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.

January lull

Three weeks back in to work after the Christmas shutdown, and haven’t had too much time to bash on with any new designs. A couple of gifts were made for christmas, repeating a few designs already featured on the blog. Mostly though, I was just collecting some bottles, and cutting a few up in preparation of the right combinations to come along to make things. The weather hasn’t been great, with a lot of rain over the weeks, leaving not much chance to try making wooden bases for the bottomless bottles outside in the yard. I guess it’s a typical January time for any crafter, as you’ve got any pressure from christmas out of the way and are just setting up the year to see what direction you want to head off into.

I spent some time making some more paraffin wax candles, this time trying out adding colour and fragrance. First attempts were quite pleasing, though I just pottered along just guessing the approximate amounts of dye per wax quantities, and not weighing them out accurately as you should. Orange candlesI’d been held up with some wax supplies, so had two larger pots ready and waiting to try a bigger container candle in by the time it landed. I used an orange dye, and when it was all melted to the pouring temperature, I added and orange and cinnamon fragrance to the mix. After the customary re-leveling needed to get the top surface of the wax flat around the wick, the pots were cleaned off and presented as gifts to try out. I’ll add more fragrance next time, but the scent was lightly noticeable, and the colour good. They are burning well by all accounts.

Other than that, I’ve just been collecting and preparing bottles and jars, and assembling odd little bits and bobs to maybe make some more bottle hangers with, such as copper packing box staples. clear pen potsToday I just prepared two clear wine bottles, that had flat bases. They cut and edged fine to my now much fussier standards, and I’m just going to keep these and use them as pen pots at home. I’ve got heavier coloured bottles cut for use as vases. It was nice to get the jig rolling again, even if just for simple things like these. 

In terms of other options for 2012, I bought a Dremel engraver recently, so I’m intending spending a bit of time this year trying to get to grips with that as another alternative idea to enhance the bottle cutting hobby. I’m also looking into glass painting, thinking specifically towards use with tea-lights. I recently painted a gold house number on the repaired clear glass top-light on the front door of my cousins house, and found it a good medium to work with on glass, with a pleasing end result. This Tuesday coming I’m also starting a 10-week stained glass evening course at the local adult education,starting with copper-foiling, before moving on to traditional lead came stained glass making. I’m hopeful these two fields will also bring something new to the bottle cutting. We shall see!

Candles in the cut bottles

Tealights are a simple and inexpensive option – just drop one in the your candle-holder, maybe mounted in some sand or decorative stones , and there you have it. Light it and change to a new one when expired. If you want something with a longer burn time, then putting a bigger candle in your bottle-made candle-holder is straight forward.  Obviously, you could get into candle-making, and make your own candle using your bottle projects as the receptacles, but that’s another hobby to learn and do. I think I will try it sometime soon, but just for now, I thought I’d try out the holders using a regular shop bought candle.

How to mount the candle in a bottle bottom became the next question. These can be flat, or they can also be domed in the case of wine bottles – not ideal to fix a candle to. The candle needs to be relatively secure, so it doesn’t fall or rattle about when it is inevitably leaned over when being moved. Do I make some sort of metal spike base, to spear the candle to the bottom of the jar? That could be messy, unreliable, create fractures and make it tricky to clean out safely when the candle life was expired. Melted wax sticks to glass, so I heated the base of the candle over the bottle body using a butane torch, and let some wax drop into the base, until the bottom was covered in a few millimetres of wax. Then I heated the bottle bottom to re-liquify the wax in the bottle base, and when melted, I place the candle down and held it until the two waxes combined and stuck. The problem with this process is that it was messy, leaving drips down the side of the bottle, and also it was difficult to get the candle to set in a perfectly upright position. The end result, though solid and reliable for moving about, was not the prettiest it could be. Certainly not to the standard where you would buy it in a shop ( a classic Quality Control test I use from years of manfacturing employment). Time for Plan B.

In a new candle-holder, I placed a new scented lavender candle that was a close fit (45mm diameter in a 52mm bottle body), which can be seen in the photograph here:

lavender candle


I guess this is where I should say “Don’t try this at home”, but it was my hands at risk, and I had brought my wrist protectors and gloves home from work for the night, and wore protective eyewear also. I gently heated the glass directly with the butane torch, and rotated it continuously, to hopefully avoid overheating. As the candle was a snug fit, the radiated heat began to melt the candle, and you could see it filling the glass from the bottom upward. The candle was a good quality one, with solid colour throughout, rather than just a coloured outer shell. This maintained the lavender colour, and as it filled the holder, it began to look really good. The process was completed without any feared glass shattering, and near the top, I put the holder on a flat surface so that it would be as near to level on the top as it set. It settled very nicely, and just required a little cleaning around the top edge of the glass where it had slumped down from the liquid level. As it was a remelt from the sides, the centre was largely unaffected too much, so the wick stayed dead centre. Now it looked much more like something that would pass the QC self-test.

 Here’s the end result:  

remelted candle