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 .
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