curving subway tile
Tuesday, August 18 2020
For much of the day as I dabbled in work-a-day work, I waited impatiently for coats of Mapelastic AquaDefence to dry. First thing this morning, I put down a complete layer of fibreglass mesh tape (the type used when taping joints in drywall) on the AquaDefence I'd painted on yesterday, and then I painted multiple layers of AquaDefence over it until I had a rubbery skin more than a millimeter thick with a skeleton of fibreglass.
This evening, I started working on an arrangement of tile on the now-waterproofed platform south of the tub. The tile was the same goldenrod subway tile I'd used to tile the floor under the tub (as well as the adjacent walls at the level of the tub and lower), but in this case I had a problem to solve. I didn't want the edges of the tile adjacent to the tub to be the sharp kind that result from cutting tiles on a wetsaw. I wanted these edges to be natural uncut edges, where the glaze forms a smooth rounded edge. But to have the line up along the edge of the tub meant that I would have to arrange them the same curve as the tub. I would then have to arrange the next rank of tiles in a curve to follow that first rank, and on, all the way until the last triangular pieces in the corners of the south wall. Since all of this was too complicated to do while worrying about the state of a bucket of hardening quickset, it seemed prudent to cut all the pieces beforehand.
It's important to follow a few heuristics when doing this sort of tiling. For starters: each tile along the edge of the tub had to be arranged so that the side nearest the tub's bowl was tangent to the curve of that bowl. Furthermore, wherever possible it was best to make cuts in these tiles so that the cuts were perpendicular to the tangent of the curve at the place the cut was being made. This meant that the cuts tended to make the tiles into trapezoids, with the shorter of their parallel sides nearest the tub. Nearly all the tiles in the rank nearest the tub had to be cut this way, though I got away with leaving one at the co-vertex of the ellipse intact.
In the second rank, things got weirder. To maintain the subway tiling pattern, I had have the joints between tiles in one rank offset from those in the preceding rank. Ideally, the joints in one rank should fall at the center of tiles in the next, though this isn't something one can maintain with fixed-length tiles in a curving subway tile design. But remember, the joints of tiles in the preceding rank were between two trapezoids, forming a wide triangle. This meant any tile in the next rank would have to have a concavity sawn into it to accommodate that triangle. The result was some tiles that looked vaguely like bow ties.
I'd never actually had to arrange objects on a plane with this particular set of rules, and as I worked, I felt the sort of exhilaration that comes when one is using one's brain in a way one never has before.
Before I could finish cutting all the tiles, Gretchen said it was time for dinner. She'd made the basis for Middle-Eastern wraps, featuring whole wheat tortillas, bulghur, pickles, roast mushrooms (and other vegetables), chick peas, purple cabbage, pickles, and a tahini sauce. It was pretty good, and conditions out on the east deck were perfect. For the past few days it's been significantly cooler than it had been, with conditions more similar to early autumn than to summer. It's been so cool Gretchen that has even been closing the bedroom windows at night.
Before going to bed, I took a bath next to the curving line of subway tile to my right lying on the platform.
Ramona relaxes in the yard in a photo I took today using a telephoto lens from the laboratory deck.
The tiles I managed to cut today, arranged as they will go on the waterproofed platform south of the tub.
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