic pieces.

Ceramic or porcelain tiles: Much as I’d like to believe that ceramic tiles are available in varying thicknesses in India, on my visits to tile stores, I’ve only found heavy floor tiles in 8+ mm thickness. Even handmade tiles tend to be too thick for any hand-held nippers to shape. When I do find ceramic tiles as thin as 4-8 mm, they are usually remnants of a store’s very old stock so available in just a few colors or leftover pieces. Fresh stocks of tiles tend to be in 12 mm or more thickness making them suitable only for walls or fixed structures.

With this post, I’ve covered all the essential tools needed to create mosaics per my understanding. I’ve also linked the tools above to the sites they can be purchased from. If I’ve missed any tool that you’ve found useful, do tell me. Or, if you’ve an easier source to suggest for these tools, do share the lead.

Happy Mosaicking!



New Bombay Hardware Traders Pvt. Ltd.
Plot-107, Sector-23, Janata Market Road
Turbhe, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, 400705
Landline: +912227833331; +912227835529
Email:; Website:
Contact person: Mr. Akshay Jain, GM

Somany Ceramics Ltd.
F-36, sector-6 Noida-201301
Phone: 0120-4627900
Contact person: Mr. Suresh Raina, Senior Manager, Tile Laying Division
Email:; Mobile: +919716256317

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