Ullswater Suncatcher

One of my favourite longer distance walks the The Ullswater Way, which has just celebrated it’s 1st anniversary of it’s launch in 2016. It was formalised to help boost Ullswatertourism and activity in the Ullswater valley after horrific flooding from Storm Desmond wreaked havoc in December 2015. In that first year, it has truly become one of the great lake district walks, partly because of the natural range and beauty of Ullswater, but also because of how well the walk has been completed, promoted, signposted and made accessible to many more walkers by being broken down into sections that tie in with the Ullswater Steamers piers,

Ullswater waythe two main towns and parking facilities. This helps people, who maybe cannot complete the full 20+ mile circular in one go, to tackle in in two or three visits. It’s been done beautifully, and looks like it has begun to repay the investment already judging by it’s popularity. I’ve tackled it twice already in the first year, doing both the lower-level walk, and the higher add-on options in a clockwise direction. Both walks have been very enjoyable indeed, with an full array of all the Lake District has to offer in one walk – fauna and flora galore, forest trails,lakeside beaches, hills, meadows and great views all over, not to mention a few cafes and ice-cream pit stops! It’s tremendous, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’ll be doing it time and time again for sure. 

I’m always on the lookout for rubbish when walking, being a pet-hate of mine, and I clear what I can when I come across it, particularly glass bottles which are veryBecks hazardous to the wildlife and walkers alike. On my second time round The Ullswater Way, I came across a discarded Becks beer bottle in plain sight off one of the footpaths between Glenridding and Glencoyne. It had been lying for some time judging by the dirt and label degradation, so I bagged it up, with the intention of upcycling it into something. Recovering discarded glass bottles from the Lake District as I do my walks has become a bit of a MO for me now, always going prepared with a couple of carrier bags in my rucksack. I’ve not come across too many thankfully, but the count is certainly increasing. I’m trying to build up a range of upcycled items from bottles I’ve recovered from The Lake District, some really simple, and some a bit more elaborate, with the intention of hopefully using them to raise some funds for mountain rescue teams in the future. I’m thinking the idea will be to use the bottle’s original location to designate any funds raised to the MR team in that area. I do get about a bit, so hopefully it would suncatcherspread things around, and I do log down and photograph any finds I come across to show where it was found.

I’ve made a more elaborate bordered suncatcher from a Troutbeck bottle find, so I thought for this one, I’ll just do a simple five piece suncatcher. I might need some simpler items to get people interested in making a MR donation for them. The bottle was green, and going through my boxes of glass, I picked out a strong amber old cathedral glass to contrast significantly with the green bottle end. The bottle end cut easily, and I cut and then shaped the amber glass using my grinder. suncatcherAfter foiling, soldering and cleaning, I used black patina, and polished it up with black grate polish. It’s 100mm square, to avoid things getting too heavy and a hanger. Here’s the end result. Another pleasing little result from stumbling across other peoples rubbish in the beautiful Lake District.

Idealistic upcycling

I’ve been picking up bottles from the streets in town for a number of years, recycling and upcycling them, and I like the double benefit of removing litter and making something nice to show from it. When I’m out walking in the Lake District fells, occasionally I come across litter around the paths, which gets picked up, but also at odd times I find discarded beer bottles which I find particularly annoying, as it’s disrespectful and selfish, not to mention a long term environmental hazard to wildlife and walkers alike.

Discarded bottle

Discarded bottle

One such example is this discarded Stella bottle, which I spotted embedded in a riverbank near Troutbeck Bridge. I recovered it, and thought about making something to compliment the area it was recovered from. I cleaned and separated the bottle bottom using the processes I’ve outline several times on this blog before. I selected a green on white baroque glass, as the green flows and white wisps are reminiscent of the lake district fells and rolling clouds. I also had a deep green water glass that complimented the bottle centre, so went with this for the 10mm border, and finished with a black polished patina.

