Introduction: Beer Bottle Lamps
Oregon has a number of wonderful microbrewery beers for sale in the supermarkets, some with very cool designs on them. These designs are printed on, or etched into the glass rather than simply having a sticker, and I thought this property could be exploited to display how great the bottles are.
So, this instructable (my first ever) is about cutting and drilling glass bottles, wiring a fluorescent bulb into them and sealing them back up again to have a standalone light.
There are circular LED coasters designed for lighting up a bottle- but I really wanted to turn these into something a bit more solid and incorporated than simply sticking some bulky plasticky thing with LEDs onto the base.
Glass cutters can be found quite cheaply online, as can ceramic drill bits - there are no other specialist items needed for this
Note: despite what some tutorials say, glass cutting in this fashion will work with almost all glass bottles - however, glass cutting can be very tricky at first.
As will be explained later, practice on some unimportant bottles is definitely a good idea if you don't want to ruin that cool bottle you might have in mind for this!
(cutting the bottle)
Ceramic/tile drill bits
Cordless power drill
Kettle (you will need some boiling water)
Bucket (or large saucepan etc)
(wiring the light)
Dual core wire
Standard florescent bayonet fitting bulb
Step 1: Preparation
There are so many different methods people claim to be the best way to cut glass. Having never done it before, I trawled through online tutorials when i first got the idea for these lights.
Finally, I found this tutorial which I think is by far the best - and the method i used in the end for all the bottles. I recommend watching it.
so, we are 1) Scoring the glass 2 )carefully treating that score line with hot and then cold water to create a split - cutting is a poor term for this process - at no point are we really cutting any glass
Note: Before cutting glass a few things should be considered - the thickness and shape of the glass is very important. Wine bottles are usually the perfect thickness for this method (and definitely the best to practice on). When pouring boiling water over the score line - the split tends to follow that line, which is what your aiming for. Beer bottles are significantly thinner than wine bottles, and like bottles that aren't perfectly cylindrical, this can result in the split you create moving away from the score line, and this is the issue that results in at best an uneven cut, and worst case a shattered bottle (see picture of my first failure).
The secret to overcoming this is being slow and careful when using the hot water, as well as making a totally even line, all of which will be mentioned in detail again.
Step 2: Step 1 of Cutting the Bottle - Scoring the Bottle
Use the glass cutter to EVENLY score a constant line around the entire circumference of the bottle. If the score line is spiraling (moving along the circumference of the bottle at an angle) then when you later apply stress to the score line you may have imperfect cuts.
The tutorial mentioned earlier, like many others, notes that the score line should not be too deep. I personally found that giving a second go around the bottle resulted in greater consistency in clean cuts - maybe i was lucky, maybe there is something in it. I recon there are too many variables to say definitely whats best every time which is why i recommend practice a few times with the type of bottle you intend to cut first!
Your accuracy will depend somewhat on the glass cutter you use. The cheap ones off ebay (which work just fine!) are handheld - essentially a sharp disk on the end of a stick, and so you will need to be inventive with how you make sure the cut is even, You could use tape to mark where you will cut, or draw a line with a permanent marker on the bottle, whatever works for you.
I used a cutter which is on the end of a jig (see picture) and this made things a bit easier - but the principle is the same and can just as easily be forgotten. Even cuts. Practice first.
Safety. Probably a good idea to wear some goggles or glasses just in case a stray bit of glass defeats the odds and makes it anywhere near your eyes. Its unlikely, but worth mentioning.
Step 3: Step 2 of Cutting the Bottle - Stressing the Score Line
1)Take your scored bottle to a sink.
2)Prepare a kettle full of boiled water.
3)Turn on the cold tap from the sink.
4)SLOWLY pour A VERY SMALL AMOUNT of boiling water over the score line, making sure you don't over heat any one part of the bottle too much. Then move the score line under the cold water from the tap - again slowly slowly slowly. Then use the boiling water again. Keep repeating the process.
Keep at it. You will see light coming through the score line become stronger as the splits develop. The glass may make some cracking noises as it splits - if any of these are particularly loud this is a good indicator that your pouring the boiling water too quickly or then cooling the glass too quickly. The slower the better.
If you are slow and deliberate about this you will have great results. Being impatient will result in shattered bottles or imperfect cuts. It took me several wasted bottles to figure out I couldn't rush this and simply had to take it slowly.
