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A jigsaw is not the first tool most people think of when it comes to cutting tile. But a jigsaw can actually be one of the best tools for making those oddly shaped cuts in tile. But cutting tile with a jigsaw is not as easy as just picking a blade and starting cutting, we need to do some preparations.
When cutting ceramic tile with a jigsaw we use a carbide or diamond-coated blade. Secure the tile with a piece of wood and some clamps, mark the cut, put on safety gear, use water as a coolant, set the jigsaw to low speed, and cut the tile slowly to avoid heat buildup.
That is the quick version of how to cut tile with a jigsaw, but let’s go through the process in a little more detail, Step By Step.
How To Cut Ceramic Tile With A Jigsaw – Step By Step
A jigsaw is generally not the best tool for cutting ceramic tile. We have tile cutters and wet saws that are specifically designed to cut tile quickly, straight, and with little effort.
Compared to these tools, the jigsaw is slower and less effective at cutting tile.
But when it comes to cutting oddly shaped cuts, a small square in a corner, a v-notch, or making a slight unique curve the jigsaw is the best tool to use.
1. Use A Diamond Coated Or Carbide Coated Jigsaw Blade
To cut hard material like ceramic tile, we need an even harder and more durable material to cut it with.
To cut ceramic tile we want to use a diamond coated or a carbide-coated jigsaw blade.
These blades have diamond dust or carbide dust glued to the cutting edge of the blade, they are extremely durable and can handle cutting hard materials.
Diamond and carbide-coated blades are specialty blades and will be more expensive than conventional jigsaw blades for cutting wood and metal.
Check the prices of the different blades:
2. Mark The Cut
As with any type of cut, we want to mark the cut before we start cutting into the ceramic tile.
Since we are going to use water or cutting oil, it is important that we make a solid visible line. I prefer to use a permanent marker and let it dry before I start cutting.
When using only a carpenter’s pencil to mark the cut (as in the image above), the cutting line will be hard to see once you start cutting. The water will remove the line completely by the end of the cut.
3. Secure The Tile
To secure the tile, it is best to use a piece of scrap wood and some clamps. The scrap piece of wood will help us distribute the pressure across the tile so it will be more tightly secure and less prone to breaking.
Place the scrap piece of wood across the tile, let the part of the tile you are cutting protrude from the working surface, and secure a clamp to the scrap wood piece.
You might need a second clamp to secure the tile better, but in this scenario, it was better to only use one clamp so I could have better access to the small tile when cutting.
4. Put On Safety Gear
Safety gear should always be used around power tools. This is what we need for cutting ceramic tile with a jigsaw:
Safety Glasses – We need to be able to see the cutting line, tile pieces might break off and come toward your eyes. Always use safety glasses or a visor when cutting tile.
Dust Mask – Cutting with these fine carbide and diamond blades will produce tiny ceramic dust. Make sure you breathe in as little as possible and use a dust mask.
Also, consider using hearing protection and steel-toed boots. You are in charge of your own safety.
5. Jigsaw Settings For Cutting Tile
There are a couple of settings we need to make sure the jigsaw is set to before we start cutting. That is the orbital setting and the cutting speed of the jigsaw.
We want to use a lower cutting speed when cutting ceramic tile with a jigsaw. This is because the tile is so hard, and we use lower speeds to reduce friction and heat buildup.
Using faster speeds might seem quicker in the beginning, but if the blade overheats it will quickly become dull and wear out.
The other setting we need to keep in mind is the orbital setting. This is usually a lever on the side of the tool that goes from 0 to 3. Keep this at 0 or off. This makes sure the blade cuts straight up and down, and not in an orbital motion.
Having the orbital setting set to max (3) would only make the cut look worse and cause more vibration while cutting the tile.
6. Use Water/Cutting Oil To Prevent Overheating
Cutting material that is as hard as ceramic tile will produce a lot of heat due to the friction between the hard jigsaw blade and the hard tile.
To reduce heat buildup we can use a coolant like water or cutting oil.
I prefer to use water, it seems to hold up for doing these small tile cuts. You can really feel the difference between cutting dry and cutting with water.
I just use a small bottle with water that has a small hole in the lid, I use this to spray onto the cut when it runs dry. But make sure to keep the water away from the electrical parts, and don’t use too much water.
You can also use cutting oil to reduce heat buildup and friction. It works well. But the big downside of using cutting oil is that it will leave a mark on the wood you use your jigsaw on after cutting the tile.
I try to avoid using cutting oil since I only have one jigsaw that I use for several materials.
7. Cutting The Tile With A Jigsaw
Cutting tile with a jigsaw is fairly straightforward.
Start the jigsaw, let it get up to speed, place the shoe of the jigsaw onto the tile and slowly approach the cut with the running blade.
Cutting tile will require patience because it is so dense, and the cutting will take time. We want to use some pressure when cutting into the tile, but do not force the cut too much even though it can be tempting.
Forcing the cut can result in the tile breaking, and overheating, and the blade will also wear out more quickly.
Just take your time, follow the line, pour some water on the cut if it runs dry, and be patient.
Normally, a jigsaw will cut on the upstroke, which pulls the jigsaw into the material. Diamond-coated or carbide-coated jigsaw blades will cut on the upstroke and the downstroke.
Cutting on the downstroke pushes the jigsaw away from the material and might create more vibration, so make sure to hold that jigsaw a little bit tighter than you otherwise would.
Some tiles will be next to impossible to cut with a jigsaw, they are just too hard. If the progress of the cut is really slow, then this might be the case.
The tile on the right in the image above is ceramic tile, but after cutting it for 1 minute, I only made 1mm of progress on the cut. The tile in the center only took 30 seconds for the entire cut.
8. Can You Do Plunge Cuts In Tile With A Jigsaw?
You can not do a direct plunge cut into tile with a jigsaw. If you want to start a cut in the middle of a tile you have to first drill a hole through the tile where you can insert the blade and start the cut from. Drilling holes in tile is done with a carbide or diamond drill bit. The hole should be at least 3/8″ (9.5mm) wide.
9. Can You Cut Curved Cuts And Circles In Tile With A Jigsaw?
You can make slight curves in ceramic tile with a jigsaw. But since the ceramic tile is hard, stiff, and rigid it can be challenging to cut any sharp radiuses in tiles with a jigsaw. To cut circles in tile we can use circular diamond drill bits, specialized circular tile cutters, or an angle grinder with a diamond blade.
Here is a great example of someone cutting a circle in tile with an angle grinder. I only recommend doing this if you are experienced and skilled with an angle grinder, this is not something I would be comfortable doing yet.
But it is pretty amazing to see how people find solutions for these hard cuts.