Cleaved Glass-Tile Mosaics

Cleaved-Tile As Smalti Alternative

If you like the cut-face look of smalti but don’t like the price, remember that you can cut recycled glass tiles in half and mount them on edge to get the same look and feel as smalti.

Since your “halves” of tile won’t be perfect halves, they will all be slightly different heights when turned on edge. The surface formed by these tiles make can’t help but have an interesting texture.

The slightly uneven surface emphasizes the tiles as individual pieces, and the mosaic “effect” of the image is enhanced:

Rooster Cleaved Glass-Tile Mosaic Isometric View
Rooster Cleaved Glass-Tile Mosaic, foreshortened view

Cleaving Tile

The Mosaic Glass Cutter with the wheel-shaped blades is the recommended tool for cutting glass mosaic tile. In the photo above, I made a color study with whole tile and then cut about 20 to 40 of each color in half. Cleaving just means to cut by splitting instead of sawing or grinding abrasively.

Color Study and Cleaved Glass Tiles
Color Study and Cleaved Glass Tiles

TIP: Don’t use your Mosaic Glass Cutter to cut anything except glass. Using them to cut hard materials such as porcelain dulls the blades and ages the precision of the pliers pin.

Color Study

My color study for the heart mosaic was the grid of whole tiles placed next to each other in the picture above. The color study is needed to make sure the colors work together.

Complimentary colors from opposite sides of the color wheel work best. Also remember that you can get some good contrasts using light and dark also.

Recent Mosaics

Here are some mosaics I’ve made in the past few days using 8mm Morjo Recycled Glass Mosaic Tile. I used the new Square Bamboo Coasters as backers for all of these except the rooster.

I am liking these coasters as mosaic backers because they are thick enough to prevent warping, even a little bit, from what I experienced. They also have rounded corners.

Homestead Cleaved Glass-Tile Mosaic
Homestead Cleaved Glass-Tile Mosaic, ungrouted
Skeleton Cleaved Glass-Tile Mosaic
Skeleton Cleaved Glass-Tile Mosaic, ungrouted
Cleaved Glass-Tile Mosaics
Cleaved Glass-Tile Mosaics


7 responses to “Cleaved-Tile As Smalti Alternative”

  1. Karen Brow- Meier Avatar
    Karen Brow- Meier

    I see some great possibilities here. Can larger glass tiles be used? Can you explain about grouting or not grouting Smalti? I also see some people using what looks like colored mortar. Is there a method for creating different mortar hues or do we need to purchase separate colors?

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      Larger tile could be used, but you would need to cut it into say thirds instead of halves. Or you could just have thicker glass.

      Mosaic art works best when the color comes from the tile not the grout. Trying to grout each section of the mosaic with a different color of grout is a lot of extra work.

      Traditionally, smalti mosaics weren’t grouted.

      Grout is needed on wet and outdoor mosaics.



    I am a customer of you, I buy your ceramics and send them to Dom. Rep. To my brother (Alfredo Cordero), who has works in ceramics, and I would like to send you some and that you give your opinion. How do I do it?

    Thank you for the information that you could provide me.

    Dinorah Lamb

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      You can email the pictures to us at Thanks!

  3. Sally Stephenson Avatar
    Sally Stephenson

    Hi Joe, thank you for this tutorial! I’d never heard of “cleaving”…still learning a lot!
    Question…what type of cutter is recommended for cutting other materials than glass?? I used my wheeled pliers recently to cut tile /it was a bear!!
    Thank you again for these great teaching examples…I follow religiously 🤩

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      Hi Sally,

      Never cut anything other than glass with the Mosaic Glass Cutter (pliers with wheel blades). It dulls the blades and gets them out of alignment. The compound tile nipper is the preferred tool for cutting other types of tile, including really hard porcelain.

  4. Laura Avatar

    Really nice! I love your newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.