Mosaic-making Tools

I’ve written multiple posts on sources of tools for India based mosaicists, but since they date back to 2 years, I’m presenting an update on the most essential tools that I find necessary for mosaic practitioners. The recommended tools are listed under the materials they can handle.

GLASS TILES AND CHINA

 Wheeled Nippers 

Sai Mosaic Art : As of now, Ahmedabad based Sai Mosaic Art is the only e-commerce enabled website in India that sells tools and tiles for mosaic-making. I recommend their wheeled nippers because they are fast to buy, they are well-priced and they work well enough. The site also sells replacement blades for these nippers. Approx. Price: Rs1400.00

NBHTPL : Mumbai Based New Bombay Hardware Traders Pvt. Ltd. sells these heavy duty nippers by RUBI (Rubi 83942) that cut glass or ceramic tiles or china with equal ease. They are more expensive than most brands of wheeled nippers but their advantages are their multi-material use, quality and availability. Approx. Price: Rs3700.00

Leponitt Nippers  from Amazon US : Although these nippers are not available in India, the reason for including them in the list is to highlight them as an ideal tool to own. Those with a choice to ship items from Amazon US to friends in the US and get them through their visits, must exercise the choice and acquire a pair. These are lighter in weight than most nippers I’ve used and have good quality blades. Approx. Price: $29.00

STAINED GLASS

Scorers

Toyo Thomas Grip Scorer from Amazon US : This scorer isn’t available in India but it’s considered as the best cutter for stained glass sheets. It can be sourced from Amazon US if one can find a helpful acquaintance travelling from the US. Approx. Price: $27.00

Toyo Pencil Scorers : I had found this scorer in a local hardware store on a visit but not on my next one. It’s worth checking with local stores on its availability. Other local brands do not have good quality blades even if they look like these. Approx. Price: Rs250.00

Stanley Glass Cutter : It works as well or even better than locally made pencil scorers. If one can’t source a Toyo scorer then this cutter is worth acquiring. Like with other glass scorers, it should be run onto a cotton swab dipped in kerosene or machine oil to lubricate its wheel before using on glass. Approx. Price: Rs140.00

Running Pliers

Studio Pro Running Pliers from Amazon US : To break a score on a stained-glass sheet, one needs a pair of Running Pliers. I use Studio Pro’s Running Pliers that I sourced from Amazon US. These may be available in Indian hardware stores under a different brand name but I haven’t seen them locally. If you do find such pliers locally, remember to buy only those that have a raised bump on the lower jaw to help break a score. Approx. Price: $11.00

CERAMIC TILES AND POTTERY

Scorer cum Snapper from NBHTPL : This tool by RUBI is a well-made and well-priced scorer-cum-snapper for ceramic tiles. They call it a Tile Cutter. It can be purchased from NBHTPL in Mumbai by sending an email to their Sales Head, Mr. Akshay Jain (akshayjain at nbhtpl dot com). Approx. Price: Rs700

Rubi Compound Nippers : These nippers from NBHTPL (Rubi 65926) are a good choice for shaping ceramic tiles. Their jaw has straight blades that aid breaking of ceramic tiles from the tile’s edge. Approx. Price: Rs1400.00

Sai Mosaic’s Professional Nippers : These nippers could become one’s second pair for shaping ceramic tiles. Their jaw has rounded blades that help with circular nipping. Approx. Price: Rs1000.00

MD Buildings Compound Nippers from Amazon US : These are my favourite compound nippers. I bought them from Amazon US at half the price mentioned against them at Amazon India. Amazon US still ships them to India so one should check if it makes sense to buy them from the US through a friend or on direct shipping to India. Approx. Price: $12.00

 

My Dremel Experience 

I’d long wanted to acquire a Dremel rotary tool to manage some tasks as a mosaicist. At some point, Amazon India’s discount sale brought the tool’s price down by a couple of thousand rupees, making it seem like an opportune time to buy it. If anyone else is considering its purchase, the information below may help one reach a decision.