Troutbeck suncatcher

Troutbeck suncatcher

 I’m pleased with this one, in particular because it’s something nice made out of what is ultimately a selfish and inconsiderate act of littering one of the most beautiful areas in the world. I’m hoping to make more specifically from bottles I might come across in my fell walking, maybe making a little series of sun-catchers that come from salvaged Lake District litter, hopefully I might even be able to raise some funds in lieu from them for a Lake District charity like ‘Fix The Fells’. That would really be the ultimate full-circle upcycling to me.

Backless Bottom Centres

Right from the start of mixing bottle bottoms with copper-foil designs, I’ve used a 3mm UV-bonded clear circle blank as a backing piece for the bottle ends, as I’ve always felt it adds strength though a fully soldered joint and overall appearance improvement. Occasionally though, despite very careful bonding, and neat soldering, a few drops of water have sneaked through into the enclosed bottle bottom cavity when washing away the patina. I’ve managed to dry them out using natural sunlight, open fires and even industrial desiccant, but it’s not without some water streaks left inside to drive me mad! No-one notices them, but I do. I still think it’s by far the best way to make them though, but out of curiosity for the alternative, I thought I would try one without backing as an experiment.rearsoldering

I begun by foiling the cut edge of the bottle bottom, which , with care, wasn’t as untidy as I thought it could be. I lifted the bottle end up towards the front surface using some 3mm glass, ensuring the front solder was as substantial and visually neat as the backed centres method. This ensures a good looking front face, which is the most important thing in a window hung design. This leaves a step between the two rear foiled surfaces, for solder to form a sloped join.backlessamber The result is ok, but does need the sort of working that puts a lot of heat in during smoothing. It’s pretty strong, but what I don’t like about this method is that it leaves a tinned edge on the upper edge of the round, which is a little bit vulnerable to careless cleaning. From the front, you wouldn’t really tell the difference between the two methods, and it looks good hanging on a window surface. I guess time wise, it probably saves a good half-hour or so from by cutting out the  need for a 3mm circle and the UV bonding, but I still prefer the end results from the backed method I’ve been developing over the last year or two. It’s been useful to try it out, and I would use this method again on a design that is very one-sided in viewing orientation.

Grey Goose Vodka Vase

I was asked to cut down a Grey Goose vodka bottle to help replace a broken one from a set someone had. greygooseI wasn’t mad keen, as I’ve been really focused on the copper-foil designs with my spare time, but I agreed out of curiosity of what the bottles were like as a one-off favour. I’d seen these bottles used a lot for bottle cutting state-side, but not had one to try before.  There’s not a lot of range of where to cut due the nature of the etched design, with around 15mm window of flat bottle just above the goose’s head. I decided to give the Kinkajou cutter a go on this one, and the cut went ok, but on water fracturing there was a tiny run showing, which had to be flatted out quite deeply with the pads. This is where the lack if space hinders a second lower cut to get a perfect flat. The end result was still pretty good in the end though, though I have done better. It was interesting to try, and the etched finish stood up to the process, though I was very careful to avoid scratching and rubs.

Streaky amber suncatcher

I’ve been very focused on a number decorative copper-foil panels for most of this year, so haven’t completed anything with a bottle cut for quite a few months, so thought it was time to cut another one on this rainy Sunday afternoon.   purpleamber

I’ve described the process of this pleasing design of bottle end suncatchers enough over the course of the last few posts, so I’ll just describe the glasses, and show the photo. A brown real ale bottle provided the centre, and I found the streaky antique amber complimented this well. I rifled right through the glass box, holding up various colours with these two before I settled on a purple and amber wispy glass for the 15mm border. Finished in black and polished patina, then end result is really nice, and blends beautifully. Sometimes things just work out really nicely together.

