Ullswater Suncatcher

One of my favourite longer distance walks the The Ullswater Way, which has just celebrated it’s 1st anniversary of it’s launch in 2016. It was formalised to help boost Ullswatertourism and activity in the Ullswater valley after horrific flooding from Storm Desmond wreaked havoc in December 2015. In that first year, it has truly become one of the great lake district walks, partly because of the natural range and beauty of Ullswater, but also because of how well the walk has been completed, promoted, signposted and made accessible to many more walkers by being broken down into sections that tie in with the Ullswater Steamers piers,

Ullswater waythe two main towns and parking facilities. This helps people, who maybe cannot complete the full 20+ mile circular in one go, to tackle in in two or three visits. It’s been done beautifully, and looks like it has begun to repay the investment already judging by it’s popularity. I’ve tackled it twice already in the first year, doing both the lower-level walk, and the higher add-on options in a clockwise direction. Both walks have been very enjoyable indeed, with an full array of all the Lake District has to offer in one walk – fauna and flora galore, forest trails,lakeside beaches, hills, meadows and great views all over, not to mention a few cafes and ice-cream pit stops! It’s tremendous, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’ll be doing it time and time again for sure. 

I’m always on the lookout for rubbish when walking, being a pet-hate of mine, and I clear what I can when I come across it, particularly glass bottles which are veryBecks hazardous to the wildlife and walkers alike. On my second time round The Ullswater Way, I came across a discarded Becks beer bottle in plain sight off one of the footpaths between Glenridding and Glencoyne. It had been lying for some time judging by the dirt and label degradation, so I bagged it up, with the intention of upcycling it into something. Recovering discarded glass bottles from the Lake District as I do my walks has become a bit of a MO for me now, always going prepared with a couple of carrier bags in my rucksack. I’ve not come across too many thankfully, but the count is certainly increasing. I’m trying to build up a range of upcycled items from bottles I’ve recovered from The Lake District, some really simple, and some a bit more elaborate, with the intention of hopefully using them to raise some funds for mountain rescue teams in the future. I’m thinking the idea will be to use the bottle’s original location to designate any funds raised to the MR team in that area. I do get about a bit, so hopefully it would suncatcherspread things around, and I do log down and photograph any finds I come across to show where it was found.

I’ve made a more elaborate bordered suncatcher from a Troutbeck bottle find, so I thought for this one, I’ll just do a simple five piece suncatcher. I might need some simpler items to get people interested in making a MR donation for them. The bottle was green, and going through my boxes of glass, I picked out a strong amber old cathedral glass to contrast significantly with the green bottle end. The bottle end cut easily, and I cut and then shaped the amber glass using my grinder. suncatcherAfter foiling, soldering and cleaning, I used black patina, and polished it up with black grate polish. It’s 100mm square, to avoid things getting too heavy and a hanger. Here’s the end result. Another pleasing little result from stumbling across other peoples rubbish in the beautiful Lake District.

Idealistic upcycling

I’ve been picking up bottles from the streets in town for a number of years, recycling and upcycling them, and I like the double benefit of removing litter and making something nice to show from it. When I’m out walking in the Lake District fells, occasionally I come across litter around the paths, which gets picked up, but also at odd times I find discarded beer bottles which I find particularly annoying, as it’s disrespectful and selfish, not to mention a long term environmental hazard to wildlife and walkers alike.

Discarded bottle

Discarded bottle

One such example is this discarded Stella bottle, which I spotted embedded in a riverbank near Troutbeck Bridge. I recovered it, and thought about making something to compliment the area it was recovered from. I cleaned and separated the bottle bottom using the processes I’ve outline several times on this blog before. I selected a green on white baroque glass, as the green flows and white wisps are reminiscent of the lake district fells and rolling clouds. I also had a deep green water glass that complimented the bottle centre, so went with this for the 10mm border, and finished with a black polished patina.

Troutbeck suncatcher

Troutbeck suncatcher

 I’m pleased with this one, in particular because it’s something nice made out of what is ultimately a selfish and inconsiderate act of littering one of the most beautiful areas in the world. I’m hoping to make more specifically from bottles I might come across in my fell walking, maybe making a little series of sun-catchers that come from salvaged Lake District litter, hopefully I might even be able to raise some funds in lieu from them for a Lake District charity like ‘Fix The Fells’. That would really be the ultimate full-circle upcycling to me.

Grey Goose Vodka Vase

I was asked to cut down a Grey Goose vodka bottle to help replace a broken one from a set someone had. greygooseI wasn’t mad keen, as I’ve been really focused on the copper-foil designs with my spare time, but I agreed out of curiosity of what the bottles were like as a one-off favour. I’d seen these bottles used a lot for bottle cutting state-side, but not had one to try before.  There’s not a lot of range of where to cut due the nature of the etched design, with around 15mm window of flat bottle just above the goose’s head. I decided to give the Kinkajou cutter a go on this one, and the cut went ok, but on water fracturing there was a tiny run showing, which had to be flatted out quite deeply with the pads. This is where the lack if space hinders a second lower cut to get a perfect flat. The end result was still pretty good in the end though, though I have done better. It was interesting to try, and the etched finish stood up to the process, though I was very careful to avoid scratching and rubs.

