shatter this mug, but NEATLY
April 21, 2022 6:44 AM   Subscribe

I broke the handle of this mug (photo) so I'm thinking of smashing it to use the bits for a mosaic or something. Is there anything I can do to encourage it to break along controlled lines to try to get exactly one donut per shard? Is it safe to score or fully cut it with a bandsaw or hacksaw?
posted by moonmilk to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total)
Best answer: You also can neatly sand and smooth out the leftover of the handle. Your nice cute cup will have 2 smooth bumps where the handle used to be.
posted by Sky12 at 8:38 AM on April 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That's not a bad idea, sky12, but I have plenty of mugs, and i have the shattered bits of this one's handle sitting in a bowl looking like they want to be part of something new...
posted by moonmilk at 8:41 AM on April 21, 2022

I guess you could rent a tile saw. Google says there are ones that cut through a depth of 5”, ie bricks, so that might work with a curved surface.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:45 AM on April 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

You can get both bandsaw and hacksaw carbide masonry blades. I think this is entirely doable. It will take a long time and require patience. I would probably keep the work damp, but not sloppy, with a bucket nearby to rinse. Be very careful to keep water away from electrical bits of your bandsaw, if that's not feasible then choose the hacksaw, use your judgement on this.

Wear breathing protection.

Wear breathing protection.
posted by Horkus at 8:47 AM on April 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I doubt that scoring it would cause a controlled break, you'd likely have to cut deeper to get ceramic to crack in the directions you were hoping for. If you were patient, a rotary tool ("Dremel" being a popular brand name of one such line of tools) or an angle grinder with a cutting disc (or a succession of them, 'cause the ceramic will chew them up, but you could also use a diamond blade rather than an abrasive disk) might be a reasonable way to cut them. I'd wear really good filters and keep a spray bottle nearby to keep the dust down.

A tile saw would work, and take care of a lot of the dust control, but I think those blades generally have a wider kerf, so you'd lose more material in between donuts.
posted by straw at 8:47 AM on April 21, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: To break rock sort of along lines, they drill holes. So I'd try a dremel. Once you have a bunch of holes along fault lines, try filling it with water and freezing it for slow expansion. I hope you'll let us know how it works out.
posted by theora55 at 9:25 AM on April 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Came for Dremel rotary tool. You could also try a glass-cutter to score around where you want it to break (think pizza cutter but hard steel that will score through). The maybe hard way is to use string soaked in kerosene and set it alight and then quench it to cause fractures. Sorta the opposite of thora55 but quick and dirty cut something by thermal shock. Though probably not any better than just smashing with a hammer and putting pieces back together. I'd Dremel it. Maybe your library or something has a tool loan program of some sort.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:05 AM on April 21, 2022

Best answer: I'd probably try using a glass cutter to score it. The tricky part is you'll probably need to score both the inside and outside to have a decent chance at a clean break, and there's still no guarantee that it'd break cleanly. theora55's idea to drill holes is a pretty good one too; you could drill holes at what will become the corners of your tiles, and connect them by scoring deeply with a glass cutter to guide the breaks along the desired edges. Ceramic could dull a normal drill bit pretty quickly, so maybe use a masonry bit.

Good luck!
posted by biogeo at 5:51 PM on April 21, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks to your suggestions, I found this video of someone using a dremel to cut a saw, and this one using glass cutting tools. (Turns out there's a lot of such videos, those are just the two that came up first.) It's nice to see that both approaches are possible, and from my point of view the glass cutter approach seems much less unpleasant - a lot less noise and airborne dust!
posted by moonmilk at 7:30 PM on April 21, 2022

I have a flex drive for my Dremel and some cheap Harbor Freight diamond bits. I hang the dremel from a cupboard door over my sink and let a little water drizzle onto the piece and have done surgery on various ceramics—mostly drilling holes in the bottom of vases my wife wanted to use for plants, but also slightly more ambitious stuff and some glass engraving. The flex drive is because electricity and water are traditional enemies.

It’s slow. It would take a long time to cut your mug that way. A tile saw would work fine and be much faster. They probably have one at the local community college if they have a glass and ceramics program. Renting one for a day would be expensive.

If you find one, the important part is getting the mug straight and supported—you might find some clay to be handy to build up a support for each cut. You can’t really hold it in your hand because: tile saw.

I would hit it a few cracks with a medium-size hammer and live with the resulting random shards, but I do not have your artistic image in mind. Advantage: done quickly. If you have access to a couple more mugs you could pick out the ones you liked!

Good luck.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 10:03 PM on April 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

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