Kinkajou cutter lands

‘Breaking’ news! The newly designed and manufactured Kinkajou bottle cutter I ordered back in in the summer landed today. Well, when I say landed today, importdutywhat actually landed was a card through the door from the Post Office claiming a release charge for VAT and an £8 fee! Nice! So off I went down and paid the £12.91 ransom required to release the package. I don’t mind the VAT, but the fee is irritating. I wonder how often this occurs for relatively simple private purchases of such small value? It’s quite a chunk proportionately. At least I knew what it was for and worthwhile, unlike a number of people I know who’ve recently had similar cards to pay £1 handling fee + underpaid postage for what then turned out to be marketing junk-mail or late Christmas cards! Now that really would be annoying!  Oh well, ‘Que Sera Sera’ as they say in Czechoslovakia.

 For what was, at the time, a prototype product in a relatively niche market, that’s been quite an impressive achievement to collect enough pledge orders, kinkajoutweak the design through to final full production and ship worldwide in around half a year. The end-user packaging is certainly very professional and gives an initial impression of a modern and purposeful tool for the up-cycling community. It’s a weighty product, colourful and well presented. I’ve been impressed with the standard and professional way the Kinkajou has been brought to market throughout the whole process from pledge gathering on kickstarter.com to the end sale using the website, videos, emails and blog marketing. Very well done to Pat and those at NKJ design for an interesting idea that’s grown, materializied and made it out there. I’ll be doing a personal opinion review on the cutter and adding it to my other ones soon when I’ve had a chance to use it. Certainly looks and feels good so far.

Ephrem’s Original cutter review

After some time spent browising the internet, watching YouTube videos and reading the odd review, the Ephrem’s bottle cutting kit was my initial choice after deciding to give this hobby a try. The main reason for my selection was the proven pedigree of a long established cutter, the ease at which the video demonstrations showed the clean operation and that it could be bought in the UK from a reputable source with spares availability – in my case from www.creativeglassguild.co.uk .

Ephrem's bottle cutter

The Ephrem’s orignal bottle cutter is a horizontal rolling system, consisting of an adjustable jig on which the body of the bottle is laid, which makes for a very steady and consistent cutting manoeuvre. The manufacturing quality is excellent, with firm mechanics on the bolts and adjusting screws, nylon rollers, good quality cutting wheels and a nice glossy paint finish. The base has two very high quality non-slip strips that keep the base still on a number of surfaces, which is important in producing an exacting score line. With the standard product, you get a clear instruction booklet, a candle, grinding grit and some finger width emmery papers. Whilst the papers are very useful, I’d recommend you abandon the candle and ice-cube method and go straight to the hot and cold water score running methods outlined in the blog post ‘first attempt’.

The mechanics of adjusting the jig are straight forward. The cutting wheel is fixed, and the rear two nylon wheels and the end-stop bracket adjust on a grove rail, secured by a retaining screw and nut. This ensures a very firm fixing, which combined with the non-slip base allows you to keep a very secure and accurate rotation on the bottle with a little rearwards pressure, but it does make slight adjustments a touch slow and fiddly. You do need a flat screwdriver and either strong fingers or a spanner to adjust it each time.The end stop bracket can be reversed, which help add a little longer or shorter range to the stop, which is important when cutting non-cylindrical bottles that may have a raised or flared section at the base or shoulder. The jig is ultimately limited somewhat in length, but can be operated without the end stop, leaving just the rear wheels, giving you the opportunity to overhang a long bottle and use an outside end-stop like a flat wall or even a home-made jig that you can see in my blog post ‘Jig extension for cutter’. This gives you the opportunity to cut the base of wine or spirit bottles that ordinarily the cutter isn’t long enough for. As the width of the rollers is fixed, it does ultimately have a range limitation in terms of bottle diameters, but it does cope admirably with beer bottles and wine bottles, in fact most I’ve tried within the 50mm to 100mm plus diameter range. Only a couple have been too small. It’s best with fairly regular cylindrical bottles and jars, and as the rollers are in a flat plane, it cannot cope so easily with oval bottles, or glass containers that have heavily ribbing or curved profiles (like the teardrop shaped Perrier bottles for example).

The cutting operation is very smooth , thanks to the quality nylon rollers mounted on stainless bolts. The all metal construction gives it good long term strength. Occasionally the nylon rollers do work the retaining bolt loose, which you need to keep an eye on, but this just needs a small pinch up and is no big deal. The three wheel cutting head is secured onto the body by a screw, and cutter specific replacement cutting wheels are available online for around £5. The screw adjustment allows to to easily alter the angle of the cutting wheel, so that the cut is set at 90 degrees to the bottle body. A small amount of downward pressure needs to be applied over the wheel when rotating to ensure a good score line, but it is easy to over do this and get a slightly over-heavy cut , with some fragmenting. Likewise, it is quite easy to apply too little pressure, and have it miss a little, or skip over a bottle seam. It takes a little practise to get just right, but the sound is always quite clear to assist this, and this cutter offers a consistently accurate score line to an equal or better standard as any of the cutters I’ve used so far. When a wheel becomes damaged and scores badly, you just rotate the head to the next one. You should always remember to oil the cutting wheel before every session, as it’s vertical nature makes is prone to cut badly if left to lose it’s oil in storage.

