Blades used for cutting ceramic tiles vary greatly in cost and can be quite expensive. As a result, it is important to select the appropriate blade for the job at hand. Manual blades may be adequate for small, one-time jobs, whereas larger jobs require power-cutting blades. Wet saws cool the blade, increasing its longevity, and require special wet blades. Cuts for conduit or plumbing require drill-mounted hole saws. Selecting the appropriate blade for the tile cutting task reduces cost and often decreases the amount of labor required.
Manual Saw Blades
Manual saw blades are often inexpensive, carbide blades. For example, simple snap cutters use rotary, carbide blades to score tiles, which are then snapped to break them along cut lines. However, snap cutters must be sized appropriately for the tile and cannot be used to cut very small tiles. Carbide-rod saws and carbide hacksaw blades can be mounted into a hacksaw frame for manual cutting. Rod saws cut curved lines and details, whereas hacksaw blades cut only straight lines. All manual saws require a significant amount of labor but are relatively inexpensive.
Dry-cutting blades are circular, grinding blades that are mounted on powered angle grinders or handheld cutting tools and used for cutting ceramic tiles. Dry-cutting blades may be either carbide or diamond-encrusted -- the latter is much more durable and a better choice for large cutting jobs. Expert tile cutters can use dry-cutting blades to create detailed, curved cuts. Dry-cutting blades may have smooth edges or may be toothed for increased cutting speed.
Wet-cutting blades are circular, diamond-encrusted blades that are mounted on wet saws and used for cutting ceramic tiles. Wet saw tables provide a constant flow of water to cool the diamond blade and increase its longevity. As a result, wet saw blades are a better choice for frequent cutting. Wet/dry blades function interchangeably in angle grinders or wet saws.
Blades for cutting ceramic tiles, particularly hard glass or porcelain tiles, are usually diamond-encrusted. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the harder the tile, the softer the blade that is needed. This is because the edge of a diamond blade consists of a grinding surface embedded with diamond chips that, much like sharks' teeth, are continuously replaced. Softer blades wear away more quickly, exposing more fresh diamond chips to cut the harder tiles. Hole saws with diamond blades are also available for cutting small, circular holes for plumbing or conduit. When possible, diamond blades should be mounted on wet saws to increase their lifespan.
- Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images