Eventually the half of the bottle you are not holding will just fall off into the sink. No need to sand the cut or anything - now onto drilling the hole.
Step 4: Step 3 of Cutting the Bottle - Drilling a Hole in the Glass
Safety. Wear some gloves that will protect you in case the bottle breaks underwater. Again, unlikely - but possible.
1)Take the bottom half of the bottle - leave the neck where it wont be knocked over.
2)Get the drill and fit the ceramic drill bit. (In the pictures there is a regular phillips drill bit just to show what i mean)
3)Submerge the bottom half of the bottle in a bucket or saucepan of water. This is done so as to lubricate the drill bit as you cut into the glass - without lubrication the drill bit is almost totally ineffective.
4)Choose where you want the hole for the wire to come through and start drilling. I found that drilling slowly but with some considerable pressure worked best. This definitely takes longer than you would expect - about 3-5 minutes per hole. Take care when the drill finally makes it through the bottle that you ease off the pressure- you 'want to suddenly carry on and smash the other side of the glass.
5)Remove from the bucket - wash off in fresh water (there will be very fine glass residue covering everything) and leave to dry fully before wiring the light.
Step 5: Wiring the Light
From here on in its all very straightforward.
1)Take your dual core wire, cut it to about 2/3 the length you want the cord to be in total (if you have a switch - if not, cut your total desired length) and strip the ends.
2)Wire the plug to that piece of wire.
3)Wire the other end to the switch.
4)Wire the final 1/3 of wire you want to the switch and push the other end through the hole you drilled in the bottle.
Step 6: Soldering the Wire to the Bulb.
I chose to solder the wire to the bulb, because using a fitting pushed the bulb up higher inside the bottle and this somewhat ruined the effect of having light come through the design on the front of the bottle. This way the bulb sits as low down as possible - (and it looks quite cool - as if the bulb is supernaturally just alight inside the bottle for no reason).
I should mention - the reason i'm using a fluorescent bulb is because a)they give out much less heat than other bulbs and you don't want the finished lamp getting too hot b)they are a whole lot more robust than filament bulbs and will take some mild knocking without breaking - this is important because once we have sealed up the bottle there is no way of getting the bulb out again! Also for the same reason its useful that they have a very long life and so wont need replacing any time soon (usually 10,000 hrs plus)
1)So - take your two stripped ends of wire and your florescent bulb.
2)Take your soldering iron/solder and prepare them.
3)Solder to the final 1/3 of wire to the bottom of the bulb (bayonet bulbs have two little metal oval nodules on the base which is where they connect to fittings (see pictures)- it doesn't matter which wire you solder to which nodule you solder to as long as your electricity is AC which almost everyone's is).
Step 7: Securing the Bulb and Sealing the Bottle
1) Take a generous bit of blu-tac and mold it onto the bottom of the now soldered bulb.
This serves two purposes: a) you need to ensure that the connection at the base of the bulb doesn't short out - this will blow the lamp and possibly the fuses in your house! So its important to put something non-conductive between those two nodules and stop any connections occurring between them. b) you need something to stick the bulb to the bottom of the bottle. I used epoxy putty at first - but found this very fiddly and annoying and also if you make a mistake its very difficult to re position the bulb - however blu-tac will not stick as nicely to the bottom nor will it create a solid hold on the bulb. I chose to make this compromise - but epoxy putty is the betterchoice- i just got lazy
2) Push the bulb to the bottom of the glass, pulling the excess wire through the hole as you do so, and push down on the bulb to secure it in place. Again - epoxy putty is better for this but blu-tac also does the job.
3) CAREFULLY - ensuring you are in no danger of touching any exposed wires - test the connection by plugging in the lamp and turning on the switch. This is to ensure all your wiring etc is correct before sealing the bottle back together.
4) Assuming that all well - take the neck of the bottle and match it up with the cut of the top of the bottle. No cut is totally perfect, and there will always be a few jagged ends etc that you need to match up. In fact this is quite helpful when it comes to sealing the bottle back up again, but make sure you know how the two halves match up.
5) Superglue the top back onto the bottom half of the bottle.
I used some fancy UV glass glue first time around thinking that this would be the best way to do it. In fact, for me I found that the UV glue took ages to set, and was eternally sticky and annoying. Superglue works just fine.
Let the glue set and hey presto! Done!
Participated in the
Lamps & Lighting Contest