Bottle Cutting for Dummies (Like Me)

It’s all the fault of Phoenix.  Their farmer’s market, actually.  While I was there in March I bought my new favorite glass which was once a wine bottle.

My favorite glass and evil nemesis.

What follows every time I drink from it is not only the appreciation of its weight and size, but that nagging “I could make these” feeling.  Gets a person in trouble every time.  For some reason I just got really obsessed in the past week (I think I must have seen something on Pinterest – another thing that gets people in trouble) and found myself a bottle cutter.  NOTE:  This is not a project for accident prone people.  It involves broken glass and probably at least a little blood.  And get some damn safety glasses!

My attempt.

I have Hobby Lobby and Michael’s in my town and they both sell a Generation Green (G2) bottle cutter.  About $15 if you are using the 40% off store coupon.  This cutter comes with a tapper-thingie and I didn’t really understand what good it was until I did a few things wrong.

Generation Green bottle cutter and tapper.

YouTube videos make everything look so easy!  Like a bottle will break in an even break within 2 minutes, no matter what method used.  In reality you get craggy breaks, shattered bottles, microscopic bits of glass all over your kitchen that you find in your fingers while cleaning up and a lot of swearing.  I also read more than one tutorial that involves fire and I’m just not going to live that dangerous.  Tapping and hot/cold water is what I used with the first batch.   Now I’m using just the tapper and having more success – as long as I’m patient!

What the bottle cutter actually does is score the bottle.  You have to then get it to fracture by stressing the score mark.  I started practicing on soda bottles and they didn’t work out so well so I was getting really discouraged after one day.  The second day was even worse.  Then I had the strange fortune of going to a party where almost all the décor was empty wine bottles (don’t ask) and I was welcome to take all the bottles I could carry.  Jackpot!  I like weighty bottles with punts in the bottom (the big dimples).

Soak the bottles in a sink of hot water and if you are lucky the labels will peel right off.  For those that don’t, I used a razor (in a holder, not just a raw blade!) and the remaining goo comes off with WD-40 and a scrubby sponge.

After scoring bottles, I used the tapper to tap gently around the inside of the line.  Sometimes I would see the break happen that way and I work around the bottle.  You have to be patient or you tap too hard and the crack runs off down or up the bottle and you’re screwed.  Towards the end of my crazy bottle breaking weekend I would tap each bottle but not to the point of seeing the break.  Instead I would then dip them in a pot of simmering (not boiling) water for @5 seconds and run them under my cold water in the kitchen sink for @5 seconds.  Doing that once or twice would “tink” the bottle and eventually it fell apart for me.  Hopefully in a not too crazy circle.  I have stopped using the water method altogether now and don’t recommend it.  I’m having much more success (with practice) using the tapper alone after scoring.

I saw the Pinterest pictures of what people do with the top half of the bottles.  Frankly, I was not that impressed with those ideas and tossed my tops.  I did cut some of the very top rings off but I’m not sure what to do with them yet.

A big box of danger.

By the end of the weekend I had 28 jagged bottle bottoms of varying heights and colors.  The average wine bottle size worked best.  When I tried using the 1.5 liter bottles they broke easier, although I did get one out of the lot.  I stacked them all up in a milk crate in my kitchen and tried (unsuccessfully) not to cut my knuckles.  Next I needed sandpaper.  Lots of it.  The G2 came with two pieces of 60 and 120 grit paper for wet sanding, but that didn’t last long.  I’ve seen many suggestions on smoothing the rims and I’m not very good with a Dremel so I ignored that one.  I also don’t want to shell out @$100+ for a stained glass grinder so that’s a no-go.  My Phoenix glass has a rounded edge that looks almost melted.  That takes a special kind of torching and annealing afterwards – I’m not a professional glass worker with all this knowledge so hand sanding it is!  Turns out the hardware stores in my area have an awful selection of papers for wet sanding.  I finally found a 60/80 grit grinding stone in the tile section which I figured would be good for the initial smoothing of the big jagged parts, and three 3M sanding sponges in coarse, medium and fine.  Wet sanding is preferred over dry to me because I don’t want to be breathing glass dust or getting it in my eyes.

Wet sanding supplies.

You know how you are only supposed to file your nails in one direction so you don’t cause ragged edges?  Same with glass so remember that when sanding.  I’m not entirely pleased with the look of the glass rims at this point, but they are smooth at least and won’t slice anyone’s lips off.

Time for sanding.