The deluxe version of the cutter comes with a bottle neck cutting extension and cutter mount, but this is also available separately as a spare part. I’ve not yet tested this feature, but will add it to this review if I do in the future. Please be aware you need the deluxe version or to order the bottle neck parts separately to the original model to perform bottle neck cutting.

Results from the Ephrem’s have been consistently good over the learning process, with most failure causes steming from less than perfect technique rather than any cutter design problem. The wheels do tend to become less favourable a little quicker than other designs because of the downward pressure on them, but it’s a very easy method for the beginner to pick up, and gain confidence quickly. It’s ease of use is unrivaled. It’s no surprise it’s got such a long pedigree over the decades. I’d highly recommend this high quality cutter as a good introduction to the hobby if you’ve got a little extra cash to spare over the other types. It’s very good value for a higher quality item, and also I’ve noticed very re-sellable with good retaining values on the likes of eBay if you decide not to follow up on the hobby, so is a good first time bet as you’ll get a good chunk of your money back.

Pros: High quality construction, accurate cuts, safe operation, easy to master, open & go

Cons: fiddly adjustment, bottle size limits, cutter spares, bottleneck ability extra

Overall Score: 8.5/10

G2 cutter review

The third bottle cutter I’ve bought is the Green Generation (G2) bottle cutter, which is a traditional design, using recycled aluminium, easily available worldwide from many internet retailers in the USA. I bought mine from Maple City Glass (http://www.maplecityglass.com/) via Ebay, and it arrived very quickly to the UK.

The cutter is flat packed, and assembly is simple following the diagrammatic instructions. The cutter uses a standard 6 wheel turret hand glass cutter, which makes it very economical and easy to replace in the future from any local tool merchant. The clamping nature of the holder means you could easily upgrade it to higher quality single wheel cutter, or traditional cutter of slightly different design. I don’t see many problems in accommodating several different cutters I’ve come across. As it comes, the supplied cutter is just fine, is light,  and balances well in the device.

G2 bottle cutter

 

The pre-formed plastic neck mount is securely permanently mounted on the top rod, and rests well in all the bottle necks I’ve tried it in so far. I’ve read the odd review mention of it snapping off, but I can’t see that being anything other than excessive force or lack of care in use, most likely by pulling down too hard in operation. It certainly seems very robust to me in use. If that did happen, there is scope to fix it by drilling the aluminium and creating a new pivot insert. The adjustment of the mounts are by wing-nuts, and it’s easy to adjust the position quickly to ensure the vertical rod is parallel with the main bottle body, and that the bottom rod and cutter are positioned correctly to keep the cutting wheel at 90 degrees to the glass surface.

Cutter grip

 Operation in the upright position in the photo above is very simple, requiring a careful grip of the bottom cutting section in one hand, and the rotation of the bottle on a flat surface with the other. Care needs to be taken to ensure the cut stays continuous and forward moving, avoiding going over the same section more than once. It does require a little dexterity at first, but you soon find a method that suits you. I’m left handed, and it’s proven no problem at all in that respect. You soon find the knack very quickly, and the nature of the position and method gives a very clean and fine score line, without the heavy pressure and chipping that can be found with the other glass cutters. It feels much more like the light touch required when cutting flat glass. I’m more than impressed with the score line, given the relative ordinaryness of the steel wheeled cutter itself. As a result, all the results so far have been excellent, and given a very clean break when separated with hot and cold water.  The package comes with a double ended internal cut tapper, but to be honest, I’d personally recommend you just forget about it and leave it in the box, and use the hot and cold water method. Tapping the score to run it is very erratic and unsatisfactory. If you can sell it on eBay for a pound or two, even better, and it will make your G2 cutter even more cost effective.

The adjustability of the angle of ‘attack’ using the vertical rod, means you can hit numerous different places on different designed bottles, and spin it cleanly, which isn’t always the case with heavily embossed bottles using the rolling type of glass cutter. The depth of the vertical rod also means you can cut large wine and spirit bottles right down at the base, as well as bottle necks as standard, without the need for any extra parts or home made adjustments. It makes for a very flexible device indeed. I’ve not found any significant issues at all so far, and have had an excellent sucess rate with it. All in all a very cost effective, simple and productive device that would make an excellent first choice of cutter. If you are going to just buy one cutter to just  try the hobby out, then this would be my personal recommendation. I’m more than happy with it as tool for regular use with other cutters.

Pros: Good value, recycled components, easy to replace cutter, very flexible cutting range 

Cons: Slight flimsy if very heavy handed, bulky for smaller bottle cutting.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10 

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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pb8Tdk6U4X0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xISU4sJ8q4&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8aWCOfrrJU&feature=related

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.