Luca Bottle Cutter review

I saw this cutter on indiegogo, and it looked interesting, so I backed it, and the first model came some months later. It certainly was a good looking piece of kit, but what was most interesting to look forward to was the hand-held aspect of it, which going by the pretty decent videos seemed to allow the user to cut curved lines as well as straight. Luca The initial package was an cardboard box, with the kit to assemble inside, giving it an air of a craft industry tool.  The plywood kit was of a good quality, with laser-machined parts for accuracy. Instructions were basic, but assembly was fairly straight forward after viewing all the videos on the net. The first thing I did was throw away the micro screwdriver supplied, which was a total waste of space. The strength required to screw the bolts into the machined ply was quite high, and needed a better screwdriver. It immediately became apparent that, though aesthetically pleasing, the plywood would not be up to long-term use. Parts once assembled were going to have to stay together, as you are screwing into bare wood. It will not stand too many assembly and disassembly cycles, and frustratingly, the box is too small to fit the fully assembled kit back into it.

The parts Luca assembledthat are design to adjust the position of the cutter are large thumb turning screws, but these two are screwing into bare wood slots, so will suffer from the same problem as the other screws. It will soon start wearing out and losing grip, and unfortunately the assembly needs to be put together tightly and strongly as there is a quite a lot of flex in the body when you are pushing a bottle down onto it, or against it in the vertical position. In operation, the cut itself was instinctively Luca wheelquite light and good, and initial accuracy and cut alignment was fairly reasonable, not leaving too much work to do in finishing. The big plus of this cutter, which is best demonstrated by viewing the videos online , is the cutting of curves on the bottles. This is not quite so easy in practise, but it does work in a fashion, and with practise will improve. It certainly gives another option instead of trying to hand cut with a traditional hand-held glass cutter. Luca4

 The biggest problem with this cutter though is the flex in the main body when using to perform standard straight bottle cuts, which, though it performs in basically the same way as the classic Ephrems Bottle cutter, is much too flexible compared to the metal bodied alternative cutter. I still got a good, clean cut from it, just from having a lot of experience cutting bottles, but I’m not sure it would be particularly good for a novice. Combining that, with the inevitable wear and tear on the screws and slots, then on balance, it’s significantly flawed, which is a shame, as it’s great looking, and has an unusual and stand-alone option that other bottle cutters don’t have.

UPDATE:  I see now on the main site , that a new version of the main body design is supplied, which has been substantially changed and looks much more solid, and likely somewhat addresses my issues including flexing and wear and tear by adding a thumb-turning disc to reduce the pressure at screw points. This could very much improve my opinion on the cutter’s weak points, though I can only judge the new model from the video, it’s certainly looks a step in the right direction from my initial review. Until I get a revised model, the review summary below is on the original design, which is now sold out.

Pros: Reasonably priced, ability to cut curves, clean score line, great videos.

Cons: Too flexible in use, longer term wear and tear issues, limited bottle size capability.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10

Yellow bottle suncatcher

A hot and sunny bank holiday Sunday gave an ideal chance to get outside and do some cutting and soldering in the yard, avoiding fumes and glass splinters in the house. I wanted to make another bottle centre suncatcher, this time as a gift for an upcoming celebration.

First thing to do was to look in the box of glass sheets and see what might work together. I had bought a number of random pack sheets, and had a yellow and white opalescent Spectrum sheet that I hadn’t seen a use for previously. I wanted to make an offset coloured border around the suncatcher like the last one I made, which turned out strong and attractive, so settled on that colour. A brown beer bottle centre was ideal for the job, this time made from a discarded bottle of Budweiser collected from a street on the walk home from work. outdoor workshopWith a near solid yellow border, and a brown bottle centre, I wanted a semi opaque glass that would compliment and blend both together. I had a part-used light amber Cathedral sheet from a recent prairie style hanger which was perfect for the job.