Now that I’m done cutting, I’m slowly sanding and then etching designs.  Armour Etch is good stuff.  Michael’s has a better selection of stick-on, reusable stencils.  I also got a roll of contact paper at the Dollar Tree and big paper punch shapes (40% off at Michael’s) so I’ll try to make some stencils next.

Not perfect, but finished.

UPDATE AFTER SOME PRACTICE:

I think I’m getting the hang of it!  I’m scoring and patiently tapping now.  Tapping is giving me a more even break with less peaks and often takes less time than the water method.  Soda bottles (Izzie and Coke mostly) and wine bottles are both working, I just have to tap a little lighter with the thin soda bottles.  I’m learning to “chase the break” which is hard to explain, but basically once I see a break on the score line I will hit the end of that break to form a continuous  longer one all the way around.  Leaving gaps in the break and going back to it later can lead to more peaks and the potential glass fail.

Sanding changed slightly too – I was at an auto show and you know those guys have a great supply of wet sanding paper in all sorts of grits!  I got three types, starting with 60.  I actually think 60 is too harsh but it’s okay for a basic first hand sanding.  Don’t try to do the edges of the cut with 60 or bear down too hard or you just add tiny chips along the edge.  Do your edges with some 150, 220, 500…If you have a Harbor Freight near you they also sell cheap wet/dry sandpaper, but as with most things HF, you will go through it quickly because it is so cheap.

Some of my latest batch. I’m getting the hang of it! Not nearly as many casualties.

NEWEST UPDATE:

I had been so eager to get my hands on some Budweiser Platinum bottles because they are a beautiful cobalt blue…but they suck.  They are so brittle the top half of the bottle had chunks falling out on me while I was working at the score mark.  These could be used in movies instead of the fake bottles they use to bust over people’s heads in fight scenes.  (Please don’t try that.)  And the one glass I did manage to get, I’m afraid to let anyone use because I just don’t think it’s going to hold up.

I did try one method recently of scoring a bottle and rotating it over a candle flame, then running an ice cube over the score marks.  No luck.  I tried several times and nothing happened so after all this time, I am STILL recommending the score and tap method. Plus, I have a new favorite bottle to cut.  Little glass Cheerwine soda bottles are the BEST.  No paper label to eff with and it breaks very easily.  If you can get these in your area they are a great morale booster – I did a case yesterday and got good breaks on all 24.

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About deepfriedyankee

I am a parade of one. A seeker of bathtubmarys. A lover of bacon. I have the patience of a saint - but not any of the saints you've ever heard of.
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11 Responses to Bottle Cutting for Dummies (Like Me)

  1. Kim Haas says:

    I had the same experience years ago. Have been thinking about giving it another try, but haven’t decided just yet. Thanks for your input.

  2. Kathy says:

    You’ve been very helpful. Reading everything I can before taking this up as a hobby. I love the idea of recycling old into new, and what beautiful gifts! Thanks

  3. pam says:

    I love your finished product! I’m looking into this and getting all the advice I can get.I’ve tried the DIY with fire and it didn’t work so hot. thanks

  4. Liz says:

    I was looking into learning this so i can use the platinum..grrr

    • I’m sorry! It’s always possible you’ll have better luck than I do!

      • Frank says:

        The platinum bottles are no problem, I cut them all the time. I score them and then use the hot and cold method. Score them, heat over a candle flame, rotate botttle against an ice cube. Repeat until the two pieces come apart.

      • Yeah, I refuse to do the fire method. I haven’t heard many good things about it and I am not willing to risk setting myself on fire for the sake of making glasses.

  5. MaryHS says:

    Ask your local wine guy if they carry Luna de Luna — it comes in blue bottles. Maybe they’ll work better than the platinum. These are stunning — a year later, can you give us even more new pictures?

    • Lol, pictures now look like pictures then – I haven’t gotten much better and bottles are starting to pile up all over the house that I need to cut. I used to sell these at a local market with my jewelry but I’ve stopped doing the market and the idea of shipping glass through etsy sales seems insane.

  6. Michelle says:

    Last comment was around 2 years ago… hoping for some advice. Got a glass cutter and have been doing the hot/cold method- still haven’t gotten a completely flawless break. Tried the tapping on soda bottles and they just don’t want to break. Any advice for getting flawless breaks? Does a deeper score help?

    • Patience, a light score, and the right kind of bottles. Even then, flawless breaks are rare and most glasses will not be perfect. All will need wet sanding for safety and smooth finish. I’m told a deeper score makes it more likely to cause a runaway crack down/up the side. I’ve never had luck with the hot/cold method myself, only tapping. Thicker glass tends to break better.

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