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.

Rescue jobs

Broken mini lampshades

Broken Shades

Occasionally, we get unusual requests from customers at work about cutting or salvaging glass items from their homes and vehicles. One such request lately was for a customer who had borrowed a lamp from somebody, but had managed to break the cylindrical glass lampshades that slotted onto the lamp. Without seeing them, I told him to bring them in and at least I could take a look.

When they arrived, they were actually really small in size, approximately 30mm in diameter, and a heat formed glass cylinder with a moulded inner base tube that slotted onto a mount. This one was going to be tricky. It was certainly going to be too small for all but one of the bottle cutters I have, but I decided to give it a go with the G2 bottle cutter.

fixedb

Fixed Shades

The G2 cutter is the most flexible cutter I have in terms of the sheer range of size it can cope with. I set it up, and felt confident it would rotate and give a clean, even cut on the shades. It did work in terms of size, but I could tell the score wasn’t too successful just by the feel of it. This is most likely for a combinations of two things. Firstly, the outer surface of the glass shades were sandblasted, which makes it a textured surface. Usually this needs a deeper and harder cut. Secondly, as the glass is a single formed piece with an internal cylinder, I’m guessing that the shades become slightly heat strengthened by the forming process, making it a tougher glass to cut, though not unbreakable clearly. The usual hot and cold method didn’t achieve anything at all in terms of getting the score to run. Time for plan B.

There was no other alternative to tap, run of snap it, so I tried an electric water-cooled tile cutter. As the glass was quite thin (<3mm), the tile cuter was way too brutal to cut these shades. All it achieved was giving me a good soaking. Time for Plan C.

The last remaining chance was to turn to my glass grinder that I use for stained glass making. This would be tricky and time consuming to get the very jagged edges down to being as close to a flat cylinder edge as original, but I gave it a go.

The Lamp

The Lamp

The glass ground well, and using the grid lines on the grinder top, I got the three cylinders down to as flat an edge as I visibly could, which is not easy when you consider it’s a cylinder and you are using a round rotating grinder head. They were so erratically broken, I cut them to just below their lowest breaks, leaving three distinctly different height cylinders. This was as good as I could do, without spending all night grinding. I figured it would look good as the lamp stalks were three different heights anyway, and I could place them to suit the best look. I finished the tops of with the hand diamond pads, to give them as good an flat and arrissed edge as I possible could. The internal edges were too small to do anything with, but I was satisfied they were as safe as I could get them with the grinder.

End result

End result

All in all, I’m quite satisfied in how it went, as the job was really just a ‘make best or bin’ gamble with what had become a damaged and unsafe lamp. It looks pretty good in the end, and was a fun little challenge to do. I don’t mind tackling something like this, as you’ve nothing to loose, and it’s good experience with bottle cutting skills on objects other than bottles. A worthwhile and interesting task.

 

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.

Little bits of salvage

I’ve not been doing a great deal of bottles in the last few weeks, with the exception of today where I knocked up a couple of wine bottle hangers and cleared out a lot of bottles I wasn’t getting round to finding a use for. I’ve been busy again on another term on a local creative glass course, doing copper foil and lead came designs. I still like doing both hobbies a great deal, and it’s nice to think of more ways to combine the two skill sets in some way.

bottlecupI’d just finished a Rennie Mackintosh style design from scratch, as a gift for my mother, which I’d made to fit a candle mount I’d bought from the Creative Glass Guild in Bristol . I used black backed copper foil, and finished it in black patina to match the frame, and was very satisfied with the overall effect. Though the flat candle plate was plenty wide, I wanted to have a more ‘containing’ method of holding the tea-light behind the glass panel, to make sure it didn’t stray too close to the panel.  I used a scuffed beer bottle that I had picked up from the street, and cut the bottom off about 5mm higher than a tea-light. A neat edge arriss, and a double sided pad was all that was needed to complete the task, making a more functional option for the stand. A nice, neat little use of a scruffy bottle that was pretty much good for nothing else. I guess these could be useful little tea-light pots for other uses, like on dining tables, as they help prevent them being knocked over and contain any stray hot wax. They can be bought commercially in various glass, pot and resin materials, but it’s nice to upcycle and make something from nothing yourself from an abundance of wasted beer bottles.

