Introduction: Cutting Large Stone and Porcellain Tiles

Picture of Cutting Large Stone and Porcellain Tiles

Solid stone is the perfect countertop and flooring surface, but it's expensive and requires professional installation. You can get an equivalent result for a fraction of the price by doing it yourself, using large format (2ft or 610mm squared) stone or porcelain tile. Those tiles have precision-cut square edges that can be set with a millimeter (1/16") grout line, so they look and feel like a solid surface, and are very easy to keep clean and maintain, especially if you use epoxy grout.

Such large tiles  have to be precision-cut for installation, which is hard to do without professional, large, expensive tile saws. This instructable shows how to cut these tiles using a tiny hobby diamond saw.

Step 1: My Tiny Hobby Diamond Saw

Picture of My Tiny Hobby Diamond Saw

A small wet diamond saw is a must for any tile and stone work; they can be had for under $100 in home improvement stores. They are too small for the 2' tiles, though.

First problem is that the tiles are much larger than the table; I fixed it by laying a piece of plywood with a slot for the diamond blade. I plunge-cut the slot with a circular saw, and attached the plywood by driving drywall screws from the top, through some holes in  the tile saw's table into a piece of lumber underneath.

The second, more serious problem is that it's hard to make long, straight cuts with this setup. The diamond blade is very unforgiving of side loads, and will bind unless the cut is very straight. It's practically impossible to feed the tile by hand into this saw in a straight line, so even if the tiny electric  motor didn't stall the cut would be ragged. This instructable explains how to set up guides for perfect cuts.

Step 2: Setting Up the Guides

Picture of Setting Up the Guides

Precision is the key to success---we must feed the tile exactly down the kerf line. To accomplish this, we have to be exactly aligned to the saw blade.

For the guides, I am using fairly thick plywood and hardwood pieces---nothing fancy, just pulled out of my scrap wood bucket. They just need to be straight---look down the edge to check for straightness.

First, I clamp the helper guide to the diamond saw blade, as shown in the first picture. Wiggle the guide to find the best centerline---this is the kerf line. It may help to mark it on the table, but the alignment is best done against the side of the guide. It may help to clamp the helper guide to the table (I didn't do that in the picture).

When the helper guide is set up, we configure the first guide, offset for the correct cut distance. Again, it has to be exactly parallel to the kerf line, so we need to measure the exact same distance from both ends of the helper guide. I don't trust the tape measure for that, so I used a caliper. Make sure to measure from the side of the helper guide that touches the saw blade---that's your reference.

Remember to take the kerf width into account---it's possible to get sub-millimeter accuracy if you're careful.

With the first guide in place and clamped securely, the second  guide is positioned by laying it against the tile stacked against the first guide, as shown in the second picture.

The tile should slide freely between the guides, with neither binding nor noticeable side play. Given that, even granite and porcellain will cut easily and smoothly. The entire tile can be cut in about 30 seconds, with minimal force.

Look at the smooth kerf in the third picture! Success again!

Comments

dragonvpm (author)2010-10-14



Stone countertops are really heavy so you generally don't want to be moving them when you are cutting them. Your best bet is to move the tool that's doing the cutting. The professional granite/stone installers that I've seen use a normal circular saw with a diamond blade to make long straight cuts on countertops and an angle grinder if they need to do something a bit smaller (e.g. cutting out an opening for an outlet or light switch). If you don't feel you can do a straight enough cut freehand then you can carefully clamp a straight edge of some sort to the material and then use that as a guide to keep your cut straight.

sensoryhouse (author)dragonvpm2010-10-19

He is talking about stone tile countertops - which would be cut piece by piece outside or in the garage and then installed.

dragonvpm (author)sensoryhouse2010-10-20

Did you actually read the instructable? 2' x 2' tiles are basically as deep as your average countertop. A tile saw big enough to cut tiles that large is going to be hard to come by even if you're just looking to rent one. The tile saw used in this Instructable is NOT designed to cut tiles that large and it's been my experience that once you're trying to cut something bigger than your tile/table saw can accommodate you're usually going to be better off (not to mention safer) leaving the material that you're cutting in place and moving the tool that you're cutting with. The method I suggested is one that I've used for cutting 2'xN' countertops and it's the same method that professionals I've worked around use.

