Bonding a glass bottle

So now I have cut a wine bottle successfully, and edged the parts, it was time to experiment with sticking the bits together. Due to a slow start in obtaining bottles, I’ve only got a green Hardys wine bottle, which has a dome bottom. Not ideal to learn to glue/bond with, but I thought I may as well have a go at it as it’s there and cut. I know there are plenty of ‘superglue’ types that can do glass to glass, but I’d heard Dan Rojas on YouTube mention UV bonding glue that was cured in the sun. This sounded really interesting, as I was familiar with the clarity of UV glue bonds through work. They look great, and there’s little mess when done carefully, unlike superglue types that go white, or leave glue trails.

I found a small 2g syringe applicator UV curing product called Fixsal on Ebay for a few pounds, and gave it a go. I looked at my positions of each piece prior to applying the glue to the neck, so to avoid any delays once the glue was applied and in daylight. The syringe applicator was easy to use and control, putting a steady flow on the rim as I circled around after the bottle was placed in the direct sunlight coming through the window. I placed the bottom on top of the neck carefully, trying to hit ‘centre’ , and as the contact was made and I pushed down gently, the bonded glue squeezed out to fill the top of the rim and the joint looked uniform and good. I held it rock steady in position for at least two minutes, then came the crunch time – would it stick despite the dome or would it slump and fall off? I released all grip and it stayed perfectly still, so I picked it up and a quick attempt to twist of the two parts showed just how strong the UV glue was. It was rock solid. Very impressive. The bond joint was immaculate, clear and almost invisible. A great product.

Here’s a photo of the first bonded item. A curious effect of bonding a dome-bottomed wine bottle is that it almost looks as if the neck has been driven into the bottle bottom and it’s melted into the final position. All in all, a very satifactory first bonding experiment. Next to try a clear bottle joint, and see just how clear and neat this UV bonding glue is.

UV bonding

Edge finishing

When it comes to the finishing the edges, there’s a few different options. Most of the bought kits come with a few bits of sandpaper just to get you started. These should ideally be the stronger backed type .eg. fabric to protect your fingers a bit better and last hopefully a little longer. I found the thin strip types were quite useful as you could form it around your index finger, and arris the edge quite effectively will little risk of straying onto the glass surface itself, avoiding scratches when finished. I’ve also tried an electric sander, which was very effective too in flattening off the worst of the ‘craters’ in the break. Kept relatively flat, the sander does a lot of the work for you, though you need to avoid turning the bottle edge into the paper too much, which very quickly cuts though the sandpaper. Used as it’s intended (flat to the surface) , it’s a labour saver and quite neat in finish and uniformity as you vary the grit used.

With the bought kits, you sometimes also get a small portion of pumice powder, which you sprinkle onto a flat glass surface, and mix into a paste with water. The bottle edge can be rotated onto this surface (like a Ouija board action), and this slowly smoothes up the edges. It’s quite a slow and messy process, and leaves you with a residue that you wipe/rinse to check progress, and also need to store or dispose of afterwards. It’s much less effective in terms of effort  than the final method I chose.

Having seen diamond pads in action for years at work, used to hand arris glass and mirrors quickly and neatly, I knew these would be my preferred tool to complete the edges of cut bottles. I purchased a range of three different grades ( black -120 grit, red – 200 grit , yellow – 400 grit), and used them all to smooth down, level off and finish up the bottle cut. They are a good size to grip, but because they are quite large for smaller bottles, it’s easy to get over-enthusiastic and slip onto the glass surface, leaving scratches that you won’t be able to polish out. This is more of a problem than the finer sandpaper slips, which I found can be polished out with a bit of jewellers Rouge and a felt bob. The odd slip is annoying, as I want the edges perfect, but on reflection, they are already far superior to the finished examples shown in the two books on bottle cutting I’ve got. They are really quite poor, and you’d be reluctant to take a sip out of some of those to be honest. Good progress made on finishing so far. I’m sure the diamond pads are the best way, and will get to the perfection (100% no scratches or shells) stage with more practise.

Diamond pads

First attempt

After finally blagging two empty wine bottles from a colleague and my dad, it was time for the first go. Pretty strange hobby for a teatotaller to adopt, but hey ho…there’s always the recycling bins! 

