Kinkajou bottle cutter review

It’s been very interesting to watch the Kinkajou bottle cutter emerge from kinkajouthe prototype stage to a very well presented cutter on the market via a successful fundraising and excellent web and blog based campaign. It’s great to finally get a chance to use something different to the long-established designs I’ve already used.

First impressions are that of a well made and very sturdy cutter, which will stand up well to the rigours of bottle cutting. The online guidance videos on how to use it are certainly very good indeed, and will give a novice bottle cutter a good chance for a successful start into bottle cutting, which is one of the drawbacks and off-putting features you frequently read about on forums from people who struggle intially and get downhearted after many failures. kinkajouextras As well as some written instructions, the standard pack contains some extra items including some good quality water-capable sandpaper, an wheel-less glass cutter for tapping and nibbling edges, and most interestingly, 3 pairs of differently sized rubber O-rings which is a unique inclusion, and will be looked at later on. It certainly bodes well as a well-thought out and inclusive package for a beginner.

The packaging claims an operating range of 43mm to 102mm, which though in part is slightly less capable than the G2 and Ephrems I use also, is enough to cover most soda, beer and wine sized bottles. As with those cutters, this cutter is design to cut round, straighter bodied bottles. kinkajoucut My first test run was on a Fentimans soda bottle, followed then by a regular wine bottle, and after lightly oiling the large cutting wheel and adding a little WD40 to the spring tensioner, I placed the cutter around the bottle. Manipulating the fit is straightforward, clearly demonstrated in the support videos, and the final tension the lever locks helps retain a firm grip on the bottle. The tracking wheels grip the bottle, and the overall balance when locked on is good, which helps give a confident rotation around the bottle, without feeling like it’s going to slip offline too easily. This was one of my initial wonders on the design, but it works well, and I can see it being mostly just human error rather than weak design for cutting scores to wander off. It’s certainly a firmer grip than I expected. The finger grooves around the body help you get a firm hold, in a variety of different positions, and the whole rotating operation is pretty sturdy  on a smooth round bottle, which give a good platform for a complete, accurate cut.  kinkajouaccuracyThe spring that loads the cutting wheel in place is a very strong one, built to last, and the lever mechanism locks the wheel down well, but my initial thoughts on my first two cuts are that it does put a slightly heavy amount of pressure on the surface, giving a heavier score than an experienced user of the Ephrem’s and G2 cutters would have hand-touch control over, as you have less rotating control over the pressure applied once cutting has started. I might find this will be easier to fine-tune using  the more I use it though, as it will be a compromise between the overall grip the cutter has on the bottle and the tension on the cutting head. Nevertheless, the first cut was accurate, meeting it’s tail nicely,  and easy to control in rotation.

The next step kinkajouringswas to break the score using the water method which I was glad to see advocated. I’m not a fan at all  of the candle and ice , hot oil, acetone or tapping methods. This gave the chance to first use the O-rings supplied. These are an interesting inclusion, and thought I’ve not had any problems with controlling the water pouring previously, I can see the reason behind using them. The three sizes are well selected, and on both bottles, they ensured a tight fit and gave a controlled water-sealing channel to minimise the hot water spread. They worked very well, and the break was easy to control when cold poured. I can see these being a very useful addition to a starter. A very simple and effective method of controlling the hot water flow, and keeping it away from the hand. kinajouedge2

Both my first two cuts were fine and flat. The slightly heavy scores left a few minor edge shells which would take a little more hand-work to make safe, but the flatness and accuracy of the cut is impressive enough for a first-time attempt, even allowing for my previous experience at cutting and breaking. I think it’s certainly a cutter that has been designed to be user-friendly, and to be able to give a novice a good chance at getting some early success, which is something the other cutters on the market can lack a little, with the poorer breaking methods encouraged. Starting at $49, it’s not the cheapest on the market, nor the most expensive. The large size replacement cutting wheel also isn’t the cheapest in comparison at $14.99, but has a suggested life of 200+ bottles.The additional items are good quality, and the overall feel is of a well made, solid cutter which offers good value for money and a decent range of capability for anyone wanting to try out the hobby. The overall modern presentation, social media and video tutorials is impressive and a fresh and modern approach to an old hobby, offering something different to the other cutters on the market today.

Pros:  Well made, accurate cuts, good value package, excellent tutorials and website.

