Mosaic Media and Tools—Part 3

Note: This post was first published on February 6, 2016 at http://www.jyotibhargava.com

 

If a mosaicist wishes to include ceramic tiles in her range of media, then a couple more tools become necessary to acquire. Ceramic tiles are cheaper and rugged so prove useful for outside applications. Garden paving stones, planters, walls or staircases can be more effectively mosaicked with ceramic tiles than vitreous glass alone so a mosaicist’s ability to use them can broaden her range of mosaic products to create.

As of now, my use of ceramic tiles has been limited to those I’ve broken with a hammer and applied on a yard step but I do intend to cut these tiles in a more controlled way so I’ve been researching the tools necessary for them. Here they are.

Hammer: This is the most common tool in use for breaking IMG_2715ceramic tiles for large wall murals or other cemented structures. Tiles can be placed inside newspapers and broken with a hammer to prevent the pieces from flying or the tile dust from getting into one’s lungs. These pieces can then be arranged in Opus Palladianum or random style to fill the drawn shapes.

Scorer-cum-snapper: This tool has a scoring wheel on one side and a fat movable plastic wing on the other side of its mouth. It is used to run a deep score on a ceramic tile which can then be held by the black wing and snapped. Strips of tiles can be cut with this tool that compound nippers can further nip into shapes. I haven’t found this to be an easy tool to use but with more practice it may act as intended.

Compound nippers: These are used to nip off small bits of a tile to create circles and other shapes. This is an essential tool to keep for ceramic tiles.

Side biter or nippers: Much like a pair of compound nippers, this tool nips off small pieces of cut or broken ceramic tile to give it a defined shape. This is another tool I’m trying to come to grips with! Many mosaicists find it effective enough. Commercial tile layers in India call it ‘Jamboora’ and do use it for nipping.

Manual Tile saw: I find this saw to be the most essential tool to cut ceramic tiles. Its function is also to score and snap a tile along a score which can be made vertically or diagonally. Its scorer on the lever does an effective job in comparison to the hand-held scorer-cum-snapper. Thin strips of tiles can be cut with this saw that can be further shaped using a pair of compound nippers. As this is a heavy tool to get shipped from another country, I’m pleased to learn after making multiple enquiries from Amazon India that a local hardware supplier in Mumbai (NBHT) has been importing them and can provide them easily. They also give a 2-year warranty on them. Prior to getting this response from Amazon India, I’d learned ofSomany Ceramics providing a similar saw (not Rubi) as part of their 11-Tile Master Kit. After some follow-up, their Sales Manager was kind enough to bring over the kit to give its demo. I’d found their saw to be heavy to handle but it did work as intended. I’d have liked a lighter and smaller saw but I’ve just learned from a user that Rubi 12978 was easy enough for her to manage and made her wall mural-making a less strenuous process for her.

Grinder: It is used to smoothen the edges of tiles. There are wet grinders by Gryphette that are mostly used for stained glass pieces or stone grinders used for glass or ceramic tile pieces. I’m still to establish their necessity for ceramic mosaics as with practice nippers can do an acceptable job of giving usable edges to ceramic pieces.

Ceramic or porcelain tiles: Much as I’d like to believe that ceramic tiles are available in varying thicknesses in India, on my visits to tile stores, I’ve only found heavy floor tiles in 8+ mm thickness. Even handmade tiles tend to be too thick for any hand-held nippers to shape. When I do find ceramic tiles as thin as 4-8 mm, they are usually remnants of a store’s very old stock so available in just a few colors or leftover pieces. Fresh stocks of tiles tend to be in 12 mm or more thickness making them suitable only for walls or fixed structures.

With this post, I’ve covered all the essential tools needed to create mosaics per my understanding. I’ve also linked the tools above to the sites they can be purchased from. If I’ve missed any tool that you’ve found useful, do tell me. Or, if you’ve an easier source to suggest for these tools, do share the lead.

