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.

Ephrem’s bottle cutter kit

Looking at various video clips on youtube, and reading a few sites and reviews, I’ve chosen the Ephrem’s bottle cutter, which is the horizontal type. It certainly appeared to have the most easily controlled and stable action compared to the vertical plastic one and the bottleneck suspended ones. Both hands are free to firmly apply pressure and rotate the bottle easily. The website itself shows the method clearer than I could describe:

http://www.ephremsbottleworks.com/how-it-works/ 

Ephrem's bottle cutter jig

Overall, on first impressions, I’m impressed with the stability and firmness of the base grips, the rotation of the wheels and end stop. This should give the best chance of a clean cutting line.

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.