Introduction: Want to Cut Wine Bottles? Build This Jig!

I wanted to recycle some old wine bottles into glasses and chandeliers.  I have seen a lot of online tips about how to buy a jig to make the cut,  sand the glass with a dremel, etc.  But why buy a $20-30 jig that you can make yourself?  Here are directions for an easy, solid jig using a cheap stained glass cutter and a few other supplies from your local hardware store.

Step 1: What You Will Need

I purchased everything at Lowe's

1. A glass cutter (commonly used for stained glass). I already had one but you can get it for $4 
2. 1/4" x 6" x 3'  pine board $3 each (buy two) or one 4' length if you can find it
3. 5/16" glvanized wire rope clip $0.88 each (buy two) 
4. Wood glue (I like Titebond II, $3 for 4 oz)
5. optional 5/16" washers $0.08 each

Total cost: about $12 if you already own the glue
Total time: 1 hour of Making time + 2 hours waiting for glue to dry.

Tools: I don't have a garage in San Francisco, so I made this at the Techshop (SF) where I used a bandsaw, clamps and belt sander (optional).

Step 2: Cut Things

1. Cut approximately 8" lengths of the pine board (cut 5 of these).  I don't love to measure so this is approximate.  Just make your board length's about 2" longer than your glass cutter tool.

2. In two of these 8" pieces, cut a v-shape (right triangle) at one end. Make these identical.  The v shape should be big enough to accomodate at least half the diameter of your wine bottle. 

I used a bandsaw because it is so fast and easy and precision is not important here.  As a wise man once said, "don't let your project turn into an anal-retentive-neurotic-nightmare".  Ok, he said this about making beer but I like to keep it in mind pretty much all the time.

3. Use your wine bottle to mark approximately where it contacts your v-shape. 

Step 3: Mark and Drill

4. Draw a line down your board from where the wine bottle contacts the v-shape (check out the picture).  This will help you to correctly position your glass cutter.

5. Decide where to position your cutter (it could actually go anywhere between your two wine bottle lines).  If you want to cut beer bottles as well, move the cutter in about 1/2" from where I have placed it in the pictures.

6. The galvanized rope clips will serve as your clamps.  Plan to place them near the bottom half of your glass cutter. Lay everything out and mark it.  Check that you can raise the cutter enough to make contact with your bottle when it is placed in the v-cutout.

7. Drill the 5/16" inch holes for the clamps.

Step 4: Glue and Screw

8. Glue up the non-drilled v-cutout to one of the other 8" boards you cut in step one. Glue them face-to-face.  OK, you could have done this as step 4 but then I couldn't have called this part called "glue and screw".  Plus, now is your chance to grab a beer, preferably homemade.  You are going to have to wait for the glue to dry before finishing the project.  Go read a "Make" magazine!  Or find some other way to occupy yourself.  Check your glue bottle instructions for drying times.  Usually 30 min-1 hour. For those of you who are feeling cynical, I don't have any personal affiliation with "Make" magazine but that's what I did at this point.

9. Screw your glass cutter onto the second v-shaped board using your clamps. Use your wine bottle to check that it will make contact with the cutter when the jig is put together.

Step 5: Glue Some More

10. Glue up your jig.  I clamped it because I have clamps. Really tight masking tape, wrapped around the box might work, too if you are clamp-challenged.

11. Wait, drink another beer, check your watch, wait some more, check watch, etc.

12. Glue is dry!!  Take off your clamps and you are done! I sanded everything up on the belt sander to make it pretty but that is optional.  Pretty is so pretty, though.

Step 6: Cutting the Wine Bottle

13. Place a drop of oil on the glass cutter wheel. There is no need to get fancy here and olive oil works fine for this project.  Score your bottle with one nice even line by laying it in the jig, as pictured, and spinning it slowly.  Listen for the slightly annoying nails-on-a-chalkboard scoring sound to know that you are applying enough pressure.   Don't try to repeat the score or reverse your spin.  Don't try to use all of your might on the score line.  Those big muscles are totally unnecessary and too much pressure might cause little chips in the glass.

14. Bottles with labels, label goo, etchings, or printed glass will not cut as well.  You want smooth, clean glass.  A little hot water or "goo gone" helps to remove labels.

15. Heat your bottle with a candle or lighter along the score line.  Now run the bottle under cold tap water at the line.  Repeat a few times then try to gently pull the two halves of the bottle apart.  

16. You now have a cup and a possible chandelier!  Now don't cut yourself before you smooth out those edges.

17. Bonus tip: a dremel with a diamond bit works great to smooth the edge, then sand with sander bits and polish up if you like.  I got a set of 20 diamond bits on for $5. I have also hear its possible to just place your cup, top edge face down in a bowl of sand and twist in the sand.  I haven't tried this.

18. Have fun and impress your friends!

FYI. This makes glasses of one length. But without any additional construction, you can flip the cutter to the outside of the jig to make your cups about 1" taller. In addition, if you have a different size cup in mind, just build your jig accordingly (using slightly wider board-stock).