Happy Mosaicking!

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Resources:

New Bombay Hardware Traders Pvt. Ltd.
Plot-107, Sector-23, Janata Market Road
Turbhe, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, 400705
Landline: +912227833331; +912227835529
Email: nbht@nbhtpl.com; Website: www.nbhtpl.com
Contact person: Mr. Akshay Jain, GM
Somany Ceramics Ltd.
F-36, sector-6 Noida-201301
Phone: 0120-4627900
https://www.somanyceramics.com
Contact person: Mr. Suresh Raina, Senior Manager, Tile Laying Division
Email: sureshraina@somanyceramics.com; Mobile: +919716256317

Mosaic Media and Tools–Part 2

Note: This post was first published on December 14, 2015 at http://www.jyotibhargava.com

 

This post is for level 2 of mosaic-making. When a mosaicist finds her vitreous glass tile color palette to be limiting her designs, using stained glass along side will increase the colors available to her. Another advantage would be that stained glass would allow cutting of bigger and varied shapes for a composition which the small size of vitreous glass tiles doesn’t permit. A bigger size, however, brings with itself the challenge of cutting and shaping stained glass, so an added set of tools is needed to manage this media.

 Here’s what is needed to use stained glass for creating mosaics.

Stained Glass

As opposed to 2×2 cm or 1″x1″ vitreous glass tiles, stained glass comes in sheet sizes of 2’x5’ or 2’x6’. It comes in transparent, semi transparent and opaque colors. As for brands, I’ve only seen Spectrum stained glass that comes from the US. It has a dealer in East of Kailash, New Delhi–Superior Float Glass–whose store I’d visited some months ago to buy small quantities of glass to experiment with. Good quality stained glass comes expensive at its StainedGlassprice of Rs250-Rs500/sq ft so warrants practiced glass cutting and shaping skills to avoid its wastage. I’d heard of stained glass discards being stored by big glass stores which I was fortunate to find at the Superior store. While it wasn’t easy to rummage through their single gigantic wooden crate of broken, dusty discards, with the help of a worker I did extricate usable opaque glass pieces in many colors. They weighed 3 kgs and came much cheaper at Rs150/kg. In addition, I bought 8 sq ft of stained glass in different colors from their large or leftover sheets, and returned home with plenty of colors and sizes to play with. In the image on right, discards are in the purple container and are large enough to create big or small pieces for mosaic compositions. The rectangular pieces on the table came at prices between Rs250-350/sq ft.

I’ve learned of an inferior and cheaper quality of stained glass that comes from China and available with a store in Kirti Nagar, New Delhi. I still have to track down that place and product.

Necessary Tools

Glass scorer

Glass scorers are used to create a deep enough straight or curved score on stained glass that fractures the glass along the line. The glass is then held by Running Pliers against the score and snapped along the line. Glass cutters in India have long used diamond tipped pen scorers to fracture and break all sorts of glass. Good quality pen scorers, however, come with a tiny carbide tipped wheel on their tip and have an oil reservoir in the stem to keep the wheel lubricated and moving freely. Stained glass artists use either these pen scorers or pistol grip scorers for ease of gripping them. Fortunately, oil reservoir pen scorers are easy enough to find in hardware stores in Gurgaon. This link on Amazon India shows the scorer I mean and it’ll cost less than its displayed price in a local hardware store.

Running Pliers

These are used to hold the glass against a score and snap it neatly. It looks like this, and while it should be possible to source it locally, I got it from Amazon US.

Grozer

A grozer snips off small pieces from the edge of stained glass. They may be protruding ends that need removal or intentionally snipped small pieces that are needed to fill a shape. A grozer is also used to break thin strips from stained glass that running pliers don’t help break as the narrow strip may be too close to the edge of the glass. Running pliers need enough area on the glass edge to hold it firmly. I got a grozer from Amazon US but it should be available with hardware stores here as stained glass artists use them in India.Stainedglasstools

Wheeled Mosaic Cutter

These cutters have been covered in my previous post. They continue to be immensely useful in cutting geometric or curved shapes out of strips of stained glass much like they do with vitreous glass tiles.

