Tile Nippers

Every tile setting kit needs a pair of nippers. These basic hand tools are a necessity since virtually every project will need at least a few simple curved cuts. When you need to accommodate things like toilet flanges, faucet valves, door cases or any other obstruction tile nippers are invaluable as they allow you to make semi-circles, irregular cuts, or even holes in tile. Luckily, they also happen to be one of the least expensive tools you can buy.

The Essentials

Tile nippers look similar in design to a pair of pliers but instead have a set of sharp carbide tipped jaws.  These jaws can come in quite a few different configurations depending on what’s needed for the job at hand however the standard variety is flat in the front. Typically they are used to grip the tile while at the same time snapping off small pieces. And that’s how they got their name since they actually bite little jagged chunks out instead of cutting like a saw. Because of this, some people simply refer to them as “biters.”Tile Nippers

They are normally used with ceramic tiles and for that reason are sometimes also called ceramic tile nippers. But they can be used on porcelain, concrete tiles, and the majority of tile types including even very tough heavy materials. Some natural stones such as slate in particular are not well-suited for being used with nippers since they are prone to crumbling or shattering.

Nippers can also be handy for helping to pull out staples from floor after removing carpeting in preparation for laying floor tiles. And when it comes time for tile removal they can help break the edges of tiles so you can insert a chisel underneath.

Tile Nippers


Glass And Mosaics

For both glass and mosaic tile they are especially convenient. Many artists and DIY enthusiasts use them to help break single mosaic tiles into much smaller and unique shapes to decorate planters, wall hangings, and address markers. While you can use the standard flat front variety, you may want to consider wheeled tile nippers.

Tile Nippers

These are also sold as “glass tile nippers,” or “mosaic tile nippers,” since they are actually made specifically for these lighter materials and also cutting glass strips down to much smaller pieces. You can easily identify them by their two distinct carbide scoring wheels. Parrot nippers with their curved front are another option which can offer you more control when doing intricate work on smaller mosaics and are the best tile nippers for cutting inside holes of tiles.

Tile Nippers


Getting Started

Using tile nippers does take a little getting used to so it’s always recommended that you practice first on some scrap tile. You can mark it with an outline similar to one used when making a real cut. Holding the nipper parallel to the line or mark is the easiest method. Remember that small is always the way to go, gradually cutting a little more with each individual bite. This will help to prevent you from breaking the tile.

Many tilers also prefer to only allow a portion of the jaws to touch the tile as it can aid you in keeping much greater control and possibly from cracking or fracturing the body of tile even further away from where you are cutting. In general softer bodied materials are much easier to deal with while vitreous options like many outdoor tiles will require a little more persistence.

Tile Nippers

It’s good to keep in mind that you don’t need to cut right through the entire body, using a prying motion when you’re just about there will give you a much cleaner break. By practicing you will be able to get the hang of how much to take off in each bite, the best jaw position, and removing excess material much quicker.

Also, since edges can be incredibly sharp wearing sturdy gloves will help to keep fingers and hands from getting cut. Safety glasses too, are a good idea to shield your eyes in the event that tile chips are thrown when cutting.

Tile Nippers


How To Use Tile Nippers In Your Project

Fortunately for many smaller jobs you can sometimes get away with only having to purchase a tile cutter and nipper. The straight cuts can be done with the cutter and irregular ones by the nipper.

Typically simpler cuts are accomplished by first marking the face of the tile with a pencil or marker in the desired shape of the cut, scoring it with a scoring wheel and then taking small bites with the nipper until you are as close to the mark as possible in the entire area you want to remove. Using a rubbing stone after will help to smooth over any rough or ragged edges.

For bigger projects or more complex curved cuts, a tile saw and nipper make the best team. Mark the cut, score the tile, and then use your tile saw to cut a bunch of straight parallel lines as close to the mark as you can. Then use your tile nippers to remove the tabs left behind by these cuts from the saw and reach your mark. An angle or tile grinder can be used to smooth the edge or a rubbing stone.

Tile Nippers

When dealing with mosaics the process is very simple. You’ll need to remove any extra tiles from the sheet using a utility knife first. And after that use a scoring wheel of a tile cutter to score them and your nipper to cut each one individually. Of course don’t forget the rubbing stone.

Irregular cuts are a normal part of any project. And with a tile nipper there is no need to fear them. By taking your time and following the advice mentioned above along with a little practice and patience you’ll soon be conquering those curves and complex cuts with ease!
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