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 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 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.