Picture of Reuse the whole thing: Glass bottles

This is the first part of series (hopefully) of Instructables where I will show how to upcycle things to the maximum. I'm going to start with something simple - a glass bottle.

Probably many of us have tried making a glass from a wine bottle and threw out the left over part of the bottle. I was doing that for a long time as well, but as of recently I'm not throwing out the top of the bottles any more because they make a great lampshade.

Since this is the first part of series and I'm planning to enter the "Teach it" contest with this, there will be more explanation of various processes included in all of this.

I myself am currently doing the cutting and polishing with a tile cutter, Dremel and an improvised flat lap (for which I will sometime make and 'ible as well) which gives a way smoother and more predictable outcome, but I know the frustration of not being able to make something due to lack of fancy stationary tools since the only one I have is this small tile cutter. That's why I have decided to make this instructable as simple as possible and within the reach of many.

Step 1: That's all you need

Picture of That's all you need

A glass bottle (wine works good);
A Dremel rotary tool with a silicon carbide grinding stone (85422 works well) and a polishing wheel (425 is great), one of each should be enough, just keep in mind that sharp edges eat up the polishing wheel really fast, so try to avoid that;
Glasses, face mask, heavy leather gloves;
Handheld glass cutter;
A scraper;
A pointed knife (x-acto works);
A marker;
A butane torch (could replace with a candle+some water);
A lightbulb (4W Philips E14 LED in my case), bulb socket, power plug and some cable;

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Treknology15 days ago

I have to be a kill-joy here and raise further safety issues. You've addressed shards and chips, but you haven't taken adequate precaution against glass dust. The face mask you've shown in the pictures is not fine enough to filter out the dust from polishing or engraving the glass. If glass dust gets into your lungs, it's there to stay and will lead to conditions similar to Asbestosis.

I have a friend who engraves flat sheets of glass with a dental drill, and he works under water. Obviously, you can't cut the bottle underwater as it would be impractical, however, to flatten the cut surface, obtain another sheet of glass (minimum 1/4 inch thick) to put in the bottom of a tub/tray of water. This will give a flat surface (work-plate) on which you can place a piece of wet&dry abrasive.

You place the piece of bottle on the abrasive and rub in a circular motion, until you have a clean cut. Attach a flexible shaft to the Dremel (for it's safety, and yours) so that you can polish the final cut and/or perform engraving all under the surface of the water. Yes, you can remove your piece from the water and dry it if you want to perform heat-smoothing. Just be cautious with your time so that you don't destroy your work of art with further heat-stress.

The tub/tray needs a good fitting lid to prevent evaporation. If the tray dries out, the glass dust can become airborne which is exactly what you don't want. For longer term use, you will also need a preservative, just like a swimming pool. Salt the water to ocean strength and this will reduce the amount of chlorine you need to use. Remember, if you can smell the chlorine, you still need more!

When ready to empty the tray, grab a fluffy towel that is folded to at least four layers. Concentrate your waste in the center, and rinse the tray thoroughly, always into the center of the towel. Once you are satisfied that you've flushed all the glass dust from the tray and your work-plate, roll up the towel tightly, seal it in a plastic bag while still wet, and send it straight to land fill or incineration.

A further downside to all of this is that glass is actually more fragile under water. I don't understand why either! Therefore you will have to develop a new gentler approach to your work.

Sorry for the lecture but, I don't like the idea of people unknowingly putting themselves at risk in what should be a rewarding recreational activity.

Safety has gone way too far

If you can't even cut some glass without people hating on you, how are you supposed to live at all? It's better to enjoy life

Not laughing at you, laughing at the world lol.

We have became such a weak freaking society, everyone wants to be politically correct or change the law to protect everyone. You know that song about drinking water from a hose ect.

My Grandpa was in construction his father and his father, never did they use safety equipment. I have been cutting glass for 20 years and never have I worn anything but gloves and the glasses I have on that are rated safety.

I put a towel down if I use a bottle cutter, I dump the shards in the trash and I wash the dang towel. Why would I incenerate anything.

I don't mind safety but man we take things way too far in the freaking world now.

There is a reason people only live to be 77 and its so we have room for new one's coming in, we all can't live forever, so live a little.

I don't think you're laughing at me.

Shards are unlikely to be inhaled. Glass dust is an entirely different matter.

I agree that in general, particularly when everyone wants to sue someone else for their own stupidity, some things have gone way too far.

I'm not out to make it "illegal" for someone to polish or engrave glass in the open air, just to make sure they are informed of the hazards.

Having been attached to the electrical industry for the majority of my life, and knowing people who have been electrocuted (despite safety measures), I can only emphasise safety, not enforce it.

As an agile child, I used to dart all over construction sites, stepping from beam to beam, without any concern about dropping through the floor. As a teenager, that fine sense of balance was upset, and I fell through the roof I was helping my father construct.

