Practical Alcoholism: Cutting Glass Bottles

Cutting Glass

This was actually a project that Cait came up with as a guest post eons ago.  Obviously, she took too long to do it, I got impatient, and now I’m going to go ahead and do it myself.  Because that’s what I do.  I do it myself.  It’s kind of the point of this here blog.

The City of St. John’s has just this past year instituted a city-wide curbside recycling program.  Yes, we are about twenty years behind the times on this one, but we’re making progress.  What the city does not recycle, however, is glass.  I’m not entirely sure I understand why, but that’s the way it is.  We previously employed a private recycling plant that would take absolutely everything, including glass, but they of course disappeared once recycling became free.  As a result we’ve now started tailoring our grocery shopping to buying items that come in cans and plastic containers, rather than glass.  But some of that stuff sticks around.  I re-use glass jars as much as I can, especially when it comes to the contents of my spice cabinet.  Even so, we still have a lot of glass that goes in the garbage.  And let me tell you, for a girl who has spent the last 25 years of her life recycling, it feels some weird, b’y, to chuck glass in the trash.

Light Box Tests

So how can we re-use it some more?  You can only deal with so many spare bottles and jars lying around.  Their function is practical but limited.  So let’s create some other sorts of vessels from these things by learning to cut glass.

I purchased Ephrem’s Deluxe Bottle Cutting Kit from Artistry In Glass, based in London, Ontario, for you Canadian shoppers.

Cutting Glass

This kit has been around, pretty much unaltered, since the seventies.  In fact I don’t think they’ve ever bothered to change the photographs in the little projects book that comes with it.  But why mess with something that works so well, right?

Cutting Glass

You need some glass for this project.  Anything that is round, really, with smooth sides will work for you.  Bottles, jars.  You name it.  The reason I bought the “deluxe” kit as opposed to the regular kit is because it comes with an adapter so you can work on the curved parts of bottle necks and stuff, instead of just the straight sides. But I haven’t gotten to that skill level yet.

In any case, you’ll need to clean and dry your glass thoroughly first.  This means soaking off the labels and rinsing the containers out well.  If you can’t get some of the glue off the glass, try peanut butter.  It works really well, I promise.

Cutting Glass

So now I’m all set.  With my little kit at the ready, I wanted to make sure I did this right.

I watched the video about how to do it the way the cutting kit company tells you to in the instructions, with a candle and an ice cube.

And then I watched another video about a slightly easier and more efficient way to do it with boiling and cold water.  I will show you both.

This is the result of my first attempt to cut beer bottles.  As you can see, it’s not perfect, but it’s not bad, either.  I needed more practice.  You are not going to succeed at this on your first try either, so make sure you have lots of practice glass around before you start getting into the stuff you actually want to use.

Cutting Glass

Beer bottles are the best to practice on, because generally beer is cheaper than the more expensive wines that come in the nice bottles.  Plus you can get several tries in if you buy a six-pack.  The other bonus of practicing on beer bottles is beer glass is thinner and more prone to shattering (unlike jars of preserves, beer is cold-canned, and the bottles are not designed for temperature shock).  So because the bottles break easier, you have to be more careful in your practice.

Light Box Tests

Scoring the Glass:

So this is how you do it.

The kit has all sorts of knobs and screws that you need to adjust first so the cutter is perpendicular to the cutting surface.  This is important. Follow the directions and diagrams in the kit carefully.

Cutting Glass

Now, exerting firm, even pressure (you don’t have to press very hard either) and without stopping, roll the bottle or jar under your hands.  You will hear the cutter making horrible gravelly noises as you do this.  It is scoring the glass.  Keep going all the way around, until you hear a distinct click.  This is you hitting your original score mark.  Now you can stop.  Don’t score over the same spot twice.

Cutting Glass

If you don’t hit your original score mark, then you’ve messed up that particular cut.  I do this often.  I guess the pressure from my hands is uneven or something so the cutter and the bottle don’t stay where they are supposed to.  This is where the practice comes in. Also make sure all your screws are tightened all the way so stuff doesn’t shift.

Once you’ve got your cut, you can start shocking the glass.  We want to do this slowly and evenly.

Water Shocking Method:

I put a towel in the bottom of my sink, just to provide a bit of a cushion should some glass happen to drop. It will also catch the hundreds of tiny flakes of glass that fall off your bottles, so make sure to wash it thoroughly afterwards.

Cutting Glass

I have one jug of water in the fridge, the other boiling away on the stove.

Starting with boiling water, slowly pour a small stream over your score mark.  Turn the bottle so you get all sides of it.  Keep going until you can feel the bottle warm in your hands.

Cutting Glass

Now, pour on the cold water in the same way.  You’ll start to hear some cracking — that’s the glass breaking along its score line.

Cutting Glass

Keep going, alternating boiling and cold water.  There will be more cracking.  Don’t try to force the two parts of your bottle apart.  If they’re going to come apart they will do so on their own.  Just keep alternating your water and it will eventually happen.

You can see here how I etched lines in parallel rings on this jar.

Cutting Glass

And then this is how it fell apart.

Cutting Glass

They didn’t fall apart completely evenly, but as I was only seeing if cutting multiple lines at once was even possible (as the book and the ‘net both tell you to do them one at a time), I wasn’t paying that much attention to my scoring.

