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.

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.

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.

Beer bottle desk tidy

There are a good number of attractive real ale type of bottles on the market, many with imaginative label designs that appeal to the eye, but most are made of a pretty poor quality paper label, which is a shame as they could be so good if they were more durable. penpotI got a whole load of beer bottles given, but only one had a durable, high gloss vinyl type of finish that would be good to survive the water-based breaking process and subsequent use. The labels are usually large, so it limits the cut line to the top shoulder, but this makes for a deep pot with a number of uses. One thing I’ve found lately is the number of brewers who are switching from inkjet ‘best before’ dates to engraved ones. The later remain obtrusive on the bottle , whereas the ink-jet ones will come clean off with the help of a sharp blade, leaving a much cleaner look for a bottle cutter’s end use! This one had the engraved date right on the same shoulder, but it didn’t cause any difficulty in the cutting and cleaning up of the edge. The end result of this Dent Brewery Aviator bottle is perfect, and will be used as a desk pen pot. Very simple, easy to do and much nicer looking and greener than a plastic piece of desk clutter from a stationery shop. One for a real ale fan maybe.

Pendant light shade

I’ve been meaning to try a bottle as a pendant light shade for a while, just to try and suss out how the fittings sit without any extra parts, but never got round to it. whisky pendant lightA suitable whisky bottle was donated, with a wider neck neck hole than a wine bottle, so I figured it would just snugly hold the light fitting nicely, which  was the case in the end. I cut the bottle bottom off using the Ephrem’s bottle cutter, leaving an immaculate cut edge, and finished it to a very smooth edge using the diamond pads. I fitted the bottle onto the pendant, and it gripped the light fitting firmly without requiring any further modification. Quite a simple and unimaginative one really, but I’ll maybe play around with it to improve the look somehow, maybe by decorating the bottle with coloured nuggets. It’s pictured here with an energy saving bulb, but might look better with a regular bulb.

Catching up on cutting

I’ve not done much in the way of bottle cutting in the last month or so as I have been busy working on a few copper foil items and also a lead came design in the class I’ve been attending. The nearest I’ve got was doing a single cut on a wine bottle to make a hurricane to send to a friend in Norway , leaving a bottom end which I bonded to a circular piece of 3mm clear again in preparation for a centrepiece for another copper-foil hanger like the last two posts. All good practise and fun though. various

So it was time for a bit of a catch up on the bottles. I’d been given a green Champagne bottle on Thursday, so I cut that to make another vase. The weight of these strong and thick bottles is ideal for this use. I also cut a street salvaged Smirnoff vodka bottle for use as a vase, though the paper labels were unsaveable having been exposed for a long time to the elements.It’s still distinctive though. A large J P Chenet clear wine bottle was cut to make a pot pourri dish (front right in photo), which  will be filled later. Finally, I rescued a 1.5 litre plonk bottle from the flowerbeds on the walk home from work yesterday, and cut it low to make a useful finger dish (front left in photo) , ideal for nibbles or similar use. A perfect example of a kerb to the table reworking. It’s perfect, and looks good in the flesh. Good to be back at it in earnest again using discarded materials. Next plan is looking towards christmas, with a whisky bottle I’ve had since January, which I plan to decorate and insert christmas lights.

Table centrepiece

Following on from my earlier wooden bases post, I was very pleased to get a request from a friend for a white coloured base with a tall clear bottle. I had a long think about what to make, and how, as it was a different style to the ones I had been making with stained wooden bases for beer and whiskey cut-down bottles. A full size wine bottle would give the greatest height, though I wondered how good a clear bottle would look as a candle centrepiece, with no colour to the glass. A week or two later, I was then given a perfect bottle for the job, which was clear and tall bodied, but with a very pale tint to the glass. This just gave it a slightly different look, especially as it was being sunk into a white painted base.  I cut the bottom from the bottle as low as possible, taking great care to get it right first score, and edge it very neatly. The end result was ideal for the job.

routered floorboardFor the base, I again used one of the remnants of floorboard from the shed, keeping things ‘reused and recycled’, and measured the diameter of the bottle base at around 75mm to the middle of the glass. fortunately, this wine bottle was pretty round, which they are not always. I set up the circle cutter attachment on the Dremel rotary tool, and found the centre point of the board. Two rotations were done, with a slight adjustment to give a circle of 5-6mm to keep a snug grip on the bottle (approximately 4mm) without being too tight when painted.Dremel circle cutter A quick test fitting showed this to be fine, and the overall depth of around 5mm seems fine to keep the bottle stable.

