There are a plethora of power tools at our disposal that all DIYers or home improvement project enthusiasts should be familiar with, and the tile saw is a pretty important one.
A tile saw is a tool specifically designed to cut tile. There are some pretty intricately-designed tile floors out there, and they’re all made using the craftsmanship of someone who can use a tile saw.
Whether you want to redo your own floors or are just curious about the process, knowing how various power tools work can save you a lot of grief down the line. Here is a more detailed description of what a tile saw is and what it does.
How Does a Tile Saw Cut Tile?
Different types of tile saws are held in different ways, but the most important part of the tile saw is the blade. Tile saws use a spinning diamond blade or a carbide-tungsten cutter wheel to cut through the tile.
To ensure that you make clean, straight cuts, there will usually be some sort of guide fence to keep your hand straight. Some types of tile saws let you cut curved tiles too, but not all.
A Saw Blade For Each Job
Porcelain tile is the toughest tile to cut, so it needs a similarly tough blade. An ordinary diamond blade won’t cut it.
Look for a diamond blade for ultra-hard materials specifically designed to cut man-made fired materials like porcelain.
If you continue to cut porcelain tiles without the proper equipment, you’ll soon have a dull blade and difficulty making accurate cuts.
Cutting a ceramic tile is only slightly easier than cutting a porcelain one, though it’s still a very tough material. A diamond blade for ultra-hard materials is also very well-suited to cut ceramic tile.
Glass is much softer than the first two tiles, and can easily chip and break. This is why they require special diamond blades designed to cut glass. They’re helpfully labeled “for glass”, so they’re easy to find.
The Different Types Of Tile Saws
Although they do the same job, there are two different types of tile saws. Each one has its unique characteristics and is best suited to different tiles and tasks.
Tip: Don’t cut wood with a tile saw, as it’s not designed to cut through wood and can damage the blades. You might think that if it can cut through stone, it can cut through wood, but the tile saw blades spin in the opposite direction than that of a table saw and are made of a different material.
Working with a tile cutter is slightly different from a wet tile saw. You place your tile inside the cutters, and they get scored by the scoring wheel. The tiles are then broken along the scored line.
You may also find them by the name of manual tile cutter, or snap cutter because the tiles snap along that line.
Tile cutters are best suited for small projects, softer tiles, or if you want straight-bordered tiles. A small project means that won’t be cutting many tiles, softer tiles are more likely to snap along the score line, and tile cutters can only cut in straight lines. You also can’t do tiny cuts; you can only cut larger tiles.
They’re a bit more time-consuming to work with, but simultaneously less skill-based. A tile cutter is also cheaper than a wet tile saw, and you can easily carry a tile cutter around.
Wet Tile Saws
Wet tile saws use electricity to power the spinning blade and sprays water from the blade to reduce unwanted friction. Wet saws can be hooked up to a water source or have a built-in water reservoir.
Wet saws are ideal for perfect cuts and intricate borders. Unlike a tile cutter, a wet tile saw can cut curved lines and make angled cuts.
It’s more skill-based and requires more precision, but with a bit of practice, you can easily achieve your desired cut.
They’re difficult to carry around, but there are portable wet tile saws you can purchase.
Wet saws are also suited to cut hard tile materials with no fuss. Consider investing in a wet saw if you’re undertaking any large projects. It’s more expensive but well worth it in the long run.
How To Use a Tile Saw
First things first, safety. Wear safety goggles for eye protection and a face mask to protect against fumes and dust.
Pretty often, you’ll have small, sharp fragments be launched into the air. Your eyes are worth much more than whatever the price of a pair of safety goggles is, so gear up.
If you’re using a wet tile saw, be very careful. Electricity and water can be a fatal combo, so take a portable GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) with you. A GFCI cuts off the power to your tools if you’re in the circuit.
A couple of ear plugs will also save your hearing when that wet saw blade kicks up at full speed. These are optional, but worthwhile.
For either one of these, you’ll need:
- A tile cutter
- A rubbing stone
- Your tile of choice
How To Use a Tile Cutter
Tip: Make sure your tile fits on your tile cutter. Too big of a tile can be a waste of money, so measure the length of your tile cutter and compare it to the length of the tile.
This is how you’ll be cutting tile with this tool:
- Measure your desired cutting dimensions and mark the line along which you want the tile to be cut with a pencil.
- Place the tile in the cutter, glazed side up. Make sure that the scoring wheel is directly on the beginning of the line you drew, and that it lines up with the central guide line (the metal rail).
- Grab the lever and move it along your line. As you do this, the blade is scoring the tile. Keep going until you reach the end.
- You’ll see a forked foot under the level, which is designed to apply equal pressure to both sides of the tile until they snap perfectly in two. Push the lever down to separate the tile.
- If you don’t get a perfectly clean cut, take a rubbing stone and run it along the cut edge.
- Repeat steps 1-5 until you’ve completed your project!
How To Use a Wet Tile Saw
With a tile cutter, you move the carbide-tungsten scoring wheel. With a wet tile saw, you move the sliding table, so keep that in mind.
After the natural first step of plugging in your saw, this is what you should do next:
- Fill up the water reservoir with tap water, or hook up your wet tile saw to a water source. This depends on the model of the tile saw, but most have a water reservoir.
- Measure your cutting dimensions and mark the line along which you want the tile to be cut with a washable marker. This is easier to see than a pencil, and can be wiped off in the end.
- Adjust the guide blade so that your tile rests snugly against it. You might also have a miter gauge at your disposal, which you can fix to the table and change the angle of, if you want to cut your tile at an angle.
Tip: Read the manual and inspect your wet tile saw, as there are models with different features. For example, some models have a laser you can turn on to show you where the blade is going to cut, some can do bevel cuts, plunge cuts, or have stainless steel rollers, or a splash guard that catch the water and feed it back to the machine.
- Place your tile on the saw table. Remember that the cutting line is parallel to the blade, so position your tile accordingly.
- Switch your saw on and let it run for a few seconds. You’ll see it start to drip and spray water along the blade.
- Once the saw is running, place your hands on each side of the saw table and slowly push it towards the blade. You are not the one cutting tiles, rather the blade is cutting them at its own natural pace.
Tip: Watch your hands at all times while the saw blade is in motion! It’s not uncommon to lose a finger while operating this power tool.
- Switch the saw off and wait for the blade to stop spinning.
- Take your cut tile pieces and inspect them. Run a rubbing stone along the cut edge to remove the cut lines.
- Repeat steps 1-8 until you’ve finished your project. Then unplug the saw.
When it comes to making clean and precise cuts on any kind of tile, using a tile saw is necessary.
Now that you have a better idea about how they work and what kind would work best for you, using the right kind of saw for a certain material will no longer be a challenge.