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.

1664 go large

Probably one of my favourite beer bottles to find and cut has been the green embossed Kronenbourg 1664 lager bottles. Not only is it a well made glass bottle, but has a nice looking embosed number around the lower body and a clean flat ridge to set the cutter to, leaving a very useful and good looking size of pot to hold tea-light candles in. I’ve literally made dozens of these already, and they work well.

I spotted a much larger version (660 ml)  in the supermarket this week, so grabbed one to try, but had to work my way through the crate to find a good clean one that didn’t have a rub on the shoulders where the bottles collide in transport. Being a tea-totaller, I whipped it round to the brother-in-law to do me the favour of performing the gruelling task of drinking a free beer, which he did with consummate speed and good grace!

1664 660mlI set the bottle up on the Ephrem’s cutter, as it was a good fit at this size, and cut a neat score, which  broke cleanly using the regular hot and cold water technique, saving both the base and the large neck which I’ll retain for another project. I edged both in my usual fashion, using two grades of diamond pads, and the end results were perfect. A very satisfying try-out of a useful bottle design in a larger size. I’ve photographed it here with the regular beer size for comparison. It’s large enough to take a smaller pillar candle, and could be used as a centre with a few smaller 1664 tea-lights around it.

Water breaking

After a good deal of experimenting, and observing other people’s methods on the Internet, I’ve settled into a routine method for cutting and breaking glass bottles that really works well for me. I guess it’s about finding your own preferred method, but some of the well publicised ones , to me at least, leave a lot to be desired, and the results demonstrated speak for themselves. In this post, I hope to break down the steps I take to demonstrate my best method of cutting bottles, which is one I regularly get around 80%+ success rate with. Though not as demonstrative as a video, the photos and blog post should hopefully still  be useful to follow my own chosen technique, which has worked very consistently over several hundred of cut bottles so far.

The first step to cutting a bottle successfully is the most obvious, but often the most overlooked in terms of a prime reason why the bottle cutting fails. There are some methods of breaking a glass bottle using heat from an acetone-soaked string line, or an electric current, or even hot oil inside the bottle, but most demonstrated results are often quite poor. I only use, and recommend, the traditional glass scoring technique, using a glass or dedicated bottle cutter.clean scoreline This helps to create a consistent and clean score line which should run well if performed correctly. This is the key stage to a successful cut in my opinion. A singular, light, clean and unbroken score line is essential, and, beginners to the hobby might be tempted to have a heavy score line to feel they are breaking into the glass. Heavy scorelines, that leave lots of flakes are the most likely to crack and run off when breaking commences. A consistent, gentle pressure with the two ends meeting is what you need. Ensure your wheel is lightly oiled, and don’t go over the same scoreline twice. You want a nice, clean scoreline as the photo right. Without this clean start, the odds of a poor break are magnified.

hot water pourWhen it comes to the breaking, I’ve settled on the hot and cold water method observed on YouTube, with reliable and good results right from day one. The Ephrem’s cutter comes with a candle to use in conjunction with a block of ice, but I found that technique very unsatisfactory. It was messy, slow and gave poor results. I much prefer to use a pouring kettle, and a cold running tap. Depending on the thickness of the glass (thinner glass go slightly cooler), I use the kettle just “off the boil” (around the 70-80 degrees Celsius mark, though I don’t use a thermometer). Using a kettle means you can pour a neat line of water just over the score area, without letting it spread too widely across the body of the bottle, which I find helps a great deal. My preferred method is to use a sink bowl for balancing the bottle, and rotate the bottle around a few revolutions, pouring the hot water over the score as i rotate slowly.  fracture lineI used to try creeping the cut by flashing a section with hot water and immediately quenching it under the cold, but this isn’t as consistent as a full score heating by several turns. When I gauge the bottle to be hot enough after three or four turns, I then rotate the score under a slowly running cold tap, turning it fully to quench it as quickly and uniformly as possible. This should give you a clearly visible fracture line all the way around the bottle, as photographed to the right. When you have this look all the way around, without any runs, you know you’ve got it sussed.

clean breaks

A second, gentle pour with some hot water is usually enough to separate it fully at this stage, and the two parts completely separate without any human touch required, leaving clean edges ready for smoothing. No bottle will be completely flat when separated, but this technique gives you consistently very straight edges as the photo to the left shows, which are straight-forward to finish (see my preferred method in the post edge finishing) . I’ve used it on thin beer bottles, small condiment bottles, wine bottles and very thick whisky bottles all to a good standard. It’s by far the best way I’ve come across so far, regardless of which bottle cutter you initially use.