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How to turn your old liquor bottles into desk lamps

Picture of How to turn your old liquor bottles into desk lamps
This tutorial is a rough guide to creating a home made electrical good. I am in no way responsible for your electrical burns, sliced fingers or ruining your mothers favourite glass vase as practise. That said, every step I outline in this tutorial is relatively safe if you follow the instructions with a little common sense and a mind to what you're doing.

Now we're done with the disclaimer bit, go buy yourself some thick leather gloves and some safety specs, cheap stuff will do but just go do it. I know, I never use safety gear when I'm drilling metal or wood but you're about to drill through a piece of glass at several hundred RPM. Somewhere a risk assesor is bleeding from the ears already. Don't argue with me, they're your fingers and eyes, protect them as such!

Things you will need

Gloves
Eye protection
Your bottle of choice (I reccomend 70cl/1 litre bottles for the sake of scale and the extra weight)
The kitchen sink
A few old towels
A 10/12mm rubber grommet
A wine bottle stopper/optic seal
A length of 10mm threaded tubing
A rechargeable drill
An appropriate length of dual/tri-core electrical wire
Your lamp fitting and shade of choice
Tweezers
Screwdriver
WD40
Duct tape
freezer/greaseproof paper
And finally a 5mm and a 12mm Tungsten/Diamond core drill bit.
 
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Step 1:

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Once you've rinsed out your bottle, take a look at it and work out where you want your cable to run out at the rear. Are there any ridges in the glass? There is one on the Jack Daniels bottle we're using as you can see, right inbetween the label and the base. It's not a problem but keep that in mind when you're thinking about your drill RPM later on, along with any seams or joins in the glass.

Step 2:

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Cut out some squares from your paper and tape them down as shown, not only will they help protect the labels from water in the stages to come but if the glass does shatter for some reason it will help protect your hands too!

Step 3:

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Measure in from each side and mark out where you want your hole to be, as you can see I've used an envelope label because they peel off easier than tape but you can just use duct tape if that's all you've got to hand. Make sure you leave as much space as possible between your hole and the base of the bottle, too tight a gap and the vibration might cause it to shatter along the joint later on.

Step 4:

You're ready to start drilling, no need to run off to the sink just yet though. Rest the bottle on a towel to dampen vibration and start your hole using the 5mm bit. The label/tape should keep the drill from wandering around on the surface of the glass provided you start slowly. After around 30 seconds you should start to see dust collect around the tip of the drill bit. Take the label/tape away and you should have the beginnings of a small conical hole. Now you're ready to take it over to the sink and start drilling properly.

Step 5:

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Take your bottle over to the sink. You're going to want to run water over the contact point between glass and drill as you work to lubricate the bit and minimize the risk of a crack developing. As you can see from the image it doesn't have to be a torrent, just enough to keep things moving smoothly. Obviously I can't take pictures and hold the bottle and drill the hole (I tried later on and you'll see what that led to!) but as far as the drilling goes in the early going you can get away with a fairly high RPM, almost full speed on my drill but they're all different so apply that common sense we were talking about earlier.

If there's too much vibration in the bottle slow it down a notch or two, likewise, if there's a huge amount of chalky white powder collecting on the bit and a shriek like squeaking noise, slow it down and maybe think about increasing the amount of water you've got running. I cannot stress how much of this is common sense, if you want some practise first go buy yourself a large beer bottle, they're only a couple of quid and around the same thickness

Step 6:

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Settle in, you're going to be here a while, make sure the drill is as close to vertical as you can get it and maintain your drill speed. I cannot stress this next bit enough.. DO NOT PUT PRESSURE ON THE DRILL. Let the weight of the drill itself and the drill bit do the work. Think of it like a loved ones tradesmans entrance.. lots of lubrication and slowly does it or somebodies going to scream the roof down ;-)

It differs for every bottle but in ten to twenty minutes you should notice a little extra torque and feedback coming through the drill, slow it down a bit and soon you'll see a small bubble pop around the drill bit. That means you're through. It can take longer, premium vodka bottles for example are ludicrously thick, probably because they're destined for a life in the deep freeze. Take the drill away and you should be looking at something like the attatched image.

Step 7:

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Take away your 5mm bit in favour of the 12mm and go back to doing what you were in Step 6, the larger the hole gets and the deeper into the glass your drillbit gets the slower you're going to want to go, not so slowly as the bit grinds its way around but you should be at nowhere near full RPM now, if you are you're being silly because now's the time when those ridges and seams in the glass we looked at earlier turn into cracks and splits.

Once it looks as if you're nearly through start offering up the grommet occaisionally until it looks a good fit. Remember, at this point it can be easier to just trim a mm or two off the grommet than send the 12mm bit all the way through and risking it hitting the glass on the inside of the bottle. It's your judgement call, make it well!