Cutting the glass went very easily this time round. Using the cross template, the amber Cathedral cut beautifully, with no problems around the circle outline of the bottle bottom. As further practise for cutting accuracy, I again cut the yellow border just on a measurement basis, with no template, which was close enough for soldering, yellow suncatcherbut did require the use of pins to manipulate slightly to make all the joints meet up smoothly and look square when tinned.

Soldering was completed neatly using K grade solder. To finish off, a corner hanger with longer legs to cross over two pieces of the border for strength was added to the top corner, and I went with a copper patina finish to nicely compliment the yellow and brown colours. The amber and yellow tones all blend together nicely, and has some favourable reactions already.

Monochrome suncatcher

I bought a small square of bullseye reeded glass about a year ago, intending to use it in a prairie style copperfoil design at sometime, but when I came to make one recently, it didn’t really work in with the other colours I picked, so I set it aside for another use. I also had a grey cathedral glass, again for another idea initially, but the two together looked good, giving a sort of black and white look, so that’s the way I decided to go.

monochromeA clear mini wine bottle bottom, rescued from a street nearby a month or two back, was picked out of the pile, and cut and prepared for foiling. Clear was the only choice to avoid any colour in the design. I centred the bottle end on the cross template, and cut a 100x100mm square of grey cathedral glass, cutting it into four, then shaping the arc around the outline of the bottle end. I then cut the reeded glass into 20x120mm strips to be able to form a border around the grey square, offsetting the corners for strength. I ground the edges a little in parts to level off to ensure a tight and neat fit when foiled, and used silver backed copper foil tape to allow a silver finish in the end to compliment the monochrome look. Soldering was completed using K grade solder, and cleaned up to give a shiny finish.

When hung in the light, the two directions of the reeded glass catches the light differently, giving an effect of four different tones across the whole design, which works very well in a monochrome way. I’m really pleased with the end result.

Mini wine bottle suncatcher

I’m really enjoying combining the copper-foil stained glass techniques with some aspect of bottle cutting to make something a bit more unusual. I wanted to make something a little bit smaller, but liked the look of the larger protruding wine bottle centres, so the next thing I wanted to use as a centre was a mini wine bottle end. blue hanger I had a lightly blue tinted clear mini wine bottle, so decided to use that one to see how a clearer centre would look in a coloured square.

I cut the mini wine bottle at a height of about 20mm, to give the centre a bit of depth. It separated well, and was flatted to allow for a good gluing surface onto a tightly cut circle of 3mm clear glass. I had a square of turquoise/blue/white bullseye glass which looked good and suitable for the centre, so I cut it to the cross template I’ve made for suncatchers. Sadly, one piece broke off along a seam of white, which is always a potential problem with streaky glass of several colours. Working around the problem, I cut two new squares of a complimentary blue and white streaky glass, and set them as opposites, like in a harlequin style. I soldered the suncatcher very carefully and neatly with K-grade solder, and cleaned it up leaving a nicely shiny end result. It looks great in the light, and is going to a friend in Norway, where it should look great in the long summer evening light.

Kinkajou bottle cutter review

It’s been very interesting to watch the Kinkajou bottle cutter emerge from kinkajouthe prototype stage to a very well presented cutter on the market via a successful fundraising and excellent web and blog based campaign. It’s great to finally get a chance to use something different to the long-established designs I’ve already used.

First impressions are that of a well made and very sturdy cutter, which will stand up well to the rigours of bottle cutting. The online guidance videos on how to use it are certainly very good indeed, and will give a novice bottle cutter a good chance for a successful start into bottle cutting, which is one of the drawbacks and off-putting features you frequently read about on forums from people who struggle intially and get downhearted after many failures. kinkajouextras As well as some written instructions, the standard pack contains some extra items including some good quality water-capable sandpaper, an wheel-less glass cutter for tapping and nibbling edges, and most interestingly, 3 pairs of differently sized rubber O-rings which is a unique inclusion, and will be looked at later on. It certainly bodes well as a well-thought out and inclusive package for a beginner.

