How to Break Plates for a Mosaic

Breaking old and chipped household plates is a cost-effective way to add decorative interest to furniture, create a stained glass effect or revamp an old or plain mirror.
You can make your own mosaic with broken plates.You can make your own mosaic with broken plates.
However, while it may be tempting to simply smash a plate against a wall, you won’t get the desired effect and will be picking up shards of broken crockery months later. You can break plates using a hammer if you want randomly shaped pieces. A tile nipper allows for more precision and is suitable for crockery, china, ceramics and most types of glass. It’s essential to wear safety goggles and heavy duty gloves when breaking plates, tiles or glass.

Step 1

Wrap the plates in a towel or put them in a paper or plastic bag before breaking them with a hammer. This minimizes mess and helps prevent accidents caused by stepping on stray pieces of crockery.

Step 2

Hold the hammer firmly but relax your arm. Position the plates on a work surface. Swing the hammer down gently – too much force will cause the plates to break more erratically. Aim to align the tip of the handle’s blade with the chisel tip on the handle while breaking the plates.

Step 3

Place the mosaic tile nippers in the palm of your cutting hand, with the rounded end of the jaws facing toward you. Feed the plate into the jaws of the cutter using the thumb and forefinger of your other hand.

Step 4

Cut the plate. Press your thumb and forefinger together while simultaneously squeezing the handles together.

Step 5

Create precision shapes. You can create curved shapes by chipping small pieces from the broken crockery until you achieve the desired curve. To make diagonal lines, angle the nipper head and align your finger and thumb with this direction.

Things You Will Need

  • Plates
  • Hammer
  • Plastic bag
  • Cloth
  • Tipe nipper
  • Safety goggles
  • Gloves

Tip

  • Practice on old or broken plates beforehand if you’re planning on using expensive or treasured china for your mosaic.

About the Author

Based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Elizabeth Burns began writing professionally in 1988. She has worked as a feature writer for various Irish newspapers, including the "Irish News," "Belfast News Letter" and "Sunday Life." Burns has a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ulster as well as a Master of Research in arts.