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What are Tile Nippers?

Nychole Price
Nychole Price

Tile nippers are hand held tools used for breaking and snipping tile. They are most often used when making circular cuts but can also be used for straight or angled cuts. Many people find it easier and more accurate to use a tile cutter to make straight cuts.

This tool for cutting tile resembles a pair of pliers or wire cutters. It has contoured handles and jaws that are used for breaking off small pieces of tile one bite at a time. Unlike tile saws, the cut made from tile nippers is very rough, but it serves its purpose. Most circular cuts are made around pipes and will be covered either with faucets are knobs.

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Woman painting

Besides the basic offset tile nipper, there is also the wheeled version. This type is meant specifically for cutting narrow strips of tile, no larger than 0.44 inches (1 cm) wide. The blades are circular and cut the tile parallel to the tool instead of perpendicular. These are most often used for trimming off the edges of tile to fit a smaller area.

The tips of tile nippers come in various materials. Carbide tips are the most popular as the stay sharp. Tungsten tips are also used but not as frequently. They are quicker to dull, meaning you have to sharpen them more often. Tungsten is most often used in the blades of wheeled nippers.

Using tile nippers requires taking a couple of safety precautions. Before nipping tile, put on a pair of safety glasses, as the broken pieces are very sharp and may become airborne when cut. It is also advised to wear gloves to prevent cutting yourself on the sharp edges.

Mark the area of the tile you want to break away. This is easiest to do with a wax pencil, as you can wipe off any excess markings. If you don't have one handy, use a pencil on the back side of the tile. For trickier cuts, make a template from cardboard and transfer it to the tile.

Hold the tile over a trash can or other empty container and nip away slowly at the tile. Taking large bites of tile may result in breaking the tile and having to start over. When you are close to your marking, make the bites smaller to prevent cutting to far in. Use 60 grit sandpaper to smooth the finished edge when you are done.

Caring for your tile nippers correctly will extend their life span. Keep them away from water to prevent them from rusting and seizing up. Lubricate your nippers with a Teflon® based lubricant before performing large jobs.

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