Stonethwaite Votive

Off for a few days over the Christmas and New Year period, so was about time I did something else bottle related. I’d had a large brown bottle sitting to do for some time, having found it buried at the foot of a dry stone wall in the Stonethwaite valley,Brown Bottle off Borrowdale in The Lake District. Judging by the style, and the moss overgrowth almost concealing it completely, it must had been there for a number of years. I pulled it out carefully, trying to minimise the disruption to the mosses as much as possible. Despite having a large chip on the base, a few scratches from the stones and some heavy weathering, it looked useful for something. It has sat for most of the year, but I recently obtained a round uncut log from a friend who has a log-burner, and thought it would make a good base for a wine bottle or larger bottle size like this one. Looking at the brown bottlebottle, the main cylinder was good, despite the grime and a few scratches, so I decided a cylinder cut would be the aim, as it was a good colour and size. The old label and the grime from years of heavy Lake District weather took a lot of cleaning off with a blade and some hot water. I then commenced the cutting and completed the top and tail cutting to form the cylinder successfully, without any loss. The edges of the cut bottle were then ground and polished up in my usual method, using a number of different diamond pads. The end result was pretty good, smooth and pretty flat to the eye. 

I’d been to help another friend on his house build this weekend, and took the log to him to slice up. He had a brand new bench saw which sailed though the log beautifully, leaving a smooth finish that require no further sanding. All this left was for me to router a circle groove into the face in which to stand the cut bottle cylinder. I did this again with my Dremmel and it’s circular router attachment. No finish was added to the wood, which I had dried out thoroughly by the fire for weeks prior to cutting. As it was for candles, I didn’t want anything that could be affected by heat or potentially burn.

The end result, shown here with a tealight inside, Stonethwaite Votiveis quite pleasing, but it is also large enough to take a pillar candle too. Another pleasing upcycle from a bottle I have salvaged whilst walking in the Lake District. I’m really enjoying finding occasional bottles there, knowing I can clear the hazard and make something good from it where possible. Littering in The Lake District in particular is a huge peeve of mine, and it’s nice to be contributing in reducing it a little.


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.


1664 go large

Probably one of my favourite beer bottles to find and cut has been the green embossed Kronenbourg 1664 lager bottles. Not only is it a well made glass bottle, but has a nice looking embosed number around the lower body and a clean flat ridge to set the cutter to, leaving a very useful and good looking size of pot to hold tea-light candles in. I’ve literally made dozens of these already, and they work well.

I spotted a much larger version (660 ml)  in the supermarket this week, so grabbed one to try, but had to work my way through the crate to find a good clean one that didn’t have a rub on the shoulders where the bottles collide in transport. Being a tea-totaller, I whipped it round to the brother-in-law to do me the favour of performing the gruelling task of drinking a free beer, which he did with consummate speed and good grace!

1664 660mlI set the bottle up on the Ephrem’s cutter, as it was a good fit at this size, and cut a neat score, which  broke cleanly using the regular hot and cold water technique, saving both the base and the large neck which I’ll retain for another project. I edged both in my usual fashion, using two grades of diamond pads, and the end results were perfect. A very satisfying try-out of a useful bottle design in a larger size. I’ve photographed it here with the regular beer size for comparison. It’s large enough to take a smaller pillar candle, and could be used as a centre with a few smaller 1664 tea-lights around it.

Hanging bottle lights

Now I’d made a home-made jig to successfully cut the bottoms from full size wine bottles using the Ephrem’s bottle cutter, I ordered a number of the hanging tealight holders from the Creative Glass Guild in Bristol.

Lit nottle hanger I guess long term the most economical option will be to actually make hangers at home, but these hangers are really excellent quality for the money. There are made from copper plated heavy gauge steel, and come ready to go with the eye-hook hanger and correctly positioned coils for the shoulder centrally suspend the bottle by the shoulder. A formed cup holds the tealight at the base, and the coils can be manipulated to suit the bottle length you have cut. They are very attractive right from the box, and the luscious copper colour makes them ideal for indoor or purely decorative use. Time will tell how they react with the elements outside. I’d imagine they might get their patina over time and look quite rustic. 

Brown bottle hanger

I already had a green bottle prepared from testing the homemade bottle cutter jig (blogpost: jig extension for cutter), so slid it on, lit the tealight, and hung it up outside, as seen in the night photograph above. I’d kept a nicely shaped brown bottle for use as a hanging bottle. I cut it down right at it’s base which went perfectly, as I’ve found the thickness near the bottom can be very variable and therefore difficult to cleanly break. The edges were finished very carefully, as this would be a point of access for hands.  As you can see from the photo, the bell-like shape to this bottle works very well, and makes a very attractive bottle light hanger.

Blue Nun hanger

And just completed and added is this Blue Nun wine bottle. These bottles can be quite erratic in glass thickness and consistency, and difficult to work with as a result, but the colour is really great, and should offer a nicely tinted light at night when lit. I’m looking out for a range of different coloued wine bottles. All of the different shoulder shapes so far have worked fine with these votive hangers, which are very flexible.

Candles in the cut bottles

Tealights are a simple and inexpensive option – just drop one in the your candle-holder, maybe mounted in some sand or decorative stones , and there you have it. Light it and change to a new one when expired. If you want something with a longer burn time, then putting a bigger candle in your bottle-made candle-holder is straight forward.  Obviously, you could get into candle-making, and make your own candle using your bottle projects as the receptacles, but that’s another hobby to learn and do. I think I will try it sometime soon, but just for now, I thought I’d try out the holders using a regular shop bought candle.

How to mount the candle in a bottle bottom became the next question. These can be flat, or they can also be domed in the case of wine bottles – not ideal to fix a candle to. The candle needs to be relatively secure, so it doesn’t fall or rattle about when it is inevitably leaned over when being moved. Do I make some sort of metal spike base, to spear the candle to the bottom of the jar? That could be messy, unreliable, create fractures and make it tricky to clean out safely when the candle life was expired. Melted wax sticks to glass, so I heated the base of the candle over the bottle body using a butane torch, and let some wax drop into the base, until the bottom was covered in a few millimetres of wax. Then I heated the bottle bottom to re-liquify the wax in the bottle base, and when melted, I place the candle down and held it until the two waxes combined and stuck. The problem with this process is that it was messy, leaving drips down the side of the bottle, and also it was difficult to get the candle to set in a perfectly upright position. The end result, though solid and reliable for moving about, was not the prettiest it could be. Certainly not to the standard where you would buy it in a shop ( a classic Quality Control test I use from years of manfacturing employment). Time for Plan B.

In a new candle-holder, I placed a new scented lavender candle that was a close fit (45mm diameter in a 52mm bottle body), which can be seen in the photograph here:

lavender candle


I guess this is where I should say “Don’t try this at home”, but it was my hands at risk, and I had brought my wrist protectors and gloves home from work for the night, and wore protective eyewear also. I gently heated the glass directly with the butane torch, and rotated it continuously, to hopefully avoid overheating. As the candle was a snug fit, the radiated heat began to melt the candle, and you could see it filling the glass from the bottom upward. The candle was a good quality one, with solid colour throughout, rather than just a coloured outer shell. This maintained the lavender colour, and as it filled the holder, it began to look really good. The process was completed without any feared glass shattering, and near the top, I put the holder on a flat surface so that it would be as near to level on the top as it set. It settled very nicely, and just required a little cleaning around the top edge of the glass where it had slumped down from the liquid level. As it was a remelt from the sides, the centre was largely unaffected too much, so the wick stayed dead centre. Now it looked much more like something that would pass the QC self-test.

 Here’s the end result:  

remelted candle