Mosaic Equipment And Tools
The basic mosaic tools, needed for making mosaics, have remained more or less unchanged over the years and need not be expensive. We show a selection of the most commonly used mosaic tools, but many other general purpose tools can be adapted for mosaic work – to suit a particular purpose, or just to make life easier for a mosaic project. The choice is large.
Probably the most essential item that you will need for making mosaics would be your nippers. They are used for cutting the mosaic tiles into shape and for sizing them into halves, quarters or strips. Tile nippers are similar to carpenters nippers, except that the jaws are offset to one side and the cutting edges of the hardened steel jaws do not meet when pressure is applied, but leave a slight gap (about 1/16 inch = 1.5mm). Good quality mosaic tile nippers would be sprung to return the jaws to the open position when not being squeezed. These can be expensive in a mosaic craft shop, but as they are actually just normal ceramic tile nippers they can be cheaply purchased from a builders merchant or any of the larger hardware stores.
TILE SCORER AND GLASS CUTTER
To break porcelain, glass or ceramic tiles into smaller mosaic blocks or tesserae, it is necessary to first notch the surface of the tile with a scored line. In its simpler form the scorer is just a simple small square bar tool of hardened steel, with a sharp edged tungsten carbide tip. More usual today is the modern glass cutter, which has a tungsten carbide wheel for scoring. The wheel should be lubricated with a little thin oil to keep it turning smoothly. Personally, I prefer the bar type of scorer, as it is idiot proof and lasts longer.
TILE CUTTER AND BREAKER
This is dual purpose tool that incorporates a small tungsten carbide scouring wheel, for scoring ceramics, glass or porcelain tiles and this is combined together with a tile breaking tool. The tile breaker closes like a pair of pliers, but has a pair of angled metal leaves on one side of the jaws facing a flat edge on the other jaw. The previously scored line on the tile is placed at the centre of the jaws, with the angled jaw uppermost. When the handles are squeezed the tile should, in theory, crack perfectly along the line. However, to be honest, this operation will require a little practice to get perfect, as you will need to learn, from experience, the right depth of scoring; where to place the breaker on the tile and just how much pressure to apply. Practice first on some scrap tiles – it is actually an easy skill to acquire.
Get yourself a pair of tweezers – mosaic cubes (tesserae) are small and need to be carefully fitted into your mosaic patterns, without disturbing the mosaic pieces already placed.
ANGLED LONG-NOSED PLIERS
Rather than use tweezers, for making mosaic art I prefer to use a small pair of long nosed pliers with dropped or angled tips, such as used by electricians. Like the tile nippers these should be sprung between the handles to return open at rest.
A small sharp metal spike or probe, such as used by dentists is useful for nudging tesserae blocks into final position, alternatively a nail file or cuticle tool from a manicure set is a readily available item that is useful for nudging your mosaic blocks into place. A cocktail stick would be equally suitable.
This is a small, round nosed trowel, used for smearing tile adhesive paste over the surface of the backing surface.
NOTCHED TROWEL AND NOTCHED SQUEEGEE
In order to make an even bed for a cement based tile adhesive, or any other thick adhesive, a notched trowel (steel float) or squeegee is used to control the amount of adhesive used and even it out over the entire area. First the adhesive is roughly spread over the area using a gauging trowel and then the notched trowel (steel float) or squeegee is drawn firmly across the adhesive, using force to keep it down onto the receiving surface. The result is an evenly series of ridges in the adhesive paste, into which the mosaic tiles (tesserae) can be pressed.
A flat edged squeegee is used to force grout into the gaps between adjacent mosaic tiles.
Paintbrush, sponge, cloths, spatulas, callipers (for checking sizes for fit) carpenters square, set square, chipping hammer, bolster chisel, safety goggles.