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Tips on How to Use Tile Nippers

Tips on How to Use Tile Nippers
September 6, 2021

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If you’re working with ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile, you’re going to need a solid pair of tile nippers. These essential handheld tools look like they’d be pretty straightforward—and, indeed, you’ll be nipping like a pro in no time with the help of this guide—but they do take a little finessing to master. In this tutorial, we’re going over our favorite tips on how to use tile nippers to make the cleanest, most professional-grade cuts possible.

What Are Tile Nippers?

But, first, the basics. What are tile nippers, exactly? Also known as “tile snips,” tile nippers are handheld tools that are designed to help you clip off pieces of tile or glass using your hand strength in a controlled fashion. They will make curved, irregular, and straight cuts, but they’re especially popular in creating curved edges and shapes for decorative mosaics and tile work. A comfortable, easy-to-use tile nipper tool is crucial whether you’re making elaborate mosaic artwork, are crafting with the kids, or are a DIY’er retiling your kitchen backsplash. 

Tile Nipper Tips

Before you start nipping, make sure you take a few safety precautions and wear proper eye protection to prevent tile fragments from getting in your eyes. It also helps to wear a high-grip glove on one hand—the one you’re using to hold the tile—to keep it sturdy while you cut. Now you’re ready to make perfect nips with these tips!

  • Know when to use your nipper. Tile nippers are great at what they do, but they’re not meant to be all-purpose cutting tools. For crisp, straight cuts, always use a high-quality tile cutter or, for larger and more complex jobs, a reliable wet saw.
  • Know the different types of nippers. There are multiple different styles of tile nippers out there to help you with specific jobs, including:
  • Parrot beak nippers, which feature an oval-shaped jaw with an opening that resembles a parrot beak. This kind of nipper is ideal for cutting large holes in the middle of tiles and enlarging holes in hard-to-reach places.
  • Porcelain nippers, which are a bit more heavy-duty than standard tile nippers because they’re designed to nip through hard, thick porcelain.
  • Mosaic nippers, which are specifically designed to reduce stress injuries in mosaicists. They work with a variety of glass materials and are easy to use.
  • Crab tile nippers, which feature a jaw similar to a crab’s claw. They are generally capable of handling up to 15-millimeter thick tile but can also easily nip glass and mosaic tiles.
  • Wheeled nippers, which feature built-in scoring wheels to help you pre-score tile for quick, clean cuts without breakage. 
  • Offset nippers, which feature offset jaws with sharp cutting edges to create an easier biting action for smooth, quick cuts.
  • Use a wax pencil or marker to trace your mark and then score the line using a sharp utility knife. This helps to create a guide while also creating a relief line that prevents you from over-nipping. Choose a tile nipper with a built-in scoring function to help you mark material before nipping with a single tool.
  • Don’t nip off more than you can chew. The best way to approach shaping your tiles is to make small, controlled nips one at a time. Making cuts that are too big could compromise the integrity of the tile and cause cracks and breakage.
  • Smooth out the edgesof the tile. Even the best-quality nippers will still leave behind a bit of a rough edge, depending on the material at hand. Make sure to use a piece of sandpaper or a rubbing stone to smooth out the edges of the cut surface. This will help you create a clean, finished look while preventing cuts and injuries.

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cutting sheets of stained glass

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Practice Makes Perfect

As with any tool, tile nippers take a little bit of practice to master. Once you get a feel for how they work and spend some time putting them into action, you’ll be making expert cuts in no time. Choose a pair of top-rated tile nippers from Contractors Direct for the best results and the most comfortable nipping experience.