If properly informed, and people still choose the risky behavior, it should be on the own heads, not blamed on someone else.
Raitis (author)  Treknology12 days ago

Hi! I appreciate your input on this and will probably edit the Instructable to address some of them.

This was really intended as a simple show how as even at the time of the writing I wasn't really using the methods explained here, but instead was wet cutting and grinding on a tile cutter/flat lap. I gave a bit of info on that in my other 'ible here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Wine-oclock/

I've no objection to your sharing this safety information with others.

I admit, I did not follow your link to see that you had posted other safety information.

I have contacted the friend who does the engraving to find out his method of disposal of glass dust (which has to be more professional than I've suggested) and will update you when I get a reply. :)
DIY-Guy3 months ago

Thanks to the author!
This is worth a download. :)

Raitis (author)  DIY-Guy12 days ago

Thanks! (:

rutgervanbr16 days ago

Another way to cut the bottle is with a string and a flammable liquid. Drench the string in the liquid (for example aceton) and set it on fire. Then when it's nearly burned out drop in a cold bucket of water. You'll have a nice cut near the string.

Check out youtube for videos.

Raitis (author)  rutgervanbr12 days ago

The string method only works on thin glass bottles and produces by far the roughest and jagged cut. So I'd say you can do that with beer bottles and thin wine ones, not much more.

I took your advise and checked out a couple of videos. How cool! Never would have thought of that. Thank you!

NickS2116 days ago

Thank you for this. I make quite a few lamps and string lights from bottles and use them for glasses also but didn't even think about the rings.

Just a tip, but for me using a soldering iron around the score line works much better than a torch.

Remember everyone has a different touch, so what works for one might not work for the other, but I seem to cut down on my failure rate by doing it with an iron.

Raitis (author)  NickS2112 days ago

Solder iron sounds good and might actually be something you can control better than flame, thanks for the tip!

By now, and actually at the time of writing my failure rate using the actual tools I use when cutting more bottles (tile cutter + flat lap) was somewhere around 0, it's just that people don't usually buy this kind of machinery to cut a few bottles here and there. (:

where is your glass cutter? what does it look like ?

why hide the machine with your glove ?

how much pressure to apply ---has the glass cutter got a power silicon carbide

cutting wheel -- or is it a std glass scoring tool ?

why not show the most important aspect of glass cutting --? how to accurately

cut a perfect cylinder?

Raitis (author)  carl winter1 year ago

You raised some valid points here, thanks!

Glass cutter(scorer) is the 3rd tool from the top in step 1, pic 1. Looks like this. The glove is there to protect my hand from small glass shards resulting from scoring and is barely visible from any angle in this case. The pressure should be enough to make a score line, don't score twice over the same line though.
A perfect cylinder will probably not be the case if doing this as simple as presented, however you can get close to that by making a simple jig. Scroll down a few comments for a great suggestion an explanation by Jack.

As for the picture issue you mentioned in another comment - maybe the main picture of this instructable gives you an idea of how the lamp looks from closer up since it's there, just not lit.

TIP: Don't score TOO deeply. A scratch is a better control for cracking than a gouge.

Another way to have a consistent score at the right height is the place the bottle horizontally on a "cradle" (see below). There's a great instructible on making one of the jigs - useful for other cylindrical applications, too.


Below is another kind of jig that's also adjustable for the height of the cut.

For glass workers, we used to score the bottle, place on a lazysusan, and torch the score, then place a couple of drops of water on the score, and "POP!" the bottle cracks along the score.

glass bottle cutting jig.jpgWine-Bottle-Cutting-Jig.jpg
Raitis (author)  jeanniel112 days ago

You're absolutely right - a jig is definitely something to make if cutting more than one bottle. As for score lines it's just that it should be a single score and one shouldn't go over twice. :)

Very cool 'ible. I've thought for many years that I should make some cool drinking glasses and such.

I have a suggestion for separating the top from the bottom which I learned a long time ago from a (probably) Popular Mechanics magazine. A ring of nichrome wire (like an old toaster heating element) with a power source to match (you would be using a very short piece of nichrome, so you'll probably only need about 12 volts); heat the glass; chill the glass quickly. It will then (hopefully) crack in a perfect circle. Use a glass cutter ball to finish the cracking process. Then do the usual edge dressing.

Raitis (author)  Lee Wilkerson12 days ago

I have been tempted to try some Nichrome/Kanthal wire trickery for a while, but never really got to it... Thanks for the suggestion!

Odie Sr.O16 days ago

Try fire smoothing of the cut edges. . . Use the torch to slightly melt the glass and let it form into a smooth edge. . .Yes, you may have to finish up with abrasive compound, but it's fun to fire glaze the glass. . . Using the roll jig is very good and is easy to make, also the cutter is fastened to the jig. . . . Nice instr. . . .

