Eloyne Erickson is the Owner/Operator of Grand Central Stained Glass, serving the Bay area for nine years. She has been involved in the craft for over thirty years, and serves as Principal Designer, Project Manger and fabricator of all custom pieces.
Always good for the environment, easy-on-the-eye and so fun to create; upcycled glass bottle projects are so much fun! Whether I’m creating glassware, windchimes or jewelry from old bottles, I always have such a good time.
It’s so much more gratifying for me when I can produce nice, clean – replicable – glass breaks. Over the years, I’ve tried many bottle-cutting products and bottle-scoring techniques. I thought it might be helpful & fun to take a quick tour of some of the products out there which can enhance the speed and precision of this unique glass art for you.
Here is what I have learned(please keep in mind the opinions expressed here are mine alone, your mileage may vary)… Some products are worth my time and money, some aren’t. Some techniques are awesome, some left me scratching my head. Some YouTube videos are so illuminating & helpful while others have left me thinking… “Whaaa”?
It’s a hard job… but somebody has to do it. :)
Here are products with which I have had success, I hope you do too!
Please keep in mind, there’s always a learning curve when using any new product or tool, and remember too, the successful experiences you thought were tried-and-true for you, go out the door when you pick up a new bottle to cut. Here’s why… “identical” bottles are not. Identical that is. They aren’t necessarily of the same thickness, shape and most definitely a cylindrical (round) bottle is not always truly cylindrical (round).
The basic steps in bottle-cutting are:
Score the glass
Heat the score line
Thermal shock the heated score
Ephrem’s Bottle Cutter
Ephrem’s bottle cutter has been around for a long time. It has been my first-line bottle cutter for years. I like the horizontal placement of the bottle on the cutting stand. It is a nice basic, easy-to-use, good quality, steel cutter with each cutting wheel having three heads. Ephrem’s now has an adapter to allow you to expand its capability to accommodate curved bottle necks.
The written instructions are just fine (See link). However, the how-to video is almost painful to watch and difficult to hear. Ephrem’s suggested bottle-cutting process is to rotate the bottle along the scoring wheel, heat the scoreline with a candle, and apply an ice cube along the heated scoreline to create the thermal shock. A combination of silica carbide and emery paper smooths the sharp glass edge.
The Generation Green bottle cutter is designed to score bottles while the bottle is in a vertical position. I found it cumbersome to hold the bottle upright with one hand while trying to rotate the cutter with a consistent pressure around the bottle with the other. However, I found my motion improved with practice. This cutter is okay and it’s the least expensive of the cutters recommended here. The included hand-cutter has six cutting positions.
The five pages of written instructions(link) include two pages on how to assemble all the piece parts. Whew! Yes, we have had some customers bring their purchased cutter back for us to assemble. In addition to its how-to video, Diamond Tech Crafts felt the need to also offer a how-to assemble the product video. Their videos are okay, but the audio is poor. The suggested bottle-cutting process is to attach the mechanism to bottle, rotate the bottle along an attached hand-cutter, use the enclosed cringe-worthy tapping rod to tap the scoreline from the inside of the bottle to create the break. There is also instruction that recommends alternately using a hot water bath and a cool water bath to create a thermal shock of the score to separate the bottle.
Creator’s Bottle Cutter is the Cadillac of hand-managed bottle cutters. The product designers have taken both horizontal and vertical cutting processes to a new level with a very high-quality product. The cutter wheel is fabricated from long-lasting carbide steel. Other components are made with stainless steel and polycarbonate plastic. A nice feature is the onboard ruler that allows you to cut multiple bottles to the same height. A bottle leveling attachment is available to assist with bottles of various shapes.
The photo-illustrated instructions are simple to understand. The how-to video is good, too. Creator’s bottle-cutting process is to lay the bottle in its carriage, mark your starting point with a marker, rotate the bottle back to the starting point. A couple of glass separating techniques are offered, but the video demonstrates timing the heating of the scoreline with a candle and thermal shocking the heated scoreline in an ice water bath.
This is a quality product that will simplify and speed-up the bottle-cutting process.
For those of you who will be cutting many, many bottles, consider upgrading from hand tools to power equipment. An inexpensive wet saw with a great diamond blade will fit the bill. Several years ago, I purchased a smaller wet tile saw with a 7” blade capacity from Home Depot and outfitted it with a fine cut sintered diamond blade. HIS Glassworks in Ashville, NC is a great resource for these high-quality blades. This setup cuts glass bottles virtually chip-free and is quite fast comparable to the hand equipment. They also carry several smoothing products such as silica carbide grit and papers, cones and domes, and flat lap grinders.