Salvage something

I was quite pleased to find an unusual demi-john style bottle abandoned on a street corner the other week, which is something demiI’ve been wanting to try for a while, to see how well the bottle cutters can cope with a much bigger diameter bottle. This two litre cider bottle was approximately 130mm in diameter, and was in perfect condition despite being a street find, probably because it’s got it’s own ring handle. I intended to cut the bottle low down, and hopefully create a tall, bottomless bottle to use as a hurricane shroud on a routed wooden base.

First step was to clean off the large label, which too quite a while due to a strong glue. When clean, the bottle felt the most comfortable on the Ephrem’s bottle cutter, where it sat nicely using my home-made jog as the stop. It rotated well, but the cut did stutter a bit, probably due to the wheel reaching the end of it’s useful life. I used a manual glass cutter to join the cut line misses, and hoped for the best in the water breaking process. Sadly the cut ran a touch, so I repeated the cut an inch or so up on the Ephrem’s after an light oiling of the wheel. A second and third attempt also failed, so I gave a fourth and final chance to the G2 bottle cutter. The cut was clean, light and neat and looked promising, but sadly split vertically like a seam beyond a point of saving the top. Some you win, some you lose, even after several hundred bottles of experience.

fingerbowlI looked at the bottle bottom from the first cut, and though it had run over the original scoreline, it was perfectly save-able given enough elbow grease on the diamond pads. I set about doing that, this time using a full four pad range of grades, taking about thirty minutes to get a good standard of finish. It made a decent sized bowl for any number of uses. Though I was really looking forward to using the top half of the bottle, it’s still worthwhile to make something from nothing with any bottle you salvage from an inevitable broken mess on the street.

Brut bottle hurricane

Following on from the successful use of a heavy bottle bottom for a copper foil sun-catcher, I wanted to try it again with a nice looking one on a Brut bottle. This one had a rope effect edge, and dotted circular textures on the punt, so I cut it about 8-10mm above the top of the punt. This left the rest of the bottle to use, and the bottle end will be used in another post in the near future.

floorboard hurricane

The long curving corked top neck looked good to form a chimney of sorts, so I decided to make a hurricane base for the bottle as cut. I cut a square base out of a floorboard remnant, and routed a circle into it for the bottle to sit in. I then made a deeper groove at the back, and drilled through into the groves section to create a concealed breather hole to allow air flow the chimney effect to feed the candle. The base was then sanded smooth for ease of handling, and a coat of light oak dye added for final effect.

Once dry, all that remained was to test the drawing effect of the base with a tea-light, which worked well. The top of the bottle got very hot even with a tea-light, but the glass is very thick, and a long burn showed it to be ok. Another ‘upcycled’ project completed with hardly any cost at all other than time and a tealight.

 

 

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.

Tea-light mounts

Just a short post showing a couple of tea-light bottle parts I’ve started from street salvaged bottles. The tea-light holder is to the right is the bottom of a Becks green beer bottle. Nothing too remarkable or different to various tea light holders you can buy cheaply from the shops, but just made for the sake of making something from a discarded bottle that was scuffed and tatty. I’m tempted to try and mix this in to a copper-foil project somehow – maybe a floating lilypad look or something. I need to find more time to practise that craft also.

Tealight partsFrom a salvaged mini-wine bottle I picked up from the waste ground on a demolished factory , I top and tailed the green bottle to try and make a cylinder like I did with the full size wine bottles. It cut well, is thick enough not to cause any weakness worries, and fits over a tea-light snugly. I’m intending routing a circular groove into a nice piece of wood when I find one, and making a miniature hurricane of some description , be it free-standing or forming a  table centre. No doubt I’ll post a photo when I get something done. These are just clearing some of the sitting stockpile of bottles I’ve built up. It’s attracting a snail or two in the yard!

Update:   today I found the little log section, and routered a circular channel out of it at a comfortable size for the cylinder.  Log cylinder tealightThe bottle cylinder was slightly off-round, and fairly thin at the two seam points, so I made this the bottom to put the best edge to the top. The 4mm Dremel router bit was more than wide enough to give a holding circle groove that coped with the slightly off-circle shape. The groove was dyed with an english oak colour, and left to dry. The inner circle is a perfect size for a tea-light, and the open top let’s it burn freely without any need for any holes to create an air draw.

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.