Cutting Glass

Fire and Ice Method:

Cutting Glass

For argument’s sake, I also did the candle method as espoused by the kit itself.

Cutting Glass

Carefully hold the bottle just above a candle flame, so the flame nearly touches your score mark.  Rotate the bottle slowly to evenly heat all the way around.

Cutting Glass

When the bottle is heated, take an ice cube to the score lines and rub it all the way around.

Cutting Glass

You will find that you have to do more repetitions for this method, but it’s slightly more accurate.  Because the bottle is more gently treated your cuts will open straighter more times than not.

Cutting Glass

Of course, if you’re cutting rings, like I was here, the fire and ice method is very slow, as you have to do each ring individually.  The water shock method is much better for cutting rings, but I would use the fire and ice method for the lips of drinking glasses and the like, where a completely straight edge is important.

Cutting Glass

Finishing:

When you have finally achieved an edge on glass that you like, you will need to grind down the edges, because this is broken glass — it’s super sharp.

The kit comes with this silicon carbide powder, which you can pour on a sheet of glass that you don’t need to use for anything else, add a drop of water, and rub away until all the sharp edges on the glass are gone.

Cutting Glass

It’s a little messy though.  I prefer emery cloth, which is basically fine sandpaper, just the silicon carbide powder is glued to a sheet of paper.  You can still add a few drops of water to it (this keeps the glass dust down), and grind away!

Cutting Glass

Make sure to get the inside edges as well as the outside edge.

Cutting Glass

You can always dip a small piece of paper in water and sand down the inside by hand.

Cutting Glass

So my first successful efforts of today produced this lovely wee glass.

Cutting Glass

Which I filled with juice.  And which I plan to later etch and give to someone.

Cutting Glass

And these rings, which I will be making into another gift for someone else.  They’re not perfect, but they’re not bad.

Cutting Glass

Stay tuned for some gift ideas and things you can do with your upcycled cut-glass projects!

Cutting Glass

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Author: allythebell

A corgi. A small boy. A sense of adventure. Chaos ensues.

17 thoughts on “Practical Alcoholism: Cutting Glass Bottles”

  1. Woohoo! Another stellar post, Ali. Our district’s latest recycling contract no longer provides for taking glass either, grrr. I was shocked. Glass into the garbage? What?? Glass is reusable! Glass is beautiful! Glass is good!

    Glass collects around the house %/ . . .

    I might try making glasses. But what I really want to do is make glass gravel for the yard. I don’t know where my gravel goes, but I always need more and more, hence the inspiration. However, it looks like the process of producing what looks like ocean-smoothed glass is just a little complicated. I bought the cement mixer and goodness knows I have enough pretty, coloured glass saved up. But Summer is already over and I have not actually started on the project.

    You will have broken ends and bits. If you decide to use them up by making gravel or anything else, I’ll be reading eagerly! Otherwise, who knows. Maybe I’ll be posting myself.

    Cheers 🙂

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    1. Thanks Elly! I was thinking of using some of the bits in some sort of mosaic, but that’s yet another skill I have to learn. Good luck with the driveway. That one sounds tricky …

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      1. I’m thinking the glass gravel would be a beautiful addition if scattered in a private sitting spot where the sunlight filters in. I don’t imagine I’ll produce enough to make much of a difference to the driveway. And yes, from what I’ve found so far, making it is a bit tricky. But at least I have the “blessing” of a bigger yard where I can store a cement mixer, lol.
        I’ll be interested in what you come up with next. 🙂

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      2. Yeah, or even as a border along a flower bed. I would be leery of putting it anywhere you or the dogs could track it inside, because who knows how well all the edges will get dulled. But I can definitely see it with the light shining through it. It will be lovely!

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  2. Hello from France! Thanks for this post, I now am going to hunt for the kit…not sure it’s available here. I would like to do light fixtures from nice wine bottles. If I manage I’ll post the results on my blog and be sure to mention your tutorial 🙂

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    1. Bonjour yourself! It seems to be the be-all and end-all kit to have, so hopefully you will be able to find it somewhere, even if it’s on the internet. I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

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  3. Thanks for this post; it’s really helpful! I have the g2 bottle cutter that I tried for the first time yesterday–and it’s rather awkward to work with. The scorer is very inconsistent. Your first attempts are excellent–I especially like that you were able to cut the glass into rings without having to do each one individually. Now I’m inspired to give things another try today!

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    1. I’m glad it was helpful! I have trouble with the scorer myself. It takes a certain amount of practice to apply enough pressure that you get a good line but not so much that it is going to crack on you. And even now I still crack a bunch of them. Good luck!

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      1. I’m going to keep at it. Luckily, my best friend owns an event house and can supply me with plenty of bottles. I’ve been practicing on beer bottles to start with. I’m using the rings in framed, clear resin window hanging’s. I’m following you for more great ideas! 🙂

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      2. Oh wow, thanks so much! Beer bottles are tricky because they’re so thin and crack much more easily. I think it’s good to practice on something more difficult. I’m having a lot of luck right now with the thicker liquor bottles. My friends are all scotch/bourbon/etc. afficionados and if they end up with a pretty bottle they send it my way. Send me a picture of the window hanging when you get it finished — I’d love to see it!

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