The Right Model 

My enquiries in international mosaic groups had highlighted Dremel 4000 as the most apt model for my purpose as it had the power to allow long duration use as also enable varied cutting tasks. The price of Dremel 3000 was always more attractive but I tried my best to not succumb to the temptation to buy it. Too many people had mentioned that the model 3000 had blown up on overuse.

The model that I finally got from Amazon India is this one:

Dremel 4000-4/65 EZ 175-watt Multi-Tool Set (69-Pieces)

(An introductory video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meyhj6QpedE)
4000 is the Model number; 4 denotes the number of attachments that come with the tool; 65 is indicative of the small accessories bundled in.

Upon checking on Amazon India now, I see that this model is no longer available. It’s possible that Amazon managed to sell its complete stock at that sale. One of the reviewers on Amazon had written that the e-commerce site is discarding its old stock through discount sales so I’m now waiting to see how long mine lasts. I do know from many users in the west that the model 4000 is what they’ve found to be working well.

Must-have Accessories 

My identified requirements from the Dremel tool were to : cut shapes out of acrylic sheets and mdf board; cut crockery; grind tile edges when absolutely necessary, etch ceramic tiles, buff mosaic jewellery, engrave wood etc.

Other than what came with the Dremel tool kit, I’ve bought the following additional accessories from Amazon India:

Dremel 4486 Multi Chuck (0.4-3.4 mm) 

To avoid having to change the collet repeatedly for different bits and mandrels, I decided to buy this multi chuck as it’s believed to work with all the accessories. Its idea is totally welcome but upon using it I found the accessory bit 561 getting dislodged on pressing into the hard surface of an acrylic sheet. I need to use it more often to determine its efficacy but I believe that its price of Rs599.00 makes it a worthwhile item in the kit.

Tools Centre’s 22 mm 10 Mini Diamond Saw Blades with 2 Shanks

Diamond blades are essential for cutting ceramic or china crockery with Dremel. Instead of buying Dremel’s expensive original diamond blade priced at Rs3500/piece, I decided to give this set of 10 blades a chance. The set came at Rs660.00, and till now, I’ve used one out of them to cut 4 shapes out of a 4 mm acrylic sheet. I found the blade to be more effective than any other bit in my original kit.  I’m sure they will come in handy for varied materials in the future. I’m just curious to see the longevity of each blade as they say that low priced blades lose their diamond surface rather rapidly. At the price they have come though, one can experiment with them without too much thought.

My First Project 

I’ve wanted to cut mdf and acrylic shapes for a long time. I believe that a Jigsaw or 3-ring saw are most appropriate for cutting mdf shapes but since I’ve wanted to use the Dremel tool for many things that it can possibly do, I decided to cut acrylic shapes with it. After testing the cutting bit 561 and SpeedClick SC456 that came in the kit, I found Tool Center’s diamond blades more effective for cutting the hard 4 mm acrylic sheets. It was tough to handle acrylic sheets as their cutting not only created a lot of acrylic powder in the air, the diamond blade led to slightly burnt acrylic edges. For those attempting this must wear a nose mask and protective glasses. Wearing anti-glass cut gloves may also help as sometimes tiny pieces of warm acrylic fly onto the hand holding the sheet.

The acrylic shapes had residual plastic stuck to their edges that also went away when rubbed against the surface of the diamond blade.

While I’d be cutting more acrylic, I’m not sure that I’d cut them in large numbers. The process is time-consuming and emits a lot of acrylic powder. Two of the shapes, however, have served as substrates for a small sun-catcher for my yard.

I wish… 

There is lots that isn’t in favour of buying this tool in India. It is pricey; Bosch Limited doesn’t do much to want to sell it (my calls and emails to them didn’t get me any response); Dremel tool’s original accessories are not only expensive, many times they aren’t even available online; Dremel-India’s website isn’t as informative as Dremel.com; Amazon India has far less product data available against the item/accessories than say Amazon US; its videos on Youtube or the company site are mere promos and not educative… And yet, hobbyists or artists in India have been buying the tool because of its perceived potential. Many glass artists I’ve connected with tell me that they bought it thinking that it’d help with many tasks but their prime use of it is to drill holes in glass, an essential need to create many stained glass objects.