The packaging claims an operating range of 43mm to 102mm, which though in part is slightly less capable than the G2 and Ephrems I use also, is enough to cover most soda, beer and wine sized bottles. As with those cutters, this cutter is design to cut round, straighter bodied bottles. kinkajoucut My first test run was on a Fentimans soda bottle, followed then by a regular wine bottle, and after lightly oiling the large cutting wheel and adding a little WD40 to the spring tensioner, I placed the cutter around the bottle. Manipulating the fit is straightforward, clearly demonstrated in the support videos, and the final tension the lever locks helps retain a firm grip on the bottle. The tracking wheels grip the bottle, and the overall balance when locked on is good, which helps give a confident rotation around the bottle, without feeling like it’s going to slip offline too easily. This was one of my initial wonders on the design, but it works well, and I can see it being mostly just human error rather than weak design for cutting scores to wander off. It’s certainly a firmer grip than I expected. The finger grooves around the body help you get a firm hold, in a variety of different positions, and the whole rotating operation is pretty sturdy  on a smooth round bottle, which give a good platform for a complete, accurate cut.  kinkajouaccuracyThe spring that loads the cutting wheel in place is a very strong one, built to last, and the lever mechanism locks the wheel down well, but my initial thoughts on my first two cuts are that it does put a slightly heavy amount of pressure on the surface, giving a heavier score than an experienced user of the Ephrem’s and G2 cutters would have hand-touch control over, as you have less rotating control over the pressure applied once cutting has started. I might find this will be easier to fine-tune using  the more I use it though, as it will be a compromise between the overall grip the cutter has on the bottle and the tension on the cutting head. Nevertheless, the first cut was accurate, meeting it’s tail nicely,  and easy to control in rotation.

The next step kinkajouringswas to break the score using the water method which I was glad to see advocated. I’m not a fan at all  of the candle and ice , hot oil, acetone or tapping methods. This gave the chance to first use the O-rings supplied. These are an interesting inclusion, and thought I’ve not had any problems with controlling the water pouring previously, I can see the reason behind using them. The three sizes are well selected, and on both bottles, they ensured a tight fit and gave a controlled water-sealing channel to minimise the hot water spread. They worked very well, and the break was easy to control when cold poured. I can see these being a very useful addition to a starter. A very simple and effective method of controlling the hot water flow, and keeping it away from the hand. kinajouedge2

Both my first two cuts were fine and flat. The slightly heavy scores left a few minor edge shells which would take a little more hand-work to make safe, but the flatness and accuracy of the cut is impressive enough for a first-time attempt, even allowing for my previous experience at cutting and breaking. I think it’s certainly a cutter that has been designed to be user-friendly, and to be able to give a novice a good chance at getting some early success, which is something the other cutters on the market can lack a little, with the poorer breaking methods encouraged. Starting at $49, it’s not the cheapest on the market, nor the most expensive. The large size replacement cutting wheel also isn’t the cheapest in comparison at $14.99, but has a suggested life of 200+ bottles.The additional items are good quality, and the overall feel is of a well made, solid cutter which offers good value for money and a decent range of capability for anyone wanting to try out the hobby. The overall modern presentation, social media and video tutorials is impressive and a fresh and modern approach to an old hobby, offering something different to the other cutters on the market today.

Pros:  Well made, accurate cuts, good value package, excellent tutorials and website.

Cons: slightly heavy scorelines, replacement wheel cost, some bottle size limitations.

