How to Cut Ceramic Tile with a Hand Tile Nipper

  • 01 of 04

    Cutting Ceramic Tile with a Hand Tile Snipper

    Tile snips or nippers are an inexpensive and effective way to make small detailed cuts in tile. © 2013

    When you perform a ceramic tile installation project, you'll be after tile cuts that have nice clean edges. That is pretty easy to accomplish with straight cuts using a snap tile cutter if you follow my tips in the tutorial How to Cut Ceramic Tile Using a Snap Tile Cutter.

    But what about small corner, curved or straight cuts? Well, for those applications you use specially designed hand tool called a tile nipper or tile snips. These specially designed hand tools are inexpensive and very simple...MORE in design, allowing the user to break off small pieces of tile in a controlled fashion, thereby allowing curved or straight cuts.

    In this tutorial I'll show you some tips on how to use the tile nipper and make successful, clean tile cuts.

    Please note that when using the tile nipper or even a snap tile cutter, please make sure to wear proper eye protection to prevent injury from flying chips of tile. I've had a piece of tile fly up into my safety glasses on more than one occasion.

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  • 02 of 04

    Start at the Corner and Work Out Nipping Small Pieces

    remove small tile chips
    Work from the corner out making sure to snip small pieces at a time. © 2013

    If you are cutting a straight piece of tile that will be a finished edge, it is a good idea to score it using the scoring wheel from your snap tile cutter. That way the tile will break in a smooth clean line as you nip pieces off (as done in this tutorial).

    If you will be cutting a tile edge that will be concealed then the above step is not necessary.

    If you are making a curved cut then mark the cut using a fine marker or pencil and make sure to take small nips. With a concave curved cut to want...MORE to start from the center of the material to be removed. With a convex curved cut, start at the corner edge and work out as with a straight line cut shown here.

    For straight cuts, it is usually best to start from the corner with the nipper held at a slight angle and work out and across the tile removing small bits of tile. Do not take big chunks of tile as that will cause the tile to snap in an uncontrolled manner and usually snap where you did not want it to break. Patience is the key when using this tool! 

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  • 03 of 04

    Continue Working the Tile Cuts in Small Pieces

    removing tile bits
    Work your way closer and closer to the desired end point whether a curved or straight cut. © 2013

    Continue working your way across the tile cut gradually reducing the amount of remaining excess tile material. When you are within 1/8" of your desired point you can make your finish / final cuts parallel to the cut line, tangent to the cut line (if a convex cut) or continue making very small nips around the interior of the cut if a concave circular cut is being made.

    Again, patience and forethought go a long way to a successful result.

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  • 04 of 04

    Final Cut Tile Using a Tile Nipper

    clean cut tile edge
    Your final cut tile should look clean and neat. © 2013

    If you have successfully and patiently followed the above tips you'll end up with a nice clean cut tile edge. In the photo above you can see there is very little if any difference in the tile edge between the tile cut with the tile nipper and those cut with the snap tile cutter.

    Experiment with some scrap tile yourself before making any cuts that count. The tile nipper is a tool that requires some "feel" to work with but it really is quite easy to use.