I wish Dremel.com was doing much more to facilitate the tool’s handling and help learn the use of its accessories through better videos and live workshops. I believe I’ve watched every single video that’s available on it on Youtube but I still wasn’t entirely sure of the blade that would cut acrylic sheets easily. The Dremel India website doesn’t even allow search for accessories by their model number. One has to use Google to find that accessory’s page on the company website.

Useful Learning Resources

I found these sites to carry some useful views and advise that may help others too.

https://dremelamateur.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/my-dremel-4000-review-part-i/
https://dremelamateur.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/my-dremel-4000-review-part-ii/#more-388
https://www.eternaltools.com/blog/complete-guide-to-your-dremel-rotary-tool
http://dremelweekends.com/pvc-lamp.html
http://jmbh.org/DremelTute.html
https://blueroofdesigns.com/2009/08/07/dremel-resources-for-artists/
http://woodarchivist.com/310-choosing-power-carving-bits/

Do you use a Dremel tool? Do share your experience on its use and how it’s made your work easier.

Mosaic Supply Store: Sai Mosaic Art 

Background 

The need to source tools and tiles for mosaics has meant much web-trawling for me and on one such scan of Amazon India, I’d found small kits and stocks of crystal glass tiles being sold by Ahmedabad based Sai Mosaic Art. I found their website, emailed them to ask about their products, and if they would make them available to small scale mosaic-makers like me. I kept learning more about their products bit by bit. Not only that, a few weeks later, the company owner Mr. Patel spent a morning in Gurgaon while on the way to UP and met me and a few more mosaic-makers.

Mr. Patel made notes of our needs and approach to creating mosaics, said that he’d be keen to help small artists scattered around the country, and later shared with us a list of products, their pricing and minimum quantities that his company would supply. Apart from the adhesive, I’ve now used all their products listed below and can confirm that they indeed fulfil many requirements. Other than a wide range of glass and ceramic tile shades, their mesh is of good quality and works as intended. I’d bought a few small mesh pieces from Amazon US and paid much more than the rate offered by Sai. At least 2 of the 4 picks they sell are invaluable and at the price they come, those of you conducting workshops can easily keep 4-5 sets.

Sai Mosaic Art’s current product range:
(with the minimum permissible order per item)

  1. Crystal glass tiles in 15×15 mm size and 3 mm thickness – 1 sqft or approx 400 tiles
  2. Ceramic tiles in varying sizes in 5 mm thickness –  500 gms in size 1×1” with approx 80 pieces to fill 9×9” space img_3478
    . 12 pieces in size 4×4”
    . 4 pieces in size 6×6”
    . 2 pieces in size 12×8”
  3. Mosaic mesh by meter – 1×1 meter
  4. A set of 4 mosaic picks – 1 set
  5. Adhesive—white glue for indoor mosaics
  6. 3-board shade kit in ceramic tiles
  7. 8-board shade kit in crystal glass

Method of Buying  img_4001

. Email the tile codes with quantities to Sai Mosaic Art.
. Include your complete address and contact numbers in your email.
. Await confirmation via email on stock availability, time to be taken to despatch the items and the final amount to be paid.
. Transfer the amount to the seller’s bank account.
. Await the courier.

Where stocks are available, it takes upto 7 days to have the material in hand.

Contact Information  img_4003

Sai Distributors Pvt Ltd
A/7, SF, Millennium Plaza, Mansi Circle
Vastrapur. Ahmedabad 380 015
Gujarat, India
Ph:- +91 79 40009386
Fax:- +91 79 26764962 img_4004
Cell:- +91 98 25073678
http://saimosaicart.com/
EMAIL: saidistributors7@gmail.com

Further Tips from Me 

Crystal tiles: When you see the beautiful crystal shades on their website, you’d be tempted to acquire small stocks of all the colours for they look like jewels and cut easily with wheeled nippers due to their 3 mm thickness. They look smaller than 15x15mm because of their rounded corners so many mosaicists would be happiest using them without cutting. In fact the shiny SPR tiles must be used whole because of the gold foil used at the back but the rest of the marble or luminescent tiles cut well. My tip is to buy one sqft in each of the 5-6 colours that you’re absolutely sure of using and buy a set of shade boards at the same time. When seen up-close, the iridescence or luminescence of tiles is much clearer than their images make them appear so it helps to have the boards on hand to decide on colours. Place the rest of your tile order on getting hold of the shade kit.img_4006

Ceramic tiles: the smallest size available is 1×1” and they arrive in a perfect state in the courier. Bigger sizes tend to see some breakage but the company is good about replacing any broken tiles so don’t lose heart.