Furthermore, if you're looking to do something like this as a one time DIY project, it'll be cheaper to buy a couple of 7" diamond blades for your circular saw than buying a wet tile saw.

sensoryhouse (author)dragonvpm2010-10-20

Actually your average granite/marble countertop is 3cm or about 1 1/8" thick. I doubt these tiles are even half that.

I do agree that the best (and cheapest) way to cut these tiles would be a circ saw and a straight edge - although one blade is easily enough to cut a whole kitchen. You can get a 7" DeWalt diamond blade at HD or Lowe's but I would recommend getting a blade with a higher tooth count from a granite fabricators supply shop.

Also, using water will yield a cleaner cut ,longer blade life, and a lot less dust but its not 100% necessary. We usually use a large wet sponge to apply the water. If you do use water make sure your saw is plugged into a GFCI outlet though.

dragonvpm (author)sensoryhouse2010-10-21

Even at half that size or less I still think that a 2'x2' stone tile is likely to be heavy enough that it would be difficult for a lot of people to work with on a tile saw if it's not designed to cut something that large.

I mentioned a couple of blades because in my experience it's not hard for someone who is inexperienced to burn through one while they're learning. It's not hard to get the hang of it, but I've found that having a brand new blade that you can jump to makes people less likely to try to finish with a blade that's a worn out.

I agree that using water will yield a better cut, but I'd be a little reluctant to suggest it given the potential dangers associated with working with water and a power tool (particularly one that's not meant for use in a wet location). In my experience if you factor in side and back splashes you can get good cut even without water. Although perhaps the thing to do would be suggest both options and let folks do a few test cuts dry vs wet and see what cutting method will work better for their project.

KellyCraig (author)dragonvpm2016-01-26

My tile saw has a sliding table and running something as small as two by two isn't horrible. I've done it many times. However, it depends on what you're doing too. For example, if only taking an inch off, you're going to have to support the granite the entire time. Cutting it down the middle is just a matter of rolling it through.

I hang a coffee can with a few rocks in it off the back of my sliding table. This puts less pressure on the blade and granite than even I do (adjust rock content accordingly) and I can be polishing something while the saw does its magic.

When playing with bigger pieces, I use clamped 1x's and my Hardieplank saw, because I can feed water into the exhaust to cool the blade and most the water vapor [mixed with dust] is beat down before it gets in the air.

A circular saw makes surprisingly short work of large slabs of granite. Do use water [and a GFI] to extend the life of your blades.

KellyCraig (author)KellyCraig2016-01-26

I should have made clear the fact my tile saw is a two horse and the table is more robust than a two or three hundred dollar saw.

dragonvpm (author)KellyCraig2016-01-27

Yeah, it sounds like you've got a lot of experience doing this sort of work. I was mostly trying to provide a bit of commentary for more of the "average" user who might be inspired to tackle a project like this. It sounds like you have a more professional quality setup than a fair number of tradespeople I've worked around over the years.

KellyCraig (author)dragonvpm2016-01-27

I just wanted to elaborate on the capability of grinders and such when you "accessorize" them and on that you can use small equipment for big jobs, though this ible goes a long ways to showing that, I believe.

The truth of it is, my little saw isn't designed for 3cm granite, but has cut an awful lot of it

Note: Granite shops pay to toss pieces you or I could use for table tops and such, and some will let you scavenge their pieces destined for the landfill. Just don't leave a mess, if you want to come back and out of consideration for the next guy/gal who wants to dabble.

