Introduction: Reuse the Whole Thing: Glass Bottles

About: Living the maker's life

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

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;

Step 2: Prepare the Bottle

To cut a bottle, you have to find one first. If you're drinking the wine to get the bottle empty, for your own safety delay cutting it until you're sober. Sharp edges and blades doesn't mix well with intoxication. Then you need to remove the labels and to do so effectively you need to determine how is it glued on.

Tip: Scratch up the corner of the label - if it's dry - the glue will come off with water, if it's gooey - the glue will be acetone/alcohol soluble. Mine was dry so I sped up the process by scraping off the main part of the label, then went and washed the remainder off using a scrub and some dish washing liquid.
If yours is gooey, use scraper to lift and peel off, then clean with acetone or put the bottle in the oven or hot water to heat the glue and it will come off way better, clean the remainder glue afterwards.

Step 3: Cut It

Think about how tall you want your glass. I prefer them at around 10-11cm (4-4,3 inch) so that's where I marked dots around the bottle.

Now take the bottle and find a position where you can rotate it steadily and try it out while marking a line around it, that way you get an idea of a position in which you can score a line around the bottle as straight as possible. Now that you know your position, score a line with a glass cutter. And then one more around the neck, if you're making a ring too. Wear glasses and gloves when scoring the line, since tiny shards tend to go in all directions while doing that.

Fire up your butane torch or candle and warm up your bottle, then heat it up along the score line until it starts cracking (you might need a thin stream of water for that if using a candle). You should end up with something similar to the three parts seen in 9th picture of this step. Protective glasses is a must while heating, gloves come handy too.

Tip: Heat and glass need some time to get along. When starting to heat the score line do several runs along it from further to warm it up a bit and not stress, the same goes for when you hear it starting to crack, don't take the heat away right away, to some runs from a bigger distance.

Keep in mind, that this step involves a lot of possibility of failure and it's ok, it happens when you use heat to cut bottles. You can see that I failed while scoring (pic 4 of this step) then failed some more while heating it (pic 6) and I ended up cutting another bottle (pic 10) and I even managed to crack the ring from original bottle by overheating it with the grinding wheel. The failure rate is pretty high this way and even higher if you hurry the process a bit like I did.
You can try fixing bad cracks off the line by scoring another line, but it's even more likely to crack somewhere wrongly once again.

Step 4: Grind & Polish

Now that you have your bottle cut it's time to grind and polish it. For your own safety wear glasses and a face mask.

Even the rim out to the level you are comfortable with the silicon carbide grinding stone, you should end up with something like in picture 2 of this step. You want to grind enough so that the score line is not visible any more. I recommend going around the sharp edges first, so you don't accidentally cut yourself when grinding other spots.

Polish the places you ground and you can skip the shiny part where it nicely cut in place. I use my polishing wheel at the speed of 25k RPM despite the recommended 15k - it gives a shinier finish and I haven't had a problem because of that once. You should end up with a finish similar to the one in picture 4.

Look around surprised after hearing something similar to a grunt. Find out that your dog is watching you while enjoying himself. Laugh and continue happily. If you feel like it, take a sharp diamond tip and engrave something on your ring. I suggest you draw the design with a marker before actually engraving, unless you're really good with the dremel.

Tip: There are several ways of getting rid of the bigger chunks of glass left above the line you intend to level off at besides grinding endlessly. You can use pliers to remove the bigger chunks. It's likely that they will break off at the score line. There's also a way of using heat. While I don't recommend going for the butane torch due to very high risk of breaking in the wrong direction you can generate very localised heat with the grinding wheel if you don't move it around and push down a bit. It's likely that the bigger chunk will crack at the score line from that and jump off. When you see glass melting around the grinding wheel, you'll know it's hot there.

Step 5: Enjoy Your Work and New Skills

Wait a moment, you probably have to clean the glass from dust and connect some cables before that. Cleaning is no rocket science, while wiring this simple would not qualify as science either I guess. Take the cable and connect the two wires to the opposing sides of either a power plug or bulb socket, just don't forget to put the lampshade in between the socket and plug.

Since it's probably evening by now you have a nice chance to turn on your new lamp, sit back, pour a beverage into your newly made glass, relax and grin with satisfaction while thinking about your newly gained skills.

Other remarks:
It's technically possible to do it all using a Dremel alone if using a diamond cutting disc for cutting the bottle. I don't however have one, nor do I think it would be a good idea on any other than very thin bottles because it would heat up too much or be too slow otherwise.

Step 6: Extra Tip: Ideas, Their Generation and Realization

I'm sure that many of us on Instructables have heads full of ideas. Anyway, I hope there will be at least a small piece in this write-up for you to take away and improve yourself. It's nothing revolutionary, but it's worth reminding yourself some things.

You may have a question of who I am to tell something worthwhile about ideas and that's a valid question, since I don't have that much credibility apart from being trusted with custom reuse-including projects with enough trust in my ideas and execution to leave everything from design to production without checking up constantly until it's done.

Ideas are about connecting the dots. The more you see around you, the more dots you are going to have available for connection. This means, that to get ideas, you have to feed yourself ideas. You can do that in many different ways, like travelling, interacting with different people or simply wandering on the internet, you will have to find how does your mind work best. Mine does that by connecting the dots I see on the internet, that's everything from how forms go together, to the working principles of something. That's where websites like Instructables, tumblr, Reddit, Recyclart, Etsy, TED become really useful. So find what works for you and do that.

When you come up with something in your mind, write it down. Seriously. That's the only way you're going to keep it. Write it down!

When it comes down to the realization of ideas, some of them may seem out of reach and some of them actually are, but most are not. Tools can be borrowed or rented, working place can be found or made and money can be raised in various ways, if that's the case. Look around, look what others are doing and how. This comes down to the same "to get ideas, you have to feed yourself ideas". If you want something enough, you will find a solution.

I recommend everyone to check out some great resources on topic that will probably expand the usual view on ideas and making them happen:

Everything is a remix video cycle by Kirby Ferguson;
Steal like an artist, a book by Austin Kleon;
This thread on reddit

Thanks for taking the time to read this, I hope it was useful.
If it seems well suited for a contest - vote for it. Thank you!

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