Carborundum stone

Also called a rubbing stone, this rough stone is available at local hardware stores to grind jagged ends of shapes cut with cutters.

Protective Eye Glasses

I find that stained glass strips break differently from vitreous glass tiles. Cutting stained glass sees shards flying in a less controller manner than one witnesses with vitreous glass tiles. Using a grozer throws around even more tiny pieces of glass rather unpredictably. The use of simple protective eye glasses is therefore necessary. I’ve found this pair by 3M to be adequate for this purpose.

Turpentine Oil

Although not a tool, it took me a while to figure out the right oil to use for glass scorers. Glass workers advise the use of kerosene oil but hardware store folks suggest turpentine oil. I’ve used latter and found it working well. One can simply dip the wheeled pen scorer into a bottle of oil, dab the extra oil on a tissue and run it on glass to create a score.

There are more tools that a mosaicist may want to own or at least want access to. I’ll cover them in a Part 3 post that will cover ceramic tiles as the media of choice.

Meanwhile, do tell me what else can be added to the range of tools covered in these 2 posts.

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Resources

. Supplier of Spectrum Stained Glass:
SUPERIOR FLOAT GLASS CO. LTD
198/8 RAMESH MKT NEAR SAPNA CINEMA EAST OF KAILASH
NEW DELHI, INDIA   110065
+91.11.26280040
http://superiorglass.co.in/contact.html

. Glass Tool Supplier:
Mr. Sudhir Arora
Techno Trade Links
B-46, Ansal Chambers-1,
3,Bhikaiji Cama Place, New Delhi – 110066
Mobile: +91-9868124610
Tel.: 91 -11-26102729, 26170056
Website: http://www.technotradelinks.com

Making Mosaics–Media and Tools–Part I

Note: This post was first published on December 11, 2015 at http://www.jyotibhargava.com/ 

 

Per my current understanding, India doesn’t have an institute-conducted formal art course on mosaics. The country seems to have many traditional stained glass artists, and some teach as well, but glass mosaic-creation or teaching is still to gain visibility here. What I do see in parts of the country are wall murals in public spaces that are done in hammer-broken ceramic tiles but they seem to be made almost entirely by commercial tile layers, not studio artists. I onceBhopalMosaicspotted this huge mural adorning the Railway station walls in the city of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and surmised that its idea emerged from a government-supported program surrounding environment conservation for which tile layers specializing in ceramic murals may have been called from elsewhere in the country. In Goa too, many school or hospital walls can be seen with ceramic mosaic murals but they too are done in Opus Palladianum with randomly broken commercial tiles, not with artistically hand or machine cut tiles as studio ceramic mosaicists make them internationally.

Materials for mosaics aren’t simply available in art stores in India. Tools and media have to be sourced from hardware stores that cater to bulk purchases so for a learner or artist interested in creating mosaic objects, it becomes a challenge to source the media. This post therefore aims to demystify sources or types of essential materials and tools necessary to create mosaics by beginners.

Wheeled Mosaic Cutters or Nippers

These circular blade cutters should be the first tool to procure for composing vitreous glass tile mosaics. Per my current information, only one glass tool supplier in New Delhi, Techno Trade Links, is aware of the use of this cutter but stocks it sparingly. It sources the tool and blades from China or Italy. The company couriers the tool and blades to an address in India after receiving their payment but doesn’t always have a ready stock of good quality cutters. Once I learned of their presence, I communicated with them through a series of WhatsApp messages and managed to get hold of Mosaic Cuttersone cutter. A couple more learners like me did the same. On a visit to their office, however, I didn’t find any cutters in stock but managed to find a set of spare blades. I was assured that once they receive a request, they try to arrange the requested tools over 3-4 weeks. Their prices vary based on their purchases and sources.