Cons: slightly heavy scorelines, replacement wheel cost, some bottle size limitations.

Overall Score: 7/10

 

Upgraded Kinkajou Model: (June 2013)

upgradeA while ago, Bottle Cutting Inc announced an upgrade kit for the original Kinkajou cutter, to improve the performance of the cutter, based on some feedback received. This body change is the basis of the on-going models from March 2013. I ordered an upgrade kit to see how the changes worked out, and the package landed this week. The body is essentially the same, with the change being a full width row of four rollers per spindle, as opposed to the original two, as can be seen in the photo.rollers The change over of the body to reuse the original cutter mount and clamp parts was extremely simple, and I ran a few test cuts immediately. The grip the four rollers gave was an improvement over the original, and without even taking too much care to set up too accurately, the first few cuts were accurate, hitting 3 out of 4 exactly. I had a Blue Nun bottle, which I have found difficult to cut in the past due to ripples and unevenness in the body. I set it up carefully, right at the bottom of the bottle, and the result was an accurate meet. That impressed me, so it’s clearly a thought out improvement on the original. Score lines are still on the heavier side, and the cost of the upgrade on top of the original hasn’t made it the best value for money cutter, but the design change has been successful, and improves it’s performance clearly.

Upgrade/newer model  – Overall Score : 8/10

 

Lens Cutter review

Traditional suction centre circle cutters are widely available , but most do have a minimum circle size by design, determined by the size of the suction cup centre that they spin around. If you want to cut perfect circles smaller than 75mm or so, then a dedicated lens cutter is a must.

Lens cutterThis unbranded blue based model was sourced on Ebay for convenience, but from what I can see, it is identical in the red base coloured Easycut Lens cutter that is available from stained glass outlets for around the same money, give or take a few pounds. It’s a weighty, all metal construction and has a circle cutting range from as little as 10mm diameter through to around 125mm. The base and neck are very sturdily made, as is the spring loaded turning mechanism. Grid marksThe cutting head is a centre threaded three wheeler, of the same style as the Ephrem’s bottle cutter, though a different diameter and thread mount size. It screws to the adjustable cutter arm, and locks up tighly with a thumb screw and locking washers. The base is clearly marked with a centre cross, complete with numerical markings to one side. The adjustable cutter arm is also marked on one side with numerical spacings.

 The back face of the centre mount, though slightly ridged, acts as quite a useful backstop to help you keep the glass steady. There are no other glass restraining features on the glossy base, so that’s quite handy  if you are just cutting a circle out of a comfortably larger piece of glass without the need for marking out. Where a more exact cutting position is required, then you will be reliant on trying to hold the glass firm using the centre cross guide, which I can imagine might allow scope for the odd slip, but I’m sure in such circumstances, some improvisation with sticking tape, packing out with spacing blocks or a thin non-slip matting or rubber could help. Lens cutter 

Positioning the cutting head is relatively straight forward, as visibility is pretty good all round, and it’s easy enough to ensure the cutting wheel is at 90 degrees to the glass surface by rotating the arm around. The spring-loaded mechanism offers enough resistance to encourage you to place a firm downward pressure to contact the cutting wheel with the glass, and the operation to rotate is smooth and unhindered. It’s relatively intuitive to get the right amount of pressure to ensure a clean scoreline right from the first go, without the risk of pushing too hard. It’s all nicely weighted and designed. After lubricating the wheel, the first go at a circle produced a very clean score.Circle score It was relatively easy to see how the cut progressed, and the audiable scoring sound was clean through to the final click as the score met it’s starting point. One thing I noticed right away was that the circle was off-centre with the cross. After a few moments scratching my head, I realised the centre mount on my model had some play to move, so just needed tapped over and tightened up and all was fine. Just an observation noted in case anyone found a similar scenario. The 1-5 guide marks on the base suggest they are in centimetres, but it soon becomes clear they don’t scale up right, so using a ruler to convert to the number marking on the scale is essential. After that, you can set the wheel quite accurately using only eye adjustment with the base grid and the centre grove of the cutting wheel. Though problematic, with a bit of sensible judgement, you can get within a millimetre or so of a set diameter you might require. I know from experienced work colleagues, that there are few circle cutters that are accurate to the scale indicators. Manual checking is nearly always required, so though annoying, it’s not come as a great surprise.

circle break-outHow you chose to run and break out the glass circle is down to personal preference. Some might tap the score to visibly run, a glass-cutting colleague prefers to lay the cut face-down on a cutting table (firm felt), and  push down on the score. Once ran, you can, like me, cut from the score to the glass edge at N,S,E and W, and break out the circle, ready for gentle arrissing for use in copperfoil or other hobby uses.

circleThis lens cutter is a sturdy, and well designed tool for it’s rather specialised purpose. It might be considered a bit expensive a purchase for the occasional user who needs the odd small diameter circle cut, but it’s a quite good long term value tool for the money. It just works well right from the off, and unlike bottle cutters, has no real learning curve required other than knowing how to break out the circle, which those who want to cut circles will probably already know. One of those tools that just does what it says on the box, and does it pretty well with little user skill required. Having tried the alternative of hand cutting templated circles in a copper-foil class, I can see how this tool is much more preferable and accurate.

Pros: Sturdy, well made, accurate motion, easy to use, clean score, replaceable wheel

Cons: Lack of grip for small sizes or precise centres, scale not in millimetres. Initial outlay.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10

Ephrem’s Original cutter review

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 .

Ephrem's bottle cutter

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

G2 cutter review

The third bottle cutter I’ve bought is the Green Generation (G2) bottle cutter, which is a traditional design, using recycled aluminium, easily available worldwide from many internet retailers in the USA. I bought mine from Maple City Glass (http://www.maplecityglass.com/) via Ebay, and it arrived very quickly to the UK.

The cutter is flat packed, and assembly is simple following the diagrammatic instructions. The cutter uses a standard 6 wheel turret hand glass cutter, which makes it very economical and easy to replace in the future from any local tool merchant. The clamping nature of the holder means you could easily upgrade it to higher quality single wheel cutter, or traditional cutter of slightly different design. I don’t see many problems in accommodating several different cutters I’ve come across. As it comes, the supplied cutter is just fine, is light,  and balances well in the device.

G2 bottle cutter

 

The pre-formed plastic neck mount is securely permanently mounted on the top rod, and rests well in all the bottle necks I’ve tried it in so far. I’ve read the odd review mention of it snapping off, but I can’t see that being anything other than excessive force or lack of care in use, most likely by pulling down too hard in operation. It certainly seems very robust to me in use. If that did happen, there is scope to fix it by drilling the aluminium and creating a new pivot insert. The adjustment of the mounts are by wing-nuts, and it’s easy to adjust the position quickly to ensure the vertical rod is parallel with the main bottle body, and that the bottom rod and cutter are positioned correctly to keep the cutting wheel at 90 degrees to the glass surface.

Cutter grip

 Operation in the upright position in the photo above is very simple, requiring a careful grip of the bottom cutting section in one hand, and the rotation of the bottle on a flat surface with the other. Care needs to be taken to ensure the cut stays continuous and forward moving, avoiding going over the same section more than once. It does require a little dexterity at first, but you soon find a method that suits you. I’m left handed, and it’s proven no problem at all in that respect. You soon find the knack very quickly, and the nature of the position and method gives a very clean and fine score line, without the heavy pressure and chipping that can be found with the other glass cutters. It feels much more like the light touch required when cutting flat glass. I’m more than impressed with the score line, given the relative ordinaryness of the steel wheeled cutter itself. As a result, all the results so far have been excellent, and given a very clean break when separated with hot and cold water.  The package comes with a double ended internal cut tapper, but to be honest, I’d personally recommend you just forget about it and leave it in the box, and use the hot and cold water method. Tapping the score to run it is very erratic and unsatisfactory. If you can sell it on eBay for a pound or two, even better, and it will make your G2 cutter even more cost effective.

The adjustability of the angle of ‘attack’ using the vertical rod, means you can hit numerous different places on different designed bottles, and spin it cleanly, which isn’t always the case with heavily embossed bottles using the rolling type of glass cutter. The depth of the vertical rod also means you can cut large wine and spirit bottles right down at the base, as well as bottle necks as standard, without the need for any extra parts or home made adjustments. It makes for a very flexible device indeed. I’ve not found any significant issues at all so far, and have had an excellent sucess rate with it. All in all a very cost effective, simple and productive device that would make an excellent first choice of cutter. If you are going to just buy one cutter to just  try the hobby out, then this would be my personal recommendation. I’m more than happy with it as tool for regular use with other cutters.

Pros: Good value, recycled components, easy to replace cutter, very flexible cutting range 

Cons: Slight flimsy if very heavy handed, bulky for smaller bottle cutting.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10 

Armour Bottle & Jar Cutter review

The ‘Armour Bottle & Jar Cutter’ is an large , upright cutting device and, with the exception of a couple of wingnuts and the cutting wheel, made almost entirely of plastic. Despite a number of unfavourable reviews on the internet, I bought this cutter as a second option to try it out for product knowledge, with the intention of doing a review sometime on the blog, and to gain another option for getting under rims and for use on heavily curved bottles.

Armour cutter

The design of the cutter itself looks promising from the photogenic packaging, but on opening up, you soon find out that despite it’s size, it’s quite flimsy and lightweight. The two major parts – a base with a movable guide arm and the main tower – slot together and are joined by a white plastic pin (pictured in photo), which retains tightly but is no where near good enough for regular removal and re-entry a number of times without it getting damaged. You’ve obviously left with the choice of leaving the device intact permanently , and not storing it in it’s box, or replacing the pin with a metal bolt so you can take it apart regularly. The base has an inbuilt bench hook at the front, to try to prevent sliding backwards in use.

Armour cutting head

The cutter head sits on a plastic wedge retainer which then slides onto the tower rail. A plastic slot section is then attached above it to use as a guiderail for the tapper. An additional wedge is available to slot behind the cutting head, enabling the cutter to tilt forward and hit curved and angled glass surfaces at the desired 90 degrees. The wheel head itself contains only a single steel wheel , with no spares supplied in the box. As always, the wheel is lubricated before use.

The setting of the cutting head is quite versatile, with a large vertical range, and also a tilt feature, which lets you get in under teardrop shaped jar rim heads that other cutters cannot hit very well unhindered. The base arm has a curved adjustment groove, to allow you to provide a one-sided fixed stop position to the left, but on most jars and smaller bottles it’s in effect just a flat face so offers no real control over the spinning of a bottle or jar, nor does it help to maintain a good surface contact at all times with the cutting wheel by preventing backward or forward movement of the jar/bottle.backplate slot

To the right of the base is a slot , which captures the arm, allowing for a V-shaped holding stop central to the tower below the cutting head. This works fine in theory, but in reality the small lip just fails to retain the arm under even the slightest pressure and pops off -  It’s really useless! There is no fixing of the arm in this location, unlike the curve rail to the side. Neither position gives any real solidity to the bottle holding position, which is crucial in this design where you are in effect expecting to push the bottle/jar against a fixed cutting wheel, hold it on the base , and rotate the glass. This really just fails. Everything is too flimsy and loose to ensure a stable rotation at the correct pressure to ensure a consistent score line. Despite now being a confident and well practised bottle cutter, several attempts to use this cutter has failed to come up with a consistent score line of any acceptable quality comparable to other cutters, without resorting to a double handed guide-less rotation going backward and forward in multiple steps.

The whole design, in my opinion, is severely compromised by it’s lack of firm control and flimsy construction. It’s a real disappointment, as it looked like it was a natural for teardrop shaped bottles and jars, a couple of which I had kept back for it’s trial. I don’t like to be too negative in outlook, but this device really doesn’t cut the mustard, and would be very off-putting to anyone buying it to try the hobby. It’s off to the loft to gather dust, as I’m honestly reluctant to even pass it on or sell it on eBay. The accompanying book of glass designs is quite good, and worth a read to get some colourful ideas, though there’s little evidence of clean cut edges in there without heavy garnishing of polymer clay and paint - a hint of what’s in store maybe? I’ve only found one video online so far with this device in use, which was actually a promotional sales video for the product, and the ‘expert’ demonstration there was a a poor one also, with a poor finish demonstrated. Why it was put out instead of re-shot, I’m left wondering!  I’d really love to be proven wrong with this cutter, and see some video of it being used very successfully. If you find any, let me know!

Pros: instructional design book is worth a few £s for ideas and information

Cons: flimsy, bad design, lacks any confident control, poor operation, one cutting wheel

Overall Score: 2/10