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Wine Bottle Cutting 101

Cut Wine Bottles on the Table
Ever look at that beautiful wine bottle and think I can make something out of this? Wine bottles comes in all sorts of colors and sizes and some are just too cool to recycle. Bottles also come in various thicknesses as well. I have found that the heavier bottles, such as Champagne bottles, can be harder to cut so I tend to gravitate towards lighter weight bottles.
There are three things you will need to begin your artistic journey with your empty wine bottles. First is a good Bottle Cutter. With all of the different types of bottle cutters on the market, it can be hard to choose. Don’t be fooled by the fancy box or the cheapest price. There are major differences in bottle cutters. If you are serious about cutting bottles successfully, invest in a good cutter that will do the job well. I have found that the Creator’s Bottle Cutter is the best on the market, hands down. The Creator’s Bottle Cutter has a carbide cutting wheel that will out last the steel wheel cutting heads on other bottle cutters. It also has a cradle that holds the bottle horizontal while you score, which allows you to keep constant pressure on your cutting head. It will also keep your bottle perpendicular to the cutting head, for a better score. With the upright cutters, it hard to keep your pressure consistent. The cradle has rollers that allow you to rotate your bottle smoothly.
The second thing you will need is a heat source. Some use candles or hot water, which will work only a bit slower. I prefer a heat gun for my heat source. You can find them at any home center with a paint department (heat gun example link to Amazon). It is portable, efficient and easy to use. It does get very hot so be careful working around it. We sometimes get so engrossed in our work that we don’t realize how close we are to the business end of the hot tool. Safety glasses are a good thing to have on in case your bottle has a different idea of breaking than you do.

Wine Bottle with heat gun
Wine Bottle with heat gun

The Third thing is a container that will hold enough ice and water to cover your score on the bottle. Keep the ice coming. It works better when the water is really cold.

Bottle in Ice Water Bath
Bottle in Ice Water Bath

Before you begin your bottle cutting, you need to remove the label and any glue left on the wine bottle. You don’t want anything in the way that will hinder your score. Removing labels can be a chore because some labels will soak off easily and others you will need something just short of dynamite to remove the label. Trust me, dynamite doesn’t work either. I fill the bottle with hot water and soak the outside in hot water. Having hot water on the inside seems help loosen the glue. After it soaks for a few minutes, try peeling off the label. The glue may need something like Goof Off (Goof Off example link to Amazon) to remove the residue. If you want to keep your label on the bottle, just make sure it doesn’t get in the way of your score.
Now that the hard task is finished, removing the label, we can begin to cut the bottle. Mark your bottle, with a marker, and make a reference point as to where you started your score. The Creator’s Bottle Cutter has a line on the top of the back stop to help you know where you began your score. Once you decide where you want to score your bottle, simply slide the cutter head along the cradle and tighten the black screw. The yellow screw adjusts the cutter head. I usually put a piece of card stock paper between my cutting wheel and the bottle so that I don’t accidentally start my score until I’m ready. Take