Excerpt from my book Making Mosaics with Found Objects …
HAND-CUTTING CHINA & GLASSWARE 101
When I attempt to hand-cut a vintage piece of china, I have a routine that was taught to me by a golf instructor, years ago. He directed me to visualize the shot in my mind and see the ball landing on the green.
I use that same mindset when hand-cutting china. Holding the china firmly, I envision the cut that the wheeled glass nippers will make. May sound silly but it works more times than not.
You Need Wheeled Glass Nippers and Safety Glasses
China Borders –the border of the plate or cup
Center – the middle of the plate, what I like to call medallions
Signature –the maker of the plate displayed on the back, or not.
Footprint – the extruding ridge on the bottom of the plate
CHINA TIP: Look for plates with smaller footprints. That’s the ridge on the back of the plate that allows the plate to rest evenly on the table. Plates with larger footprints offer less material to work with, so take that into account when you’re selecting a pattern. Personally, I have a tough time throwing anything away and my huge box of china footprints are still waiting for me to glue them to something.
All glued and ready to grout.
Through trial and error I have learned that when I want to preserve key areas of a plate, I will start the cut about a one-third of the way down the plate, instead of dead center. This approach has raised the odds of keeping the center of the plate and borders somewhat in tact.
Once you have removed the borders around the center, begin to cut border pieces into similar, or not, sizes. Border pieces don’t have to be exactly perfect. It all depends on your comfort level. Just try to remember that you want the pieces to lie flat. If your cut china pieces don’t lie flat, just cut them a little bit smaller they’ll flatten them out.
CUP HANDLES: If you’re trying to remove cup handles, or specific parts of a piece, it’s best to take the first cut, with a wheeled glass nippers. Start your first cut an inch away from the cup handle.
Once you have removed the cup handle, carefully begin cutting and shaping to the desired size. Smooth it out to the best of your ability, hopefully, keeping the piece in tact.
If you messed up, remember, you can always glue it back together.
Be aware that when working with vintage china cups, vases and other glass objects, you win some and you lose some. It’s not an exact science.
If it’s an heirloom and you don’t feel comfortable breaking the piece, then don’t.
There are plenty of other cool things you can, and should practice on. You don’t want to start out feeling sick or worse yet, start crying if the cut goes awry!
There you have it!