One of the hottest tile trends is the use of waterjet tile and you can see it through California in some of the finest homes in San Diego and Orange County. Some of the most exquistie, beautiful, and detailed tile is created via waterjet cutting.
The process is performed by a highly pressurized and concentrated stream of water and mineral cutting abrasives. Water jets are particularly useful in cutting elaborate curves and patterns.
The technical details are fascinating. Water flows from a pump, through plumbing and out a cutting head with pressures between 60,000 and 94,000 pounds per square inch (psi). A waterjet cutting machine with a 60,000 psi cutting head can cut intricate shapes in stone, metal, porcelain, and glass. It can produce curves, whisper-thin details, and elaborate patterns that fit together seamlessly. Just to get an idea of how much pressure that is, your home water pressure is about 60 psi and fire hoses are around 200
In the waterjet machine tool, the pressurized water safely runs to the cutting head through ultrahigh-pressure plumbing. At the cutting head, a high speed air actuated On/Off Valve allows the water to pass through the jewel orifice creating a supersonic waterjet stream.
Despite the high psi, waterjets don’t actually cut with pressure but instead rely on velocity. The water pressure is exchanged for velocity when the water passes out of the cutting head’s orifice. The higher the pressure, the higher the stream velocity. At 60 psi, tap water out of a faucet is traveling 64 miles per hour (103 km/hr). At 94,000 psi, the waterjet is traveling nearly 2,500 miles per hour (4,000 km/hr) -- more than three times the speed of sound!
Pure waterjet is used to cut softer materials than the glass, stone, ceramic. and metal used in tile. An abrasive waterjet adds a garnet abrasive fed into the cutting head, mixed with the pure waterjet stream, and used to cut the hard materials used in tile. Adding abrasive to the supersonic waterjet stream increases the cutting power a thousand times. An abrasive waterjet, therefore, is a slurry of water, abrasive, and a little air.
Waterjet cut tile looks amazing and the variety is endless. Ann Sack’s Beau Monde Glass tile comes in many variations including Blossom and Grace, shown below:
The Beau Monde line has fourteen different patterns available with over forty different types of art glass available. It is suitable for all indoor wall application and comes on clear Mylar sheets.
Artistic Tile has an expansive line of waterjet patterns using different materials including glass, marble, and mother of pearl. Endless customizations are available.
Another all glass example is called Bandeau:
A couple more examples from Artistic Tile follow. They are all made of what Artistic Tile calls gloss glass or Symphony Glass. They were inspired by Lauren Harper’s designer jewelry. She is a personal favorite of Artistic Tile’s CEO and Founder, Nancy Epstein. The Agate pattern is made out of lilac gloss glass.
New Ravenna is another tile maker that specializes in stone and glass mosaics, many of which are waterjet cut. There is a lot of flexibility in material use and finishes, which include polished, honed, tumbled, Venetian honed, SeaGlass™ and hand-chopped tumbled. The selection of stone and glass is broad and they are all gorgeous. The photos on their website don’t do their tile justice so the following extraordinary high-resolution examples were provided by the company. Be prepared to gush!
Hare Apparent is a whimsical mosaic shown in Labradorite honed and Alabaster jewel glass and is part of the Kiddo Collection by Cean Irminger for New Ravenna:
There are many more companies and designers that are working with waterjet cut tiles these days with spectacular results. Some are well known and others are lesser known but still create beautiful work. This dimensional tile by Artsaics, who specialize in stone, is a good example.
Consult Bonnie Bagley Catlin, your local San Diego bathroom designer for help in selecting the perfect tile for your home. You deserve this beautiful tile!