Better finishing

With a real turnaround in the weather after what has seemed like months of rain, I’ve been busy collecting more bottles from the streets , and trying to plough through quite a big backlog of bottles building up in the yard. I’ve recently passed the 100 bottles mark of bottles I’ve picked up off the streets in the ten minute walk home to and from work. Many have been reused, with surprisingly few being too badly scratched to attempt, which get recycled.

I’ve been trying to improve techniques, and really have the cutting and breaking down to a good standard now, leaving as little finishing as possible, but it still takes some time to get to a good standard that I feel happy with. I’m still astounded at how some cut bottles are presented as finished in books and on the Internet, when they are very poor and uneven. A quick rub round with sandpaper really doesn’t cut it.  I want it totally smooth, as uniform as possible and as safe as possible for an edge that is manually finished. Getting small shells on the inner surface has always proven to be the biggest problem when flatting off the cut face. It’s harder to finish the inner edges without catching a surface and leaving scratches, so these shells can leave the edge too difficult to finish to the standard that I want to achieve. I’ve been varying the method order, and started to gently edge the inside edge first, on a shallow angle at first, holding the bottle firmly on it’s side on a wooden surface to avoid movement. When I get the inside edge to a good enough standard, I move onto the outer edge, repeating the holding down technique to minimise movement. Once both edges are complete, only then do I begin to use the flat of the diamond pad to level off the width of the cut surface to remove all crater signs and level it off, creating a nicely clean , “flat and arris” style edge. This was the process that added a few edge shells to the thinner bottles, so leaving it unitl the edges are done reduces the risk dramatically. I should have worked out this sooner, but now I have, it’s producing massively better and more reliable results,  and actually reduces the time taken by around a half – a real bonus, when the finishing process is the major time consuming one compared to the cutting itself.

So there you have my process recommendation:-   inside edge, outside edge , flatting

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