Overall Score: 7/10

 

Upgraded Kinkajou Model: (June 2013)

upgradeA while ago, Bottle Cutting Inc announced an upgrade kit for the original Kinkajou cutter, to improve the performance of the cutter, based on some feedback received. This body change is the basis of the on-going models from March 2013. I ordered an upgrade kit to see how the changes worked out, and the package landed this week. The body is essentially the same, with the change being a full width row of four rollers per spindle, as opposed to the original two, as can be seen in the photo.rollers The change over of the body to reuse the original cutter mount and clamp parts was extremely simple, and I ran a few test cuts immediately. The grip the four rollers gave was an improvement over the original, and without even taking too much care to set up too accurately, the first few cuts were accurate, hitting 3 out of 4 exactly. I had a Blue Nun bottle, which I have found difficult to cut in the past due to ripples and unevenness in the body. I set it up carefully, right at the bottom of the bottle, and the result was an accurate meet. That impressed me, so it’s clearly a thought out improvement on the original. Score lines are still on the heavier side, and the cost of the upgrade on top of the original hasn’t made it the best value for money cutter, but the design change has been successful, and improves it’s performance clearly.

Upgrade/newer model  – Overall Score : 8/10

 

Jig extension for cutter

The Ephrem’s cutter is a great piece of kit. By far the best of the two types I’ve used so far (the Ephrem’s and the Armour). Using it’s adjustable end plate and rear wheel positions, you can cut a good range of bottle sizes and achieve various positions of cuts. One project I’m aiming to try out is a hanging bottle tealight lamp, suitable for use in a garden or yard. For those, the bottom of a bottle is cut off, finished, and then the bottle is slid over a coiled wire hanger through the neck, to create a wind sheltering, attractive candle surround, hopefully with some nice bottle colours.

The only way I’d been able to work this cutting length on the Ephrem’s was to remove the end stop, and place the cutter on the kitchen worktop up near to the solid flat face of the fridge-freezer, and use that as an end-stop for the neck end. It was awkward to find the true perpendicular from the fridge for the best cut, and my rolling technique was hampered on one side by the fridge. It also wasn’t going to be the smartest move to risk marking the fridge coating and get a deserved ear-bashing!

Feeling surprisingly resourceful and useful today, I decided to set myself a little ‘scrap-yard challenge’ , to quickly solve this and knock a few of these bottle hangers out in about an hour using just the rough old hand tools and bits of scrap products in the shed. I had the design in mind – a longer base with two firm rails down each side to hold the cutter, which would retain the cutter and allow it to move up and down as required up against a permanent end stop. The Ephrem’s is not wide, so I didn’t need a wide plank for a base – a floorboard offcut  I had was just about right (about 5mm wider would have been ultra-neat), and I cut it to suit a full size wine bottle length, and had plenty left to form the end-stop.

Homemade cutter jigA hardwood quadrant bead remnant from my front door installation last year was ideal to form the two side rails. I also had a couple of 4-holed right angle brackets , which I had put on top of the screw cabinet about 10 years ago thinking “I’ll use them one day” and here that day was! I formed the 90 degree end stop using these brackets, and some salvaged short screws from the old screw tub. The side rails were tacked onto the plank, and that was the job complete – rough as you like – in only about twenty minutes.The only ‘new’ product was half a dozen tacks to nail the side rails on. Unfortunately nails don’t salvage straight, unlike removed screws!

bottomless bottlesThen came the moment of truth – trying it out. The brackets kept the end-stop true and strong, and the rails do their job though the Ephrem’s has non-slip rubber feet (which is the only thing I yet need to find for the jig bottom) so it doesn’t move about much anyway. Three full size wine bottles of different designs were attempted, and gave three good results, which cut cleanly and true. These will be edge-finished tomorrow ready to be used with some wire hangers as garden tealight lamps.

All in all a very cheap and quick little project, which I know will prove to be very useful indeed, and give results that will be popular with friends and family who have the garden space to have BBQs and summer evening outdoor entertaining. It’s almost a complete cycle, as it’s some of those evenings that are providing the empty bottles to make these bottomless bottles.

