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Getting Started In Mosaics – What to Expect


(part 4 of 7)
hands holding wheeled nippers and nippinglass to demonstrate proper technique for cutting tesserae

Part 4. Nipping (Cutting) Tesserae.

There are different types of nippers that mosaic artists use. Tile nippers and wheeled nippers are probably the most common. Tile nippers work well with unglazed ceramic tiles. Wheeled nippers work well with vitreous glass, stained glass, mirror, and several other materials as well. Most of my experience is with wheeled nippers. I recommend Leponnitt nippers as they perform the best, in my opinion.

When using wheeled nippers, wear safety glasses. Shards can fly and if you want, you can nip over a container in order to catch your nipped pieces. Then hold your nippers as parallel as possible, and place your tesserae in between the two wheeled blades. I generally wrap my other hand around the bottom of the tesserae, (to keep shards from flying) and squeeze firmly.

Sometimes I like to hold the corner of the vitreous glass with my thumb and forefinger, then use my nippers to cut it. This seems to allow me to nip faster when I am cutting a lot of tiles at once.

For cutting large pieces of stained glass, you will need a glass scorer and a running plier. Using the glass scorer, make a score on the glass and then using the running plier, line up the score line with the line marked on the head of the plier, and squeeze gently until the glass breaks.

Smalti and marble are usually cut using a hammer and hardie. A wooden log securely contains the hardie in place while you position the smalti on its edge. Then, using your other hand holding the hammer, deliberately strike the smalti, breaking it in half. You can continue to turn the piece and cut it in smaller pieces with the hammer. Just be careful not to strike your own fingers as the pieces get smaller – ouch!

China, porcelain, and other dishes can be cut using wheeled and tile nippers, as well as a hammer. I generally use my wheeled nippers and take a big "bite" out of a dish and then work it down into smaller pieces, as my mosaic demands. If you want to break several dishes all at once, place them on a hard surface, cover with a cloth or newspapers and using your hammer, make sharp taps on the dishes. You can also use a wet saw to cut plates and other dishes. A hammer works well with thicker ceramic tiles as well.

I recommend practicing cutting different materials to see what you like to work with the best. Then, experiment with cutting squares, triangles, nibbling out circles. After you master these, try cutting different shapes like longer pieces with curves. And, look at other artists' work, notice the shapes of their cuts and how they created a feather or an animal's fur. Most of all, have fun!

this article is made possible by the support of skeew.biz - cool stuff for cool mosaics

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