Intro: Home Made Wine Bottle Hookah
First of all, This project is ridiculously easy. The thing can look really artistic and beautiful or really really awful, depending on what kind of bottle you use. I lucked out and found this "Sofia" bottle my parents left at my apartment last summer, but any bottle will work. The more common design on the internet is based on a Goldschlager bottle. Where i live, a single hosed hookah runs around 50 dollars. I wanted to derail that cost and see how cheaply I could make it. This thing totaled fifteen dollars.
Step 1: Pieces
To make this, go to your local hardware giant and bring the wine bottle you want to use. Get a section of copper pipe that fits into the neck of the bottle as close to snugly as possible. It needs to be long enough to come near the bottom of the bottle, so the water stays as far away from the hose as possible. I don't even know what diameter my pipe is because I tested a few and chose the best fit. This size will differ bottle to bottle. Also, get a 1/2 inch glass cutting drill bit. They're a little expensive, so try to find someone to borrow one indefinitely from. You'll also need a drill. You'll obviously need a wine bottle, but try to get one whose mouth is nearly the same diameter as the bottom of your bowl, to make putting everything together a little easier. This can be worked around, but it will look best if you do it this way. If you follow my 1/2 inch glass bit directions, get 1/3 inch nylon tubing, also available at your preferred home improvement warehouse.
The friend who gave me the idea to build this in the first place said he knew of a way to make a bowl, but then described some pretty sketchy sounding engineering involving clay pots and hemp thread. I bought my bowl for 5 dollars from a faux hippie store in the mall. It was the most expensive part I paid for. You'll also need a rubber nipple, termed a "sleeve" that is sold either online or at a smoke shop, that serves as a seal between glass hole and nylon tube. You'll also need a plumbing piece found near the nylon tubing called a brass hose barb or hose mender, if you want your mouthpiece to look like mine. You'll also need a roll of electrical tape. Here's all that in list form.
-(1) Glass bottle
-(1) length of copper pipe that fits into the bottle snugly.
-(1) length of 1/3 inch nylon tube
-(1) rubber hookah sleeve
-(1) ceramic hookah bowl
-(1) roll of electrical tape
-(1) 1/3 inch brass hose barb
-(1) corded drill
-(1) 1/2 inch glass cutting carbide drill bit
Step 2: Drilling a Dangerous Hole
The first step involved in building this monster is to drill a hole in the upper 1/3 of the bottle, just below the stem, on the curved corner. To start the hole, scratch a little X where you want the center of the hole to be. Glass is very smooth and the drill wants to skip around on the surface. Giving it as much traction as possible will help keep it from looking cracked and scratchy, and will help establish the start of the hole. When you drill glass, it tends to spit fine and sketchy looking dust into the air around your nose. You should probably wear a respirator mask and, honestly some heavy duty rubber gloves, and goggles. I wanted to do this on the cheap, so I cut a few corners. What I did do to cut down on lung/glass interaction was to get a gallon pitcher from the kitchen, put the bottle in it and fill around the bottle with water. This served three purposes: It kept the glass dust in solution instead of in the air, gave me a place to rinse the bottle quickly and easily, and lubricated the drilling surface. It's important here to have a good drill. Battery powered drills tend to lose juice throughout the drilling process and while this is fine for less precise and delicate applications, drilling a half inch wide hole in an oddly shaped corner of a wine bottle isn't one of them. The key to making this hole correctly is low RPM, medium pressure. If you're like me and only support the bottle bu nestling it on a towel between your legs, the lighter the pressure the better. Try tilting the drill and pivoting it in circles as you drill to flatten the hole and keep the drill from gouging out too much glass at one time. This step takes a while, but if it's done right, the glass won't crack and the hole won't chip. Once you get deep enough for the pointed end of the bit to be unexposed above the hole, stop drilling. you're close enough to 1/2 inch to fit a sleeve and tube in and if you go for too long, you risk chipping the hole and rendering the bottle useless.
Step 3: Fit Sleeve/hose Into Bottle
The next step is to bring the newly-drilled bottle into your local smoke shop. Ask for a rubber sleeve and they should produce something like the attached picture. Press the sleeve into the drilled hole until the inset ring on the sleeve is flush with the hole in the glass. Next, take the nylon hose and dip the end in vegetable oil or some other non-toxic oily substance. You can wipe it on your forehead if you need to. This is just to make the hose go into the sleeve more easily. It's a tight fit. Cut off the opposite end of the hose at your desired length and press the brass barb into the exposed end.