The guaranteed source of this tool per my experience has been Amazon US (not Amazon India). After buying at least 6 tools from them, I finally know which ones work well and have listed them below in my order of preference. Even for sourcing from Amazon US, there is a problem to counter. Not all suppliers ship the listed merchandize to India. Where they don’t ship to India, I’ve had to have the cutters shipped to a friend in the US closer to their travel time to India. Where they do ship merchandize directly to India, the shipping cost and import fee end up as equal or higher than the product price. But at least this option does exist for emergency purchases of known brands of cutters and it can be exercised if there are no willing US friends to bring you mosaic cutters.

Leponitt – Doesn’t ship to India
Mosaic Mercantile – Ships to India
Gold Blatt – Ships to India

In the image above, the cutters are arranged in the order listed above. Gold Blatt is the heaviest cutter but also very dependable for balanced cuts. If one wants to be really secure about the cutters, I’d advise the purchase of all 3, and a set of spare blades from Mosaic Mercantile. This tool kit will keep the worry of blunt blades off your agenda for a long time. The blue handle cutter is from Techno Trade Links.

Mosaic Picks

While one must stock toothpicks, satay sticks, ear buds (not joking) and more such useful items in one’s mosaic tool kit for various stages of mosaicking, this set of 4 metal picks (also in the image above) from Mosaic Mercantile is a comforting collection in a mosaicist’s kit. Do get hold of them when you order a mosaic cutter from Amazon US.

Alternatively, one might want to hunt out a source for a watch repairman’s tweezers that have pointed and curved tips and buy those. One of the set of 4 picks is just that and it is the most useful one in the set.

 Vitreous Glass Tiles

These are 2×2 cm or 1×1 inch glass tiles that come stuck to brown paper sheets or fibre nets. The main use of these tiles is to create the exterior of swimming pools or bathroom walls to keep them wipe-able, water-resistant and colorful. They come arranged on 1 sq ft sized sheets in boxes of 10 sheets of a single colour. Some sheets may come with a blend of 2 contrasting or similar colours for their intended application in pools or walls. Those available on brown paper sheets have to be kept soaked in water for 5-15 minutes for them to slide off paper sheets. They can be wiped clean of any residual glue and used to create mosaics as whole pieces or VitreousGlassTilescut by mosaic cutters. The ones on nets have to be pulled off tile by tile and used as whole or shaped using mosaic cutters.

If you’re located in Gurgaon, you’re fortunate like me as you can message your requirement of tiles to the mosaicist Kanika Singh and go over to her Studio in Sector 55 to pick up your stock. She takes pains to arrange varied colors for her mosaic teaching workshops and commissioned mosaics, and sells the surplus to practicing mosaicists.

 If you’re in another city of India, you’ve to visit sanitaryware and tile stores and convince them to sell you sheets of tiles in the colours you need. Chances are that the stores would only want to sell them by boxes of 10 sheets of the same colour but you may get lucky and find leftover tiles in small quantities that they have little use for and those may even come at a discount. This you can try at various sanitaryware stores and patronize those who are fast with arranging your orders.

Other than these basic implements and vitreous glass tiles, there is lots more that a mosaicist would aspire for in tools and media that I’ll go over in future posts.

Meanwhile, do tell me if you know of another dependable source of mosaic tools than those included here or know of easy sources of glass tiles used in mosaics.

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Resources:

. Mini Mason Studio: Ms. Kanika Singh, Sector 55, Gurgaon, Haryana, India, Email: kanika at minimason dot in, Website: http://minimason.in

. Techno Trade Links: Mr. Sudhir Arora, B-46, Ansal Chambers-1, 3,Bhikaiji Cama Place, New Delhi – 110066, Mobile: +91-9868124610, Website: http://www.technotradelinks.com