Teal baroque suncatchers

I’ve had a busy few months, with what time I had to work on glass being taken up by a couple of copper-foil panel designs, so have looked forward to returning to making some bottle end suncatchers again. teal baroque

 I had a sheet of teal baroque stained glass that I bought many months ago, so was keen to use it with a couple of green bottle bottoms that were prepared in the usual way on a piece of 3mm clear. Heavily streaked glass like the baroque can be problematic when cutting curves across the lines and streaks. Fortunately all eight quarters went to plan, keeping the pattern running through perfectly. The black backed copper foil was soldered with K grade solder, darkened with black patina, and then polished using the graphite grate polish. Both look great hanging in the light.

 

Old Tom bottle candles

One very useful bottle I’ve had donated a couple of times is an Old Tom strong ale bottle, which comes in various flavours, including a chocolate beer. It’s has a heavily embossed branding section on the main body section, but the neck and bottom sections have protruding smooth sections that are just big enough to set the cutting wheel onto, which makes them useful for container cuts or for removing the bottom.

The bottles usuallywick setting cut pretty well as the glass is consistent and fairly thick, and the preparation of the edges goes very well indeed as a result. The photo to the right shows the cut at the neck, finished to a good standard.

Once prepared, the first step I take is to place the wick in the centre of the bottle. I prefer to use  small piece of 1mm black high tack double sided tape to stick it to the bottom of the glass, to really help it stick and allow a strong tension upwards for straightness. Once centred, I wrap it round a wick pin, which I find easier than to pierce the wick with it, as it enables you to tension the wick if required. Orange candle

All that remains is to pour in the candle. I like to use a strong colour dye, such as orange or red, to give a bit of contrast to the bottle colour. There’s much better advice on candle-making on the net than my efforts, but I’ve been quite pleased with the results so far. Most look pretty neat, and make a nice gift for family or a friend. I made a couple for the friend who donated the bottles, and they keep them on the fireplace just for show as they like the end look. The bottle diameter has been good for the candle burn and the melt-pool, without tunnelling, and a test burn I did for curiosity showed a full Old Tom burned for over 24 hours.

 

Violet bottle suncatcher

I’d prepared a number of bottle end centres for use in copper foil designs, and had one single clear one, so I decided to use it up on another coloured border suncatcher just like the last one I made. I headed to the box again, and had a part-used sheet of light amber cathedral, which seemed ideal.violet With a clear bottle centre chosen, I wanted something with a bit of texture to it, without a strong colour, to blend the difference between the centre and a strong border colour. I followed the same method, this time using a 120mm centre square, with a 20mm border. For the border, I liked the strong look of a deep violet cathedral. All the glass cut well, and cutting ‘mathematically’ rather than to templates really wasn’t a problem at all, and worked very neatly. Finished with K grade solder, the end result is very nice, and the violet border looks really good.

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.

Baileys bottle vase

Another bank holiday weekend comes around, and last night I was given an empty large Baileys Irish cream bottle by a relative, so just bashed right on with it today. Baileys

The bottles are very dark olive green in colour, and hardly passes any light through the glass, even in direct sunlight. This makes it limited for use with candles, for example using it as a hanger or a hurricane. The bottom of the bottle has a rotation stopping dimple in it above the level of the Baileys embossed text at the bottom of the bottle, so that leaves it hard to chop for a centre without having to go very deep in to the bottle. Best use for it is the simplest one – a straight forward chop at the top to make a heavyweight vase or pot.

These thick bottles can be Baileysvasepretty easy to do once you’ve had a few goes. The weight of the glass needs a big thermal shock to break through cleanly to leave a flattish surface, so you don’t have to spend an excessive amount of time finish it. This requires a big heat to split, so needs to have a very clean cut to avoid breaking poorly. The G2 cutter is ideal for the job. I cut a clean, light score with the G2, and gave it a long heat (about 10 rotations) in hot water just off the boil, then a quick full rotation under a running cold tap to shock it. A second hot water pour split the bottle very cleanly indeed, leaving a flat surface that only needed about 20 minutes work with 3 grades of diamond pad (125/400/800 grit) to leave a very smooth, symmetrical and neat finish indeed. A simple bottle cut to make a useful, solid pot for no real cost other than a half hour of time.