Preserving labels

Sometime after chatting about the brand, a friend whose surname is Lightfoot fetched in an empty bottle of Theakstons Lightfoot ale to have a go at. This bottle is the typical larger real ale brown beer bottle, which ordinarily doesn’t present any real difficulty in cutting. With this one though, I wanted to preserve the labels, to keep the name connection and hopefully still be able to make something useful.

As the label was large, this only really left one cutting position – on the rim at the top of the bottle before the neck. My preferred method of cut running so far has been the use of pouring and dousing with hot and cold water. However, the Lightfoot labels are paper, so would not last long getting wet, given the proximity to the score line. There wasn’t enough room between the label and score line area to use a sellotape, so I thought I’d give clingfilm a go. I first folded a length over, giving a trouser leg bottom style seam for the closest edge, and wrapped it tightly around the bottle covering the label by about 6-7mm. I took particular care to angle the bottle down, so the water ran away from the wrapped label as much as possible.

Lightfoot

A gentle heating and dousing process left a reasonably clean cut, which was then given a very careful finishing with various grade diamond pads, and finally with ultra-soft wire wool. The result was a very good edge and the care taken and the clingfilm wrap left the label totally unaffected, and in the condition it came to me. Care was also taken on rinsing the dust from the edge finishing to preserve the label. Here’s the end result to the left.

 

Candles in the cut bottles

Tealights are a simple and inexpensive option – just drop one in the your candle-holder, maybe mounted in some sand or decorative stones , and there you have it. Light it and change to a new one when expired. If you want something with a longer burn time, then putting a bigger candle in your bottle-made candle-holder is straight forward.  Obviously, you could get into candle-making, and make your own candle using your bottle projects as the receptacles, but that’s another hobby to learn and do. I think I will try it sometime soon, but just for now, I thought I’d try out the holders using a regular shop bought candle.

How to mount the candle in a bottle bottom became the next question. These can be flat, or they can also be domed in the case of wine bottles – not ideal to fix a candle to. The candle needs to be relatively secure, so it doesn’t fall or rattle about when it is inevitably leaned over when being moved. Do I make some sort of metal spike base, to spear the candle to the bottom of the jar? That could be messy, unreliable, create fractures and make it tricky to clean out safely when the candle life was expired. Melted wax sticks to glass, so I heated the base of the candle over the bottle body using a butane torch, and let some wax drop into the base, until the bottom was covered in a few millimetres of wax. Then I heated the bottle bottom to re-liquify the wax in the bottle base, and when melted, I place the candle down and held it until the two waxes combined and stuck. The problem with this process is that it was messy, leaving drips down the side of the bottle, and also it was difficult to get the candle to set in a perfectly upright position. The end result, though solid and reliable for moving about, was not the prettiest it could be. Certainly not to the standard where you would buy it in a shop ( a classic Quality Control test I use from years of manfacturing employment). Time for Plan B.

In a new candle-holder, I placed a new scented lavender candle that was a close fit (45mm diameter in a 52mm bottle body), which can be seen in the photograph here:

lavender candle

 

I guess this is where I should say “Don’t try this at home”, but it was my hands at risk, and I had brought my wrist protectors and gloves home from work for the night, and wore protective eyewear also. I gently heated the glass directly with the butane torch, and rotated it continuously, to hopefully avoid overheating. As the candle was a snug fit, the radiated heat began to melt the candle, and you could see it filling the glass from the bottom upward. The candle was a good quality one, with solid colour throughout, rather than just a coloured outer shell. This maintained the lavender colour, and as it filled the holder, it began to look really good. The process was completed without any feared glass shattering, and near the top, I put the holder on a flat surface so that it would be as near to level on the top as it set. It settled very nicely, and just required a little cleaning around the top edge of the glass where it had slumped down from the liquid level. As it was a remelt from the sides, the centre was largely unaffected too much, so the wick stayed dead centre. Now it looked much more like something that would pass the QC self-test.

 Here’s the end result:  

remelted candle