Provided there've been no horrible shattering sounds or ambulance rides you should now be looking at something like the image of the green bottle attached..

I'm not, I tried to be a smart arse and drill one handed to take pictures towards the end of this step to help you guys out so mine looks a little wonky. Being a first time yours might do too, don't worry about it, just trim your grommet to fit or buy a slightly bigger one and get handy with a craft knife and some super glue. Provided the hole's big enough the grommet will take care of the fit and finish for you.

Step 8:

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Dry out your bottle, this can be done in the oven, with a hair dryer or with good old fashioned time, if needs be use a bottle brush to clean out any unsightly glass dust from inside it before you do so.

Make sure there is absolutely no moisture in the bottle before moving on any further.

Once clean and dry insert your grommet, this is where the tweezers come in handy but be gentle, do not use leverage against the glass to push it in. Mine looks a little raggedy because I've bored it out slightly for thicker cable. If you glued it go make yourself a cuppa and give your glue time to set.

Step 9:

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Add a little WD40 to a cotton bud or match stick and lube up that grommet (Nick Park I'm sorry, sue me if you like) and thread your cable into and out of the top of the bottle. you may need to employ tweezers or a piece of wire hanger to help guide you but you should now have something that looks like the image attatched.

Step 10:

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Put aside your bottle for a minute and pay attention to your lamp fitting. I'm using dual core wire and fittings because the threaded tube is my only metal component and the inside of that's plastic coated, as such I really don't need the earth. If your wire can touch metal do yourself a favour and be safe, buy tri-core and a brass fitting instead and earth it. I'm not going to do an in depth tutorial on how to wire a lamp fitting or plug, if you're attempting this you should be comfortable doing such things in the first place. If not there are numerous well made guides on Youtube. And then if you're still really not comfortable dealing with wiring go and find somone that is.

Assembly wise it's fairly simple, I drill a 10mm hole in the lid and used a nut to tighten it up against the lamp fitting then I add a modified bottle stopper or optic seal as pictured.

Step 11:

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Now thread your wire into the tube and connect your lamp fitting and you should have something that looks like ths. Congratulations, if yours looks like mine and you're not bleeding, you're pretty much done ;-)

Step 12:

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All you have to do now is fill it with your items of choice. Make sure you measure anything you're about to put down the bottle neck to make sure it will pass through both the neck and past the cable, you do not want to get something wedged in there now and waste hours of work. I tend to work to the theory of anything under 16mm wide will squeeze through. I've used jelly beans, glass beads, marbles (for marbles you'll need to leave the cable in the bottle and work it up using a piece of string as you fill it) and ceramic baking beads all with very little trouble, just don't drop them in, angle the bottle and let them slide down or you may find especially marbles or glass beads will put cracks and chips in the bottom of your bottle. For this one I'll be using glass beads, available from any decent craft shop.

Step 13:

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Once filled, gently pull the cable back through the grommet to take out as much free play as possible, push the lamp fitting in, your optic seal should make getting a good fit relatively easy and then twist the cap back on to finish it off.

Voila! You're done! You should now be looking at something like the attatched image!

Step 14:

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You're done! Add the shade of your choice, plug it in, switch it on and give yourself permission to look smug :D

What would you recommend if attempting this with a blown aluminium type bottle?

I mean in regards to the lampholder part.

wheres the best place to buy the hardware, ive only found kits that have the cord on the outside

Hank_2k (author)  sancho.claus.144 months ago

I bought all of the hardware seperately and just worked out a way to build it that made sense to me. Most of it came from eBay sellers and my local hardware store. I don't think anyone sells a kit to make lamps like I did as it involves drilling the glass bottle, most seem to run the cord out of the lamp fitting and down the back of the bottle as it is easier and less labour intensive. .

karenmurphy034 months ago

Hi, just wondering where you got your light fittings? I live in Ireland so can I buy online and also what do they cost?

Many thanks

Karen

Hank_2k (author)  karenmurphy034 months ago
Hi, I couldn't tell you what the exact brand is without rifling through a lot of boxes I have in storage but the fittings I used were bog standard bayonet lamp holders with a built in switch and 1/2" threaded fitting in the base. If you put Mercury WA34 lamp into Google they looked exactly the same as that although I'm pretty sure the ones I used were unbranded items from Wilkinsons. They should be very cheap, I remember them being around a pound each, possibly less.

Failing that you could use brass fittings with a similar threaded base to them in theory but then earthing the whole thing properly would mean an extra bit of wiring.
JoshuaSmock2 years ago
I would be really cool if you could figure out how to get some LEDs in there with the glass pebbles.
Thanks for sharing how to make these :)
Hank_2k (author)  Penolopy Bulnick3 years ago
No problem, being the first tutorial I've written here I just hope it's up to scratch! I'm quite looking forward to seeing what others come up with..