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!

Sauce bottle

The beauty of having more than one type of cutter is that it can give you a greater range of options in terms of bottle cutting heights and diameters. A few small bottles have been too narrow in diameter to fit onto the Ephrem’s cutter, but this is where the G2 cutter steps in nicely. One such bottle that I’ve been waiting to start on, when I finally emptied it, was a Sarsons Worcester Sauce bottle, which has a narrow neck with a lid ridge at the top, and an almost  flat shoulder above a cylindrical body. I thought the neck and shoulders would make a great base, and that the body would be fine on top of it.

Worcester SauceFirstly, the bottle was soaked to remove the label, and the drip lid was removed with the point of a screwdriver. The bottle was then cleaned thoroughly with hot water to remove the last of the sauce remains prior to cutting. The round of the shoulder of the bottle actually forms a clear step-in of less than 1mm onto the cylinder of the body, which gives it a distinctive line, but also makes it slightly awkward to cut. You don’t want it much lower, as it might make the base foot look odd, but too close might add risk to the cut as a good score line is especially important on a small bottle, and I noticed there was a slight variation in the bottle on a test spin with the cutter. I pushed it as high as I could, and hoped for the best. The scoreline was good, though close to the change in angle, so I took plenty of time to run the cut with the hot and cold water. I warmed the bottle slowly around the full diameter, and then quenched it under the cold. On close inspection, It had ran cleanly and fully, and separated perfectly on the next warming. The body of the glass was surprisingly thick at around 3mm, and more substantial to work with than most beer bottles.

The clean breaks were gently arrissed down in 3 stages with increasingly finer grade diamond pads, and then scrubbed clean and dried. The base was then UV glued onto the neck top. Though the base was largely embossed with numbers, they actually didn’t hinder a central position for the narrow neck. The UV torch was used initially for speed, but as it was clear glass, I left it in the window for the day to fully cure naturally.

Worcester

The narrow body with it’s internal opening diameter of about 42mm is a really great fit for most tea-lights. All in all, a very nice little bottle to work on with an attractive end result. The neck and shoulders really make it work. It goes to show that you should keep an eye on all your glass containers for potential use, including sauce bottles and jars, and not just the more usual beer and wine bottles. I’m looking at all the condiment bottles and jars  when shopping now.

Jig extension for cutter

The Ephrem’s cutter is a great piece of kit. By far the best of the two types I’ve used so far (the Ephrem’s and the Armour). Using it’s adjustable end plate and rear wheel positions, you can cut a good range of bottle sizes and achieve various positions of cuts. One project I’m aiming to try out is a hanging bottle tealight lamp, suitable for use in a garden or yard. For those, the bottom of a bottle is cut off, finished, and then the bottle is slid over a coiled wire hanger through the neck, to create a wind sheltering, attractive candle surround, hopefully with some nice bottle colours.

The only way I’d been able to work this cutting length on the Ephrem’s was to remove the end stop, and place the cutter on the kitchen worktop up near to the solid flat face of the fridge-freezer, and use that as an end-stop for the neck end. It was awkward to find the true perpendicular from the fridge for the best cut, and my rolling technique was hampered on one side by the fridge. It also wasn’t going to be the smartest move to risk marking the fridge coating and get a deserved ear-bashing!

Feeling surprisingly resourceful and useful today, I decided to set myself a little ‘scrap-yard challenge’ , to quickly solve this and knock a few of these bottle hangers out in about an hour using just the rough old hand tools and bits of scrap products in the shed. I had the design in mind – a longer base with two firm rails down each side to hold the cutter, which would retain the cutter and allow it to move up and down as required up against a permanent end stop. The Ephrem’s is not wide, so I didn’t need a wide plank for a base – a floorboard offcut  I had was just about right (about 5mm wider would have been ultra-neat), and I cut it to suit a full size wine bottle length, and had plenty left to form the end-stop.

Homemade cutter jigA hardwood quadrant bead remnant from my front door installation last year was ideal to form the two side rails. I also had a couple of 4-holed right angle brackets , which I had put on top of the screw cabinet about 10 years ago thinking “I’ll use them one day” and here that day was! I formed the 90 degree end stop using these brackets, and some salvaged short screws from the old screw tub. The side rails were tacked onto the plank, and that was the job complete – rough as you like – in only about twenty minutes.The only ‘new’ product was half a dozen tacks to nail the side rails on. Unfortunately nails don’t salvage straight, unlike removed screws!

bottomless bottlesThen came the moment of truth – trying it out. The brackets kept the end-stop true and strong, and the rails do their job though the Ephrem’s has non-slip rubber feet (which is the only thing I yet need to find for the jig bottom) so it doesn’t move about much anyway. Three full size wine bottles of different designs were attempted, and gave three good results, which cut cleanly and true. These will be edge-finished tomorrow ready to be used with some wire hangers as garden tealight lamps.

All in all a very cheap and quick little project, which I know will prove to be very useful indeed, and give results that will be popular with friends and family who have the garden space to have BBQs and summer evening outdoor entertaining. It’s almost a complete cycle, as it’s some of those evenings that are providing the empty bottles to make these bottomless bottles.

Bottle neck profiles

There’s obviously a lot of different styles of bottles, and also bottles can vary dramatically in quality and ease of use when it comes to this hobby. Learning the characteristics of the sort of bottles you can easily obtain locally comes from practise, and you can soon get a feel for a number of brands whose bottles just kind of work for you. One such bottle that has been working a treat for me is a J.P.Chenet small wine bottle (18oz) which can be seen in this link here : http://www.jpchenet.com/cabernet-syrah-en.html

It has an elegant thin neck, with a wide embossed shoulder, which makes for a great base for an elevated tealight holder, say for a table centrepiece or a mantlepiece. The size is nice, and rather fortunately , as it’s just a bit much for a normal wine glass, you tend to get the bottle presented to you from the bar to finish pouring , and to then take home with you! At first I had written the bottle off, as it has a strange side indentation, as well as a cut-in groove on the base, but in the end , the neck interested me most so I tried one. The bottle rotated fine on the Ephrems cutter, and the score ran cleanly. One thing I noticed was that the glass was much thicker on the back of the bottle than it was at the front where the emboss was – obviously a result of the embossing procedure, but it caused no difficulty. 

J P Chenet necks

The neck lends itself well to using another single portion wine bottle body (centre) or a beer bottle sized body (left & right)  to be added, as in the photo to the left. An elegant end result, and I’ve now made four of these so far, with only one ‘failure’ through bad technique on my part. A good solid bottle to work with.