Old Tom bottle candles

One very useful bottle I’ve had donated a couple of times is an Old Tom strong ale bottle, which comes in various flavours, including a chocolate beer. It’s has a heavily embossed branding section on the main body section, but the neck and bottom sections have protruding smooth sections that are just big enough to set the cutting wheel onto, which makes them useful for container cuts or for removing the bottom.

The bottles usuallywick setting cut pretty well as the glass is consistent and fairly thick, and the preparation of the edges goes very well indeed as a result. The photo to the right shows the cut at the neck, finished to a good standard.

Once prepared, the first step I take is to place the wick in the centre of the bottle. I prefer to use  small piece of 1mm black high tack double sided tape to stick it to the bottom of the glass, to really help it stick and allow a strong tension upwards for straightness. Once centred, I wrap it round a wick pin, which I find easier than to pierce the wick with it, as it enables you to tension the wick if required. Orange candle

All that remains is to pour in the candle. I like to use a strong colour dye, such as orange or red, to give a bit of contrast to the bottle colour. There’s much better advice on candle-making on the net than my efforts, but I’ve been quite pleased with the results so far. Most look pretty neat, and make a nice gift for family or a friend. I made a couple for the friend who donated the bottles, and they keep them on the fireplace just for show as they like the end look. The bottle diameter has been good for the candle burn and the melt-pool, without tunnelling, and a test burn I did for curiosity showed a full Old Tom burned for over 24 hours.

 

Yellow bottle suncatcher

A hot and sunny bank holiday Sunday gave an ideal chance to get outside and do some cutting and soldering in the yard, avoiding fumes and glass splinters in the house. I wanted to make another bottle centre suncatcher, this time as a gift for an upcoming celebration.

First thing to do was to look in the box of glass sheets and see what might work together. I had bought a number of random pack sheets, and had a yellow and white opalescent Spectrum sheet that I hadn’t seen a use for previously. I wanted to make an offset coloured border around the suncatcher like the last one I made, which turned out strong and attractive, so settled on that colour. A brown beer bottle centre was ideal for the job, this time made from a discarded bottle of Budweiser collected from a street on the walk home from work. outdoor workshopWith a near solid yellow border, and a brown bottle centre, I wanted a semi opaque glass that would compliment and blend both together. I had a part-used light amber Cathedral sheet from a recent prairie style hanger which was perfect for the job.

Cutting the glass went very easily this time round. Using the cross template, the amber Cathedral cut beautifully, with no problems around the circle outline of the bottle bottom. As further practise for cutting accuracy, I again cut the yellow border just on a measurement basis, with no template, which was close enough for soldering, yellow suncatcherbut did require the use of pins to manipulate slightly to make all the joints meet up smoothly and look square when tinned.

Soldering was completed neatly using K grade solder. To finish off, a corner hanger with longer legs to cross over two pieces of the border for strength was added to the top corner, and I went with a copper patina finish to nicely compliment the yellow and brown colours. The amber and yellow tones all blend together nicely, and has some favourable reactions already.

Jaribu bottle top stem

Patrick Lehoux, the creator of the Kinkajou bottle cutter, has launched a very interesting looking second project on kickstarter.com to enhance the bottle cutting experience, namely a bottle neck stem which he has called The Jaribu. Jaribu You read and see more of the project on The Jaribu Kickstarter page.

The idea is to manufacture a stable and hygienic base which allows you to utilise the often redundant neck sections of cut bottles, and make them into glassware. As is often the case, the beauty and success of such ideas is the simplicity of design and execution. The tapered stem will fit and seal a great number of bottle neck styles and sizes, allowing the necks to be used as funky drinking glasses, while offering a stable base footing. They will also be very useful to make small vases for cut flowers and table centrepieces.

What I really like about the designs are the very attractive base and colours, and the benefits of a removable base for hygienic cleaning compared to fixed glass bottom glasses on many  go without saying. It’s not easy to clean down a bottle neck that is permanently sealed off, even with bottle brushes, and this way also keeps glass glues away from the consumed liquids. With a removable stopper, you can simply replace the bottle neck in the event of a breakage, which is a big plus. I’ve tried one of the commercially made beer bottle glasses at a relative’s house, and they are nice looking and perfectly fine, but this gives the hobbyist a chance to make some interesting products in a very sustainable way. It gives the idea of an upturned bottle glass a much cleaner and more modern look than those ugly bottle bottom bases you see in the few books on the subject.

It’s no surprise to see that the project has already massively smashed it’s initial fundraising target of $15,000, with almost 700 backers pledging nearly $50,000 already. I’ve backed it, and look forward to trying them out after launch. Looks like Patrick is well onto the way of another very successful product, enhancing the bottle-cutting experience a great deal.

