Manual tile cutters

A good manual tile cutter is pretty vital to a tiler’s toolkit and although you may need an electric tile cutter, or tile saw, for making tricky cuts, a manual cutter is the ideal tool for making quick, straight and accurate cuts. These types of tile cutter are also known as score and snap tile cutters, because that best describes how they work, and although you can buy hand held manual cutters, I’d urge you to opt for the larger model of manual tile cutter that I demonstrate in the guide below.

Manual tile cutter design

tile cutterMost manual tile cutters look similar to the design shown here where the cutting wheel of the tile cutter is slid along, and below rails, to score a line on the tile surface. Pressure is then applied on either side of the scored line to break the tile in two.

The length of cut you can make with a manual cutter is essentially a little less than the length of the guide rails. All manual cutters will stipulate a maximum cut length capacity. In terms of thickness and type of tile you can cut, most will deal with ceramic tiles, but for harder porcelain and stone tiles, you need to be looking at better quality, more robust machines that stipulate their ability in this area.

Using a tile cutter

Using a manual tile cutter is indeed a simple operation, but you need to make sure that you are as accurate as possible with your measurements, as trimming a further couple of millimetres off a tile, if you’ve made the wrong sized cut, is an extremely tricky undertaking. So it really is best practice to measure twice and cut once, as they say. The sequence below is typical of how to use a manual tile cutter, but always pay close attention to any specific manufacturer’s instructions supplied.

score and snap tile cutter 1. Once you’ve measured the size of the cut required, you simply position the tile on the bed of the tile cutter beneath the guide rails and cutting wheel. Some cutters will have rulers integral to the cutter design to help you position the tile.
tile cutting wheel 2. The cutting wheel is at the base of the handle below the rails. With this design of manual cutter, you can adjust the height of the wheel, but most are in a fixed position.
scoring tile

3. You control the tile cutter and make a cut by simply using the handle. Draw the handle back (not allowing the wheel to touch the tile), and lower the wheel down onto the starting position of your cut. Apply even pressure whilst rolling the cutting wheel across the tile until it reaches the other side. Allow the wheel to drop off the edge of the tile, and press down on the handle to allow the metal arch shaped section next to the wheel to apply downward pressure on either side of the scored line, which causes the tile to break in two.

Cutting tile slivers

Cutting tile sliversA good manual cutter should allow you to trim fairly thin slivers off the edge of a tile. However, your tiling layout should ideally avoid the need to cut too thin a portion from a tile.

As you can see here, you should be able to cut down to a centimetre or so, but any smaller and you’ll definitely need an electric cutter or tile saw.

Buying a tile cutter

If you need to buy a tile cutter, then do take a look at my guide on the best tile cutter options on the market. In the guide you’ll find out how much you need to spend for a manual tile cutter that will ‘do the job’, as well as advice on deciding whether an electric tile cutter is also something you may need to put on your shopping list.


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