Mesh: The quality is good and even though it arrives folded, it straightens without much effort. img_3329

Picks: They are a must-have in every mosaicist’s kit.

Click on the images to see their bigger size.

How to Start Making Mosaics

Note: This post is concurrently published at http://www.jyotibhargava.com

My previous posts attempt to share leads to tools, tiles and adhesives used in mosaic-making but an interested learner may still be flummoxed in the face of choices and may still wonder how to go about making a mosaic. My view is to follow the approach below.

Join a Mosaic Workshop Makingmosaics

If one can find a trainer, making even a small mosaic under guidance
demystifies the process of holding the nippers, cutting tiles, arranging their flow, sticking them and then coming to grips with the messy but all important grouting process. One may have How-to Project books, good Net bandwidth to watch video tutorials but there is really nothing as ideal as learning by doing it under guidance.

Since the last year that I’ve been running the Facebook group Mosaic India, I’ve learned of a few India based mosaic-makers who train as well. If you wish to connect with a trainer, join the FB group and enquire about trainers in  your city.

Learn to cut Stained Glass 

India has more Stained Glass practitioners than mosaicists. It may be, therefore, easier to track down a stained glass artist than a mosaic-maker. Reach out to artists in your city, request that they teach you to cut stained glass shapes. Traditional stained glass requires steps of grinding shape edges once they are cut, copper-foiling them and then soldering multiple shapes to create a composition or 3D piece. To make mosaics, a learner can get oriented on scoring and cutting shapes of stained glass, and then move on to the steps of sticking shapes and grouting the composition.

Buy a Mosaic Kit and Make it 

A small mosaic kit comes with materials and instructions on making a mosaic. The kit doesn’t carry any nippers but it does have pre-cut tiles and other essential items. Making a mosaic using a kit demystifies the basic steps involved in creating a finished mosaic and that can get many learners going onto more. In India, I’ve heard of only 2 sources of basic kits but on Amazon US I can see 8-10 kit options. They don’t ship to India but any friend from the US may be asked to bring you one.

Offer to be a Mosaic-maker’s Assistant 

Even those mosaic-makers who do not run workshops or teach in one-on-one sessions, may value help to finish their commissioned pieces. Be on the lookout for such opportunities to learn as you assist.

Just Make It 

If you have none of the above options available to you, just make a mosaic based on your understanding from How-to books or videos and get going. Ask questions, share your experience of making your first mosaic in the FB group and keep taking leaps beyond.

In the next post, I’ll describe the exact process of making a simple mosaic to help remove any further hesitation that a beginner feels.

Mosaic India Group on Facebook

Note: This post was first published on February 7, 2016 at http://www.jyotibhargava.com

 

Other than documenting in this blog what I’ve learned on mosaic tools and more, I’ve started a group on Facebook to encourage new mosaicists to seek inputs on their work or ask questions. There is still little orientation available to adequately learn the art of mosaics in India that I’m hoping this budding community to provide a good mentoring ground to further mosaic learning and making. Those who are running workshops can also be tracked through it. As good art is being created, avenues for marketing it can also be identified by members of the group. The group members are both India based and international to bring in their advance and varied experience. Besides, I share inspiring feeds on mosaic artists, sites, blogs and mosaic methods to maintain the atmosphere of learning and knowing more about mosaics.

Anyone with little or advance experience in mosaic-making will benefit from being part of the group. Come join it if you’re a mosaicist in India or with interest in connecting with India based mosaicists.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/MosaicIndia