KellyCraig (author)sensoryhouse2016-01-26

Keep in mind, none of my diamond blades have teeth. The rims are solid, which is common for finer, cleaner cuts. Some sold do have slots, but they are for rough cutting things like concrete.

The blade will tell you what it was designed to cut.

As mentioned, tiles are only about 3/8" thick, so an angle grinder, a skill saw or a small tile saw can handle them. The trick is, use a guide, be it a 2x or an actual fence on a saw for straight cuts and go slow.

When I'm cutting a circle out, I free hand it with an angle grinder by just going around and around, until the outer piece drops away.

P.S. The bigger the circle, the easier it is to do.

peterlonz (author)2014-02-09

This is a remarkable achievement.

I have 600 x 900 x 12 glazed porcelain tiles to cut.

I have been at a loss as to how to achieve precision cuts that are essential to a good job. The various suggestions here all seem a bit optimistic although I don't doubt the word of those folks.

I can't even cut plywood true & square using a guided circ saw, the thing just rocks on the guide & you have no real feel. As for feeding a 600x600 heavy (rough side down) tile through two parallel timber guides on a plywood base as the OP advises: this does not sound like a precision solution, you would need to reduce friction markedly for this to work well. My professional tiler friend says he can score & break these large tiles leaving a straight edge which would require no more dressing than any other tile cut similarly. Of course this will not allow cut-outs.

Problem remains IMHO unsolved.

przemek (author)peterlonz2014-02-10

Well, the two-by-fours on plywood worked for me surprisingly well. I laid the tiles the smooth side down, because of the friction concerns you mentioned, but for my tiles it didn't matter much.

Other people suggested a diamond blade in a hand saw, ran along a fence.

The score-and-break method looks iffy to me: I was using rectangulated tiles with 1/16" (around 1mm) grout spacing, which is less than the typical kerf such scoring would use. I just don't have the confidence that the break would happen where I needed it

stony tile (author)2011-08-29

howdy folks i am new to this place but i may help by letting you know of the experience i have had with the methods suggested.if you use water you can use a squirt bottle like dish soap and squirt the hand held saw blade with one hand while sliding the blade through the tiles .when you cut it is very helpful to use tape of some kind (masking,blue painters tape like i see in the pics.even duct tape with watever will mark a line to follow because the blade will wander and you can not see the pencil lines under water or dust or saw sludge to see which direction to correct the cut.softer stone will scratch from the circular saw footplate so you may want to tape where the saw will slide on the stone.you can cut the bottom side up but the blade will chip the finished side more but if the cut is hidden that may not matter.also i have used the table top tile saws with the straight edge methods and plywood top similar to what is suggested but i like a scrap of angle iron to have less resistance.sometimes i c clamp the angle iron directly ( like a wood table saw)to the top if they are thin enough slices.i usually only use one fence to push the tiles through because the cut will usually require some correction to keep it in line with the mark by moving the tile one way or another.the longer the cut the more the blade will walk one way or the other.another variable is the blades will asually wabble back and forth so if you spin the blade and take several measurements with a tape measure you can average it out. i do use callipers for some of the saws i use but they are not able to get in the places between the blade and the fences and you need to try and ajust several times(as much as i dont like to)over and over untill you are satisfied with the results.and continue to check and recheck your work because the results will change.guaranteed.i cut the smallest stone tiles that i know of and they require accuracies of 1000's of an inch so i dont like to slop things up if you google (stony tile) you can see what small tiles that i cut for my personal use looks like.not to plug my work but to show that i do what i say. any way enjoy and if there is any way i can help please dont hesitate to ask . . .Stony

stony tile (author)stony tile2011-10-27

like this.hope it helps.It works also to cut cement board thin slices neatly away from the board.

diamondsawblades (author)2011-07-09

When using diamond blades , one key point is that you should not force the diamond blade. You should let the blade cut at its own speed. Otherwise the blade may be damaged.