@Odie Sr.O Fire polishing the cut edge can not be done with a propane or butane torch. You need an oxygen/propane dual torch to achieve the temp required to soften the glass edge. It's very expensive. Furthermore you must use a kiln or annealing oven to cool the glass down slowly otherwise it will crack all over.

Cheers, Murray

ooohlaa5 months ago

Gosh I have a PILE of perrier bottles I wanted to use to make a raised bed until I found out they break in the garden, leaving shards and shards. I found this in my unread emails from last August 2014! This is so great, you did a fine job and I will search you out for other "ibles". I want to suggest to you and to all to try using a clear lightbulb, I think it would make this beautiful lamp much more elegant. I have clear lightbulbs that have crystal designs etched into them and they would be great too. Thanx again, love this site. Had no idea about Reddit or the others, will check them out. Like you, I learn best watching how-to's. I have repaired my washer, dryer, broken china, and so many things from the generosity of others and I appreciate it so much!

Raitis (author)  ooohlaa5 months ago

Thanks for the lovely comment! :)

Clear bulb with crystal patterns or and Edison bulb would really make a difference depending on your desired look. Glad to hear I could contribute to the positive experience here on instructables as I also find this site to be both inspiring and useful.

If you ever need help with some glass bottle related DIY project - just let me know, should be able to help you with that!

ooohlaa5 months ago

Oh and I meant to add that I love the last paragraph of your lovely philosophy! Very thoughtful.

PowellMade6 months ago

This is cool! Great instructable!!

I wonder if you can get big wine bottles. I wouldn't mind making a couple of light shades.

Raitis (author)  PowellMade6 months ago

It depends how big is big for you... See picture :D

On a more serious note - it will probably be easier to find bigger champagne bottles than wine ones. Or you could always go for a non-standard wine bottle of the same volume. Specifically - something wider, in a form which is more of a sphere, not cylinder.

sunshiine1 year ago

Thanks so much for sharing this! I will be on the look out for more great projects! Have a beautiful day!


Raitis (author)  sunshiine1 year ago

Thanks, I actually have a little something planned in two weeks or so, will see how it goes!

I will be looking for it.

nice job ---very neat --- now show the completed lamp in close up!

( backlighting has spoilt your digital foto ---adjust 2 stops or use flash -

well done !---

jack85591 year ago

Here's an idea that you might want to try, stack some wooden blocks up to the height that you want to score the line and using a fence staple or two, fasten the cutter to the wooden block and rotate the bottle while holding the cutter against it on a flat surface. That way there is no real reason to mark the bottle all the way around before cutting it. If you use several different thicknesses of blocks, you can cut different heights by simply adding or removing blocks and you can go around the bottle several times and always be in the same place on the bottle as you score it. Another way is if you know a machinist, ask to use their height gage with a carbide tip on it to scribe the line on it, again, just rotate the bottle within one thousandth of an inch accurately and you can make it go to any height within the limits of the gage's travel..

Raitis (author)  jack85591 year ago

I like your simplified jig idea, sounds simple enough that most of the people would have the stuff you mentioned at home or easily obtainable. Would feature your comment, but it doesn't seem to work for me.

As a machinist/maintenance man for industry, I have used things similar to this for many irregularly shaped items to mark where I needed to cut an item and it would certainly apply here. I thought it would be simple yet effective. The trick is to get the cutter parallel to the flat surface the bottle will rest on to be turned. If the cutter isn't 'level' it will have a tendency to "walk" the cut either uphill or downhill as you turn the bottle and that's not what you want.

Raitis (author)  jack85591 year ago

Details are important, thanks! If you got into detail because of me writing "doesn't seem to work for me", that wasn't meant for the jig idea, but the featuring function here. Thought I should clarify this. :)

sawjam1 year ago

Great ideas on the lights! I messed about cutting bottles a few years ago and by far the most consistent way is to score the glass with a glass cutter and just run it under warm water from a tap and then cold, that is all the heat required to create the stress riser to crack the glass.

Raitis (author)  sawjam1 year ago

Thanks! I had some people tell that hot-cold-hot water routine actually gives better results, will have to try it sometime!

MikeM21 year ago


greyhawk831 year ago

I've used most of these methods and they all work but usually leave the edges a little rough so I found a thick piece of glass (about 1/2 inch) and about 6" x 12" and use it as a lap with wet r' dry paper then use a diamond paste or even valve grinding (fine) compound, for all edges. It works very well and the same method for flattening and polishing metal.

I don't know if you have tried it. But in the past I have found a tile saw to be excellent for cutting the bottles in half. It also leaves you with a clean cut if you go slow.
Raitis (author)  PieceOfPanda1 year ago

Yeah, that's the way I'm currently doing it most often. I have an issue of the disc vibrating a little which causes way more chipping however. :(

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