Step 4: Fabricate Bowl Piece
Now, take your bowl and set it over the end of the brass pipe until it's about 3/4 of the way way in.
Mark on the pipe where the bottom of the bowl comes to and grab some electrical tape, god's perfect gift to the DIYer. Wrap the copper tube in tape with the bottom edge running along the top of where you marked. This will serve as a seal between the clay bowl and the coper pipe. This amount will be variable depending on the diameters of the bowl and tube, but you should wrap loosely to increase grip. Press the bowl onto the tape/pipe combo and make sure it fits. Then, drop the pipe down into the bottle until the bottom end of the pipe is about half an inch away from the bottom of the bottle. Mark on the copper pipe where the top of the bottle meets the pipe. Once again, take your electrical tape and wrap the copper tube until it fits snugly into the mouth of the bottle. Now is a good time to put water into the bottle up to about half way below the hose. Assemble the whole thing and draw some air through the tube, covering the top of the bowl with your hand. If any suction is lost, there is a leak somewhere. You can test for leaks similar to the way way you find holes in a bicycle tube. Fill your bathtub up deeply enough to completely cover the hookah, submerging everything except the end of the hose. Reach into the water and cover the bowl again, and draw air. Wherever you see a bubble, there is a leak. If bubbles come from the bowl and you know your seal is good, you may just have oddly shaped hands, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. If bubbles come from around the hose sleeve, check and see which side of the sleeve they are coming from. If it's between the sleeve and the hole, you may have chipped the hole while drilling and need to either epoxy and try again in a different place, or trash the bottle.
Step 5: How to Do It Better/ Disclaimation
My design was built over a weekend and cost 15 dollars. It's certainly not the best engineering, but it is, as far as I can tell shy of stealing everything, the cheapest way to build the most functional hookah. Here are some improvements I noted that could have been done throughout the building process to make the whole thing a little more stout.
When you drill with a half inch drill bit, starting the hole takes time. A long, long time. They sell sets of four or five incrementally-sized bits for 20-30 dollars that would make the whole thing go a lot more smoothly. My half-inch bit is still usable, but a lot of the carbide coating that's on it to as a very slight abrasive has been worn off now. I would definitely recommend stepping the hole up if not in 3 stages, then at least in two. making a starter hole first will make finishing the hole happen a lot more quickly and do much less damage to the bit. That said, you will also need to adjust the amount of pressure you put on the bit. A smaller bit has a smaller surface area, exponentially increasing the pressure/area glass. If you press too hard with a tiny bit, the thing will probably shatter. Be careful. I really lucked out to not have cut myself up at all. The fact that my drilling went so smoothly, though is in part due to the structural integrity inherent in a curved surface. Drilling a flat pane of glass is a completely different ballgame. Bottles are thick and curved, which works to your advantage.
I would also recommend trying some silicone tape. I found it while perusing home depot after I'd already finished sealing my hookah. The problem with silicone tape is that it's 6 dollars a roll. I'm not down to have a majority of the price of this project be in the tape that shoddily seals the bowl and bottle, plus I assume that silicone has a lower melting point than electrical tape, which brings me to my next point.
There's a lot of buzz online about how dangerous it is to smoke through copper. People talk about lock jaw and Alzheimer's and things that copper tubing can help create. I'm pretty sketched out smoking through aluminum cans and scrap brass piping like I did in high school and with good reason. The difference hear is that when smoking a pipe, you're actively burning something with a butane lighter that is making contact with your dangerous metal of choice. This design puts about an inch deep chamber of air, as well as a pretty thick wall of ceramic and an aluminum tray (not mentioned previously) between the burning coal and any metal tubing. I'm no scientist, nor am I interested in drawing conclusions about metal poisoning or ethics of smoking for you, but I am using this thing without fear. I ran a few test runs without any tobacco to absorb heat, sucking air directly from the coal to make the entire thing as hot as possible, then removed the bowl from the pipe and touched it with the back of my hand, and it stays cooler than room temperature. I can't see how any toxins in copper could be released without a substantial amount of heat hitting the pipe first, and I can tell you that the coal doesn't heat the pipe anywhere near as hot as the hot water in my bathroom sink, that runs exclusively through copper tubing. I haven't had lock jaw drinking hot water from the tap to make tea in the two years I've had my apartment and am not worried at all about getting it, from water or hookah. That said, Hookah smoking is really really bad for you.