A snap cutter works much the same way a glass cutter works in that it scores a line along which the break will occur.
- Start by fitting the tile to the space you wish to install it and mark the cut line with a pencil.
- Place the tile in the snap cutter and line up the marking you made with the cutting wheel and then while applying downward pressure on the handle, draw the cutting wheel forward across the tile. In order to ensure a nice clean break, you can draw the wheel over the score you just made a second time to make the score better defined.
- The cutter comes equipped with a breaker foot which you will notice hanging from the handle and wheel assembly. Once you have scored the tile, you will place the breaker foot near the edge of the tile straddling both sides of the score line and then by applying a little downward force on the handle, the tile will snap.
While the snap cutter is an inexpensive option to the wet saw, it does have a few limitations. The biggest drawback is that it only cuts in straight lines. While you can try to cut more complex lines on the tile, it will be impossible to ensure a clean break. Another drawback is that most readily available snap cutters can accommodate tiles up to approximately 13 inches across. Snap cutters that can accommodate 20 inch tiles are available but the price increases to the point where you can probably find an economical wet saw for the same price. It is also limited as to the thickness of the tile. It can only handle tiles that are about 1/4 inch thick. Anything more than that and you may not be able cut the tile or you will apply so much force while trying to cut the tile that it will simply shatter.
On the positive side, they are much less expensive than wet saws and are much more portable. It is also much less expensive to replace the small carbide cutting wheel on these cutters than it is to replace the larger wheels on wet saws.
These cutters are great for small jobs, but useless for more complex jobs that require dozens or hundreds of tiles to be cut or if the job involves granite, marble or other stones. Snap cutters are available at most tile distributors or home improvement warehouses such as Home Depot or Lowe's and usually run about $50 for the 13-inch cutters and about $100 for 20-inch cutters.