Having soaked the bottles in very hot water for a while, the labels came off pretty easily, leaving a minimal amount of adhesive, which scraped off with a single flat-edge blade. A quick dry and polish up removed all tiny smears of glue residue. A clean bottle will help keep the cuting wheel at its best. The jig was set up to cut the bottle at the below shoulder location required, and the cutting wheel was adjusted to contact the bottle at 90 degrees to the bottle surface as per the instructions. The rotation of the bottle appeared to go well, and the sound of the scoring was very apparent and a useful audiable guide to the level of pressure I was applying. The cut looked good, if a little flaky (compared to the flat glass cuts I see at work which are immaculate as the cutting heads are top quality). I’d already decided to probably avoid the candle and ice cube method, as it looked quite slow and a bit of a mess. There’s usually no ice cubes in the freezer anyway, but I thought the cold tap would be as good. Using the candle seemed to result in a sooty mess on the bottle,  obscuring the score, despite adjusting how close I went to the flame. It wasn’t transfering the heat very quickly, so I abandoned that idea and went onto just-off the boil water. This worked very well. I allowed a small controlled trickle to heat the score line area for a few seconds, then quenched it under the trickling cold tap. The run started to show, and could be controlled pretty easily, rotating it around and taking a little time not to over-heat using the hot water. Right near the end, towards a flakier bit, it ran off, which was disappointing. I was quietly confident of the heat control and running technique having watched carefully some of the better YouTube videos. I looked at the wheel, and saw a lot of glass dust, then the penny suddenly dropped…I’d forgotten to put any cutting oil on the wheel! This was despite having ordered a neat little squeezy bottle of it from Ebay in advance. A basic error that I should have known to avoid, coming from a glass factory enviroment. A quick blow out of the cutting wheel, a drop of cutting oil on it, and a second go at the process worked beautifully, with a nice clean cut and good run. I was quite tickled with that, so I decided to take another go, and cut another ring off the bottle bottom, about 50mm down. This too worked a treat. The bottle helped a bit, as the Hardy’s wine bottle glass was very uniform in thickness, and very smooth to roll.

First successful cuts

Here’s my first successful cut bottle, prior to beginning the edge finishing. Not bad cuts for a complete novice.

Ephrem’s bottle cutter kit

Looking at various video clips on youtube, and reading a few sites and reviews, I’ve chosen the Ephrem’s bottle cutter, which is the horizontal type. It certainly appeared to have the most easily controlled and stable action compared to the vertical plastic one and the bottleneck suspended ones. Both hands are free to firmly apply pressure and rotate the bottle easily. The website itself shows the method clearer than I could describe: 

Ephrem's bottle cutter jig

Overall, on first impressions, I’m impressed with the stability and firmness of the base grips, the rotation of the wheels and end stop. This should give the best chance of a clean cutting line.

What to try cutting with?

So you hit the web and see all sorts of weird and wonderful techniques to cut bottles down. Who’s to say what is wrong or right? I guess it’s just down to what works for you. There are some that just seem a bit messy, or without much chance of working neatly on a regular basis. One of those was the burning string idea – where a string is wrapped around the bottle, soaked in kerosene, acetone or lighter fluid, and lit . I’m intending to try it one day, just for the ‘Robinson Crusoe’ experience, but it doesn’t appeal logically. At some point, the string will fail to form a perfectly straight and joined line around the bottle. It’s bound to be a technique sure to end up with a jagged step. I’ve similar doubts with the hot oil inside the bottle technique, which uses the fill level to make a thermal break rather than a score. At this point of learning, I think it needs a clean scored line to make a clean break, just like cutting flat glass with a traditional handheld cutter. That means either making a home-made cutting head device or buying a retail bottle cutting device.

There’s some quite interesting ideas on making your own device on Youtube:

Through work, I can source various types of high quality glass cutting heads, so this could be a good option for the future, especially if I need to have a jig that does smaller miniature bottles or large bottles or jars like demi-johns that might not fit on a shop-bought jig.

 Right now, for simplicity, and speed , I think it’s the bought option for me. Looking on Ebay, those few that crop up for sale seem to attract plenty of bids and retain a lot of the value, so it seems like a no-brainer to give it a whirl. Worst case scenario, and I don’t get into it or keep it going, it won’t be a bad thing to move on.

Where to start?

Why did I start to try cutting bottles as a hobby? Some time last year, a lady rang the glass/sealed unit factory where I work on the recommendation of another customer. She wanted to know how to cut the bottoms off wine bottles cleanly, having failed miserably to do so. If anyone would know, we would apparently….but I didn’t. We have expertise in flat glass cutting, fully automated and by hand, and also have a handheld water-cooled circular cutter, but none of those processes particularly help when it comes to bottles. The cylindrical, often irregular shape presents a unique problem in guiding the cutting wheel, knowing the glass score would have to be very good, dead straight and consistent in pressure to enable a clean edge break. I was kind of stumped. The lady had come across bottle cutters, but wasn’t managing to get a clean break and thought there must be some sort of special ‘knack’ she didn’t know about. It sounded an interesting idea, but I wasn’t able to help further and suggested the internet as most hobbies have enthusiastic dedicated sites or forums to help and inform.

A few months later, I’d been quietly having the odd practise at cutting flat glass when a simple order for a small piece of 4mm or 3mm horticultural came in, after many years just punching the numbers, processing the production admin and learning the technical specs in the office. I’m often involved in the workshop roles, lifting, sorting etc, so am not glass-phobic, but have always avoiding cutting the glass itself, imagining it being a bit of a technique and no place for a ‘cack-hander’ like myself. After some practise, it was interesting to pick up the right sound and feel of a clean cut as you perform it, and to begin to understand why a cut ran off when you hadn’t quite ran the wheel consistently, or had let your straight edge slip. I began to think about that bottle issue that stuck in the back of the mind. How difficult could it be if this flat glass is picked up reasonably when you concentrate and try?  I took my own advice, and headed for the web to read about cutting bottles….