Working with Wine Bottles (pt 1)

I’m sure you’ve seen the tutorials floating around Pinterest. Easy DIY Wine Bottle tumblers/chandelier/candle holder/vase/planter! Just drink some wine, make some cool stuff. Simply___(fill in the blank)___ and it just splits right in half, right?

Well, if you’ve tried it, it probably didn’t go as well as they all said.

I tried the ole “acetone soaked thread” method and couldn’t get a single break, and most reviews said it was pretty dangerous. No glass flying through the air please! However, this video tutorial is the best I’ve found. I still rarely get cuts as clean as his, but because of this tutorial, they are usable.

Suggested Materials:

  • Glass Bottles
  • Glass Bottle Cutter (see below for notes on these)
  • Glass Cutter with notches at the end (similar to this one)
  • Course Sandpaper
  • Goo Gone to remove labels, if wanted.
  • A computer to turn on your favorite shows… I like background TV, makes tedious jobs less tedious. Obviously optional.

Notes on Bottle Cutters: I use this one and mostly like it, I found it at Hobby Lobby and used my 40% of coupon (woo!). They were hit or miss on carrying it, though, had to search a couple stores. It’s compact and lightweight, and does the job I need it to. It’s made of aluminum and does feel flimsy, and sometimes the wing-nuts get loose. I went to my local hardware store and got some steel ones that I can tighten more. It is, however, much harder to use this one to cut other glass jars or jars without that same spout. If you are looking to do more with it, I have tried this one, but honestly didn’t love it. It’s design felt cheap, and I had a really hard time getting a straight cut, which defeated the purpose. I’ve been brainstorming how to make my own with a simple glass cutting tool.

Let’s Go!

Firstly, decide where you want to make the cut. If it is above the labels, then you don’t need to worry about cleaning the labels off before cutting. If you plan on keeping the label on, you are saving yourself even more time!

If you need to take the labels off, hope that you get a nice easy one like this:

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Clean, beautiful, easy, time saving. However, most of mine looked something like this:

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Pity.

Try and scrape a good bit of the labels off, soak with some warm water to help if needed, and finish with some Goo Gone. For now, take off only the goop around where you want to score. Since there is a decent chance you bottle won’t cut as clean as you’d like, don’t waste too much time cleaning it until you are sure it’s good to use.

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Further instructions are using the tool I mentioned earlier. If you are using something else, follow directions for scoring.

Adjust the cutter so the vertical bar is perfectly vertical, and the top horizontal piece forms 90 degree angles. Adjust the cutting wheel to a 90 degree angle from the glass. This takes some extra effort when you are experiementing with cutting curved parts of bottles.

Once set, apply even, and lightly firm pressure and rotate the bottle until the line overlaps with the start. You will notice a change in the sound, almost like it suddenly became sandy. It doesn’t take much for a nice score. Press too hard and the score won’t work as well, press not enough, and the score won’t exist. I am still working getting this down. The score should look like a thin hair around the bottle, try and avoid the sandy/gravely look.

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Once you have a good score, I HIGHLY recommend you use the hot/cold water method. I have tried both pouring and dunking (have a pot of boiling and a pot of ice water), and find the pouring method easier and more reliable, especially when you have a shortage of deep pots.

This method (frankly the entirety of this process) is helpful with 2 people, but doable with one. Like the video tutorial I referred you to early in this post, run some cold water in a sink, and have a kettle of boiling water. Wear thick rubber gloves or even oven mitts to protect your hands, and some form of eye protection. There shouldn’t be much flying glass, but better safe than sorry! I often put a few dish rags at the bottom of the sink to protect falling pieces. Run cool water over the score, letting cool water touch all of it, then slowly and gently pour the hot water. Be careful not to burn yourself, and there is no need to use a lot. You will likely start to hear it cracking, and in the right light you can see it cracking (hopefully) along the score, until POP!

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It separates! I jump almost every time. It doesn’t make a loud noise, but you can never quite anticipate with it will come apart.

This particular cut was a real winner! What did I do right? Honestly, I have no idea. A far larger majority of mine look more like this:

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(also note the score, it’s not a great one, I pressed too hard) I call these extra pieces “teeth” as they are often smaller and sharper. This is a pretty large one that I was still able to clean up a good bit. This is where the other glass cutter comes into play. Not to cut more, but to use those prongs to break off the teeth.

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Try to use leverage against the score, and bend the glass toward the inside of the bottle. (USE SAFETY GEAR! Especially eyewear!) It should break right along the score. The break won’t be as clean as the hot/cold water break, but can sanded down with a good bit of elbow grease.

I found it best to cut some course sandpaper into strips, then dampen them with a little water and sand down the rim. BE CARFUL and make sure you get the whole thing sanded down. No accidentally cutting yourself!

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Now give them a warm water bath and a Goo Gone scrub and get all the label gunk off, and you are ready so use as you choose!

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I turned many of mine into candles, full tutorial on that later on another date

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Other notes:

  • My overall “success” (usable) rate for wine bottles cut around their middle was 50% – 75%. Smaller bottles (beer etc.), and odd cuts (on curved parts of the neck) had a lower success rate.
  • Certain smaller bottles scored better than others. I was sad to find that the bottles from our favorite brewery score terribly. I also found that thinner wine bottles were more likely to have stray cracks. Some good ole 2-buck-chuck was an abundant bottle, but also ended up abundantly in the recycle bin as a failure.
  • I read a note that the darker the glass, the harder it is to get a good cut. I found some truth to this, but it wasn’t significant.

Have you tried cutting bottles? What was your experience?

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