Once the circle was right, the next job was to create a channel that vents underneath the glass edge for air to draw into the bottle chamber when the candle is burning inside. Ideally, you don’t want this to be too noticeable, but it has to be large enough to draw through sufficient air to allow the flame to thrive, and not self-extinguish. I marked the centre of the back edge to a point about 20mm inside the circle. Switching the Dremel tool to the router edge guide attachment,  I routed a 8mm channel to a depth a further 3mm below the circle channel where the bottle edge sits. testing drawThere’s no science to this bit, so I tested the candle inside the bottle to make sure it drew enough air to burn nicely.

Now all the routing was done, I could cut down the end square from the plank remnant, leaving a uniform 20mm on both sides for symmetry, and begun sanding down the base surfaces and adding a slight radius to the square edges to avoid splinters. To minimise the roughness inside the groves, I found it best to fold over the edge of some sandpaper several times to form a solid block which could be moved around inside the circle to smooth it down a bit. As you are always crossing the grain on a few parts, it was difficult to not have the odd bit of roughness in the grove, but it was sanded as best could be, and the bottle hides this well anyway.

White baseOnce complete, this only left the final coating to get the white look desired. I asked a decorator friend about lime or whitewash products, which are available to buy, but he also suggested watering down a white emulsion. I had some in the shed, and did a test coat on the other end of the remnant at about 60:40 water to paint mix. It worked well, leaving some grain visible, and dried quickly, so I just bashed on and gave it two coats all over, giving the end grains and grooves plenty of mixture to soak in fully. The end result was pleasing, with a slightly washed out feel, and helps to show the pale blue tint off quite nicely. Next job is to successfully ship it off to Norway in one piece, where hopefully it will be useful as a centrepiece for a dining table.

Vinegar bottle

Lately, I’m just continuing to explore everyday bottles and styles to see which are practical to cut down and make use of, further continuing the ethos of using a free source of glass, and keeping things as ‘green’ as possible by second use.

Vinegar bottleAnother piece of glassware that someone donated to try was a Sarson’s Vinegar bottle, which has a long established teardrop shape. The flat bottom and long tapered neck make this bottle a perfect candidate for a cut high up the neck to form a nice shape for a small cut flower vase.

The label was removed, and I used the G2 cutter to score the neckline. The curved shape of the bottle prohibits using the Ephrem’s horizontal cutter, and this is where the G2 comes into it’s own. I used a carefully directed pour of hot water onto the score, rotating it several times over the sink to get some temperature into the glass. I then doused  it under a cold running tap, rotating the bottle to get a complete and visible break in the score line. This is my preferred and most successful method of cutting bottles. Another pour of hot water on the score then separates the two parts very cleanly. Vinegar bottle vase

With the high cut line, the opening is quite small, so very careful edging with the diamond pads is required to avoid and unsightly chips or scratches. A clean cut is a bonus here, leaving little work to do, so the end result, seen here to the right, was very satisfactory. Another  example of everyday  packaging on a simple low-cost item that can be used for something else before it hits the recycling bin.

Tomato ketchup bottle

A colleague fetched in a Heinz 57 tomato sauce bottle to see if it was any good to try, so have given it a go. The bottom of the bottle is quite promising, with octagon faceting, with radius tops at the neckline. Above that the neck returns to a round shape, has four of the famous ’57’ logo numbers  and tapers away forming the neck. Heinz Ketchup 

The shape dictates using a vertical aligned cutter, in this case I used the G2. The neck opening is larger than most wine bottles, and I wondered if would cause an issue of control when the cutter was spun in the opening, but it fitted fine. The only viable cutting line to leave a nice design was just above the ’57’ numbers. The cutting head was at an angle, so I had to keep a firm grip on the support arm and be careful to ensure the line didn’t drift up or down as it sometimes can as you move round on the more awkward shapes. The cut was clean enough, and these ketchup bottles are slightly thicker than most beer bottles, so it broke relatively cleanly, and presented no difficulty to careful arrissing of the edges. '57' Ketchup bottle 

The end result isn’t a bad looking pot at all, with a bit more about it than some bottle chops. For use it could be a little mini-vase say for a kitchen window cill, but in this first instance, I’ve ordered some red wax dye, and will pour a ketchup coloured candle into it. I’ll try to add a photo of it in the near future if successful.