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!

Blue bottle vase

I’ve not come across blue glass quite so easily since I started cutting bottles, and am always keen to get more as the results look good. I could go out and buy blue glass bottle products, of course, but that’s kind of defeating the object of having a free cost material to work with.

I received a second blue bottle of Ty Nant spring water, which is a teardrop shaped glass bottle with a long narrow neck. The first one I tried turned out to be a bit of a disaster, and ran in all sorts of directions, including in straight vertical lines down the bottle when heated, which is something I’ve not come across before. Four attempts to salvage something from the bottle with fresh spaced cuts down the bottle all failed and it was a dead loss. I was left wondering if the shape of the bottle was a problem in terms of adding stress to the glass, as the straight runs particularly at the neck curve were quite explosive under the warm water pouring. Or was it maybe a peculiarity of heating blue glass, as I had also a lot of problems with the Blue Nun bottles, which were regular cylindrical shapes, though quite uneven. Time will tell as I learn more through practise, but blue glass is something I’m going to attempt very carefully to try to increase the chances of success than I’ve had so far.

So on my second attempt at a Ty Nant blue bottle, I first tried to remove aboutBlue bottle vase 80mm from the narrow neck at the top, using the G2 cutter. I positioned the cutting wheel so there was a clear contact , though this was not so easy given the curving nature of the glass. The score line was good, and I began to gently heat the glass with the hot water for a couple of rotations. Then on quenching under a cold running tap, the reflection of a clean break could be seen, but not all the way around, and by then the temperatures had fallen, so it was back to reheating. This is the point where it is more vulnerable, as a single clean break all the way round first time seems to produce the best results. On the second quench, it began to run off, so I stopped immediately, and dried the bottle for a second cut further down the bottle.

Second time around was successful, as can be seen from the photo above. I left a good 40mm or so from the failed cut, as I knew the likelyhood of a vertical split was high. I heated the glass gently, but for longer, and got a visible break first time all the way round the circumference under quenching. A second gentle heating then cleanly separated the two halves. I edged down the top very carefully and patiently indeed, using three grades of diamond pads in a bowl of warm water. I really didn’t want any slips, and subsequent scratches to spoil this piece. It went well, and I’ve got another very attractive blue glass item. It makes for a good vase (140mm high, around 80-90mm wide).

Drilled and lit Bottles

I’ve never been one for all the glitter, fake snow and tinsel at Christmas. I don’t mind seeing a decorative tree , but the cats climbing instincts soon put pay to that idea. I think what’s most appealing about this time of year are the decorative lights, not the flashing snowmen and Santa sleds, but the more tasteful banks and chains of coloured lights.

There’s loads of nice examples on the internet of bottles lit with lights inside, and people generally do a real nice job of decorating them too. As with a lot of the things I’ve tried so far, for now, I just wanted to give it a quick whirl to see how difficult it was. As yet, I’ve not had the chance to try a drilled bottle, so I got a chain of 20 white LED fairy lights, and some ceramic/glass drill bits (not the spearhead type, the diamond tipped core type). The modern LED type of lights are best for this, because they are cheap and widely available, as well as reliable and available powered mains or neat battery packs. The main benefit is that the LEDs themselves, combined with the cable returns are quite small, so they can pass through a smaller sized hole in the bottle back, making it both easier to do and neater to conceal.

I only had a couple of empty wine bottles handy at the time, but they looked fine. After checking the bulb dimension, I figured a 12mm diamter hole would still be fine to pass the lights through, even after a rubber donut grommet was placed in the hole. I think anything less than 10mm diameter would become a battle for many LED lights, as you may want to remove the string, and a tight fit may end up requiring pulling on the delicate wires too hard for their own good. Drilling glass should be done with water to keep the bit and the glass cool. A good way to do this, as seen on YouTube, is to form a circular wall around the hole target with plasticine, to form a mini reservoir of water inside. A pillar drill is best to ensure a consistently square downward motion. You could be a bit more ‘adventurous’, shall we say, and drill the bottle manually with a cordless handheld drill, with the glass submerged in water. Obviously this makes it much harder to ensure a steady drive through the glass, but especially difficult to get the hole going without slipping. I did it this later way, angling the bit first to get a biting groove before elevating the drill up to the vertical. It worked OK, but I’d recommend only the pillar drill method is used for best and safest results. When drilling flat glass for commerical use, it’s usually drilled both sides to ensure the best result. Obviously with a bottle this option isn’t there, so a slow and steady speed and only light pressure is best to avoid chipping either face heavily. You’ll know your starting to abrade the glass when glass dust clouds the water. When cleanly through, you should arris the edges of the hole as best you can with a bit or some rolled sandpaper (try folding it round a pencil). It’s tricky to arris a small hole, but as I’d recommend a rubber grommet is always used with wiring holes, you need not spend to much time on it as this will help cover most things.

Lit olive bottle

Clean and thoroughly dry the bottle out. I did notice that the hole helped it act like a chimney and the mositure dried it out very quickly when the bottle was left sat in front of a warm fire. This method of warmer drying leaves it streak free, which isn’t always possible just tipping it up, and you need it streak free and sparkling if you are putting lights inside as they will show. Once sparkling, then you can add the grommet, and begin to feed the lights through the hole. A good tip is to tilt the bottle downwards, to hopefully encourage the end of the chain of lights to come down the neck of the bottle until you can grab a hold of the end. Keep this end sticking out and held while you feed the rest of the lights into the main body. Then at the end, it will hopefully be bulked out enough to keep a few lights right up in the neck and shoulder area. You don’t want to see them all slumped down i the main body, as when lit, you want to keep the shape of the bottle body lit up. Shake it about gently to improve the look if they are too cluttered together. Sometimes, you’ve just got to do it again to get the best balance.

Frosted lit effect

Cork the bottle if you prefer, and that should be your simple lit bottle project done. You could further garnish the bottle more with etching, glues, paints and decorative objects. Clear coloured bottles work well, but you can find the occasional frosted effect bottle ‘off the shelf’ , as pictured right, to help diffuse the effect of the lights and bring the overall bottle shape out really well. Either way, the effect of the coloured glass with the fairy lights is quite atmospheric in a darkened room. These two are just quick experiments but I can see it’s going to be interesting to really take some time and create a really good looking bottle for all year round use, or festively themed one for the Christmas period. Hopefully this quick little attempt and description may be of use to someone wanting to try drilling a bottle. It was easier than I had expected, and there’s loads of much better examples of peoples work on the internet to give some ideas.