Beer bottle desk tidy

There are a good number of attractive real ale type of bottles on the market, many with imaginative label designs that appeal to the eye, but most are made of a pretty poor quality paper label, which is a shame as they could be so good if they were more durable. penpotI got a whole load of beer bottles given, but only one had a durable, high gloss vinyl type of finish that would be good to survive the water-based breaking process and subsequent use. The labels are usually large, so it limits the cut line to the top shoulder, but this makes for a deep pot with a number of uses. One thing I’ve found lately is the number of brewers who are switching from inkjet ‘best before’ dates to engraved ones. The later remain obtrusive on the bottle , whereas the ink-jet ones will come clean off with the help of a sharp blade, leaving a much cleaner look for a bottle cutter’s end use! This one had the engraved date right on the same shoulder, but it didn’t cause any difficulty in the cutting and cleaning up of the edge. The end result of this Dent Brewery Aviator bottle is perfect, and will be used as a desk pen pot. Very simple, easy to do and much nicer looking and greener than a plastic piece of desk clutter from a stationery shop. One for a real ale fan maybe.

Catching up on cutting

I’ve not done much in the way of bottle cutting in the last month or so as I have been busy working on a few copper foil items and also a lead came design in the class I’ve been attending. The nearest I’ve got was doing a single cut on a wine bottle to make a hurricane to send to a friend in Norway , leaving a bottom end which I bonded to a circular piece of 3mm clear again in preparation for a centrepiece for another copper-foil hanger like the last two posts. All good practise and fun though. various

So it was time for a bit of a catch up on the bottles. I’d been given a green Champagne bottle on Thursday, so I cut that to make another vase. The weight of these strong and thick bottles is ideal for this use. I also cut a street salvaged Smirnoff vodka bottle for use as a vase, though the paper labels were unsaveable having been exposed for a long time to the elements.It’s still distinctive though. A large J P Chenet clear wine bottle was cut to make a pot pourri dish (front right in photo), which  will be filled later. Finally, I rescued a 1.5 litre plonk bottle from the flowerbeds on the walk home from work yesterday, and cut it low to make a useful finger dish (front left in photo) , ideal for nibbles or similar use. A perfect example of a kerb to the table reworking. It’s perfect, and looks good in the flesh. Good to be back at it in earnest again using discarded materials. Next plan is looking towards christmas, with a whisky bottle I’ve had since January, which I plan to decorate and insert christmas lights.

Tomato ketchup bottle

A colleague fetched in a Heinz 57 tomato sauce bottle to see if it was any good to try, so have given it a go. The bottom of the bottle is quite promising, with octagon faceting, with radius tops at the neckline. Above that the neck returns to a round shape, has four of the famous ’57’ logo numbers  and tapers away forming the neck. Heinz Ketchup 

The shape dictates using a vertical aligned cutter, in this case I used the G2. The neck opening is larger than most wine bottles, and I wondered if would cause an issue of control when the cutter was spun in the opening, but it fitted fine. The only viable cutting line to leave a nice design was just above the ’57’ numbers. The cutting head was at an angle, so I had to keep a firm grip on the support arm and be careful to ensure the line didn’t drift up or down as it sometimes can as you move round on the more awkward shapes. The cut was clean enough, and these ketchup bottles are slightly thicker than most beer bottles, so it broke relatively cleanly, and presented no difficulty to careful arrissing of the edges. '57' Ketchup bottle 

The end result isn’t a bad looking pot at all, with a bit more about it than some bottle chops. For use it could be a little mini-vase say for a kitchen window cill, but in this first instance, I’ve ordered some red wax dye, and will pour a ketchup coloured candle into it. I’ll try to add a photo of it in the near future if successful.

Peppermill pot

When you are looking for new ideas, particularly with background ethos of this blog being finding free glass sources from day to day life, it’s always worthwhile taking a look at every glass item you use or find to see if it could be useful. I’m always looking at jars, pots and bottles both on the supermarket shelves or, if bought and used, just before they go in the recycling bin.

Peppercorn millOne item that I took a closer look at when empty and about to be recycled was a small spice-jar sized black peppercorn mill. The plastic grinding mill section hides the top edge, so I didn’t know if it would be suitable for any use until the plastic was prized off with a small screwdriver. Pepper mill pot To my surprise, the top of the pot was not like a regular spice jar, but had a turreted edge, which is clearly a structural part of the grinder mechanism fixing. This gave me two initial thoughts on how to use it. As you can see from the photo on the right, it’s quite an attractive shaped pot, so was a prime candidate to pour a candle into. The other thought I had, which I will hopefully try after the next one is empty, would follow on from this weeks creative glass course learning, and copper-foil the turreted edge and other parts of the body to enhance the ‘castle’ shape of the pot. For this one, as I happen to be on with another candle pot, I decide to go with the candle thought, which meant no further work on the glass than just striping off the label and grinder, and giving it a good scrub out – dead easy!

Turret edgeA full size wick was adhered to the internal base, and another unexpected bonus of the turret top was that it was perfect to place a centralised wick holding pin for the pouring and setting stage. The paraffin wax was dyed orange, and right at the last moment before pouring I added some orange and cinnamon fragrance. Oranfe candleholderAs usual, some slumping occurred around the wick, so a number of gentle reheats were required using the gas torch to level off. I guess the narrow circumference makes this more of a problem than with beer and wine bottles which only need a secondary remelt normally.