Waterjet - Tile, Stone, Glass
Waterjet is a great way to precisely cut ceramic, stone and glass tile for mosaics and inlays, as a starting point for sculpted pieces, and in some cases as finished pieces.
Most ceramic tile cuts well, with little or no chipping, but it's advisable to use a solid through-color material, so cut edges show the same color.
Most glass can be cut, so long as it's not tempered; tempered glass simply can't be cut. If you need a custom shape in tempered glass, have a glass shop cut and temper it for you.
Almost any stone can be cut, so long as it has been prepared reasonably flat. Contours can be followed with considerable extra effort.
In general, it's easier to make perimeter cuts than to make interior cutouts. With brittle materials, there's a minimum practical size for interior cuts, on account of chipping at the hole pierce location. That isn't an issue for perimeter cuts, which can usually be arranged to start off the edge of the material, avoiding chipping.
Sedimentary stone can be cut, but often only with perimeter cuts, as interior pierces are likely to blow apart the material.
Tile artists Nadine Edelstein and Elaine Summers made this floor inlay for Lollar Guitars' lobby, in black and white ceramic tile, and stainless steel. The white bands around Lollar aren't grout. They and the circle are actually thin outlines cut from 24" white floor tile and handled carefully until set in mortar.
For this sort of project we typically work from artists' Adobe Illustrator files, making our own adjustments to achieve the intended fit and grout lines.
We cut a hundred or so of these tile mats for bronze word inlays, part of Jill Anholt's permanent outdoor art piece at 1250 Pacific Ave, Tacoma.
We located and oriented each piece working from the artist's CAD. The mats were hot-glued to 1/4" MDF prior to cutting, to keep all the little bits intact.
"From amidst a sombre forest of firs a city has arisen as by a stroke of an enchanter’s wand. Tacoma looks forth like a new Venice over the glassy waters and prepares to handle the commerce of the world. "
Here we're production cutting hundreds of tessellated glass tiles - this is a stack of 4 layers of 1/8" art glass sheet, with the layers separated by paper.
This is part of a 250 sq ft wall mosaic installation of Carrara and Thassos marble, thousands of pieces, cut from hundreds of 12x12" x 1cm thick polished floor tile.
Here we made a pin and plate fixture for the installer to lay up and tape mats of one unit of the tessellated pattern, so the mats could be built on a table, then installed in bulk.
The wall was grouted flush with the surface, so no edge treatment was needed prior to installation.
Part of a garden installation by master tile artist Nadine Edelstein, this is waterjet cut bluestone and contrasting stone. Reinforced concrete has been poured in a fabricated 1/4" steel border surrounding the petal shape.
Another of Nadine's projects, mixing waterjet cut, hand cut, and loose round stone components.
Here we've blanked a 12" diameter circular disc from a 6" thick marble slab.