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.