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forms, tile, tile sizes

updated sat 17 jan 04


Stephani Stephenson on fri 16 jan 04

Nicol wrote:
I want to "standardize" my tile sizes. I would like to pick a size a
with it for most of my work - my dilemma naturally stems from the
picking a
size, most of the commercial tiles I see in home-centers are 4 1/4 ---
while the tile cutters I see from ceramic supply houses seem to be
for 4 or 4.5 (finished size). My goals are to have any of my relief
and field tiles of interchangeable AND to have them usable with the mass
produced stuff. Suggestions?

Hi Nicole
One thing to remember when using pre-made commercial tile cutters:
sizes of finished tile will still vary somewhat because shrinkage of
different clay bodies fired at different temperatures varies, so you
will either need to fine tune that aspect , if using a cutter, or have
custom cutter made if you want.
I make handmade tile via press molds, instead of cutters.
Commercial tile is 4 1/4. So if you anticipate your decorative tile
being used with commercial tile, you may want to stick with that.
I go with 4"center, so actually I make my 4 X 4 tile somewhat smaller
than 4"
primarily because my tile, like a lot of handmade tile, is set with a
wider grout joint, approximately 2/8 -3/8 of an inch between tiles.
So my 3 7/8" tiles work well , and with the grout, make for 4" grids.
My 3 X 3 and 2X2 are also somewhat smaller. My 6 X6 are a true 6 X 6,
so they can
be lined up nicely next to a 4 X 4 and a 2X2 , or 2 3X3s....
I also make trim just shy of either the 4" or 6" length.
The other nice thing about allowing for a wide grout joint, is that the
width of that joint allows for a little variation in tile size.
In other words it takes up the slack, allowing you to not go insane if
one handmade tile is 1/16 of an in different than the next.
with modern tile, which is set so close, that kind of difference
makes for an unhappy day.
these 4" centers were typical of some of the studio made tile from the
early to mid 1900s, so there is a precedent for it.
the other issue is thickness. Many commercial tiles are quite thin. I
would never be able to turn out a flat tile at that thickness. Mine
average 5/8" thick.

Most commercial tile is dust pressed , with very little moisture in the
clay, so exact replicas can be produced by the millions.
When you make tile from moist clay, even when you press from the same
mold or cut from the same cutter, since you are working with variable
moisture content in the clay you use, it is "viva la petit

I am always trying to find a good source of 4" buff or red tile bisque
which I could purchase, because making your own field tile is time
consuming and or expensive.
Laird makes ram pressed field tile, but it is still quite expensive to
make and buy compared to commercial.I could live with purchasing a
less expensive unglazed field tile, which I could then glaze, even if
that tile was a bit thinner than my decorative tile.
Another caveat is, that you have to find a bisque tile which will also
respond well to your glazes, and respond to your glazes in a similar
fashion as your decorative tile. You also have to find one which works
at your firing temp.

my advice overall, is for you to do a little research, and think about
whether you will be making your own field tile and trim, or whether you
will be tying into a commercial tile.
Quite often people make decorative tile and have no idea what kind of
field tile to put it with. There are some nice commercial field tiles
out there too, and if you find one that complements your work, and if
you want to focus on the decorative tile, you may want to tie in to
that size, the 4 1/4, but think about the grout, the thickness, etc..
Lots of variables, definitely
good that you are thinking about it at the outset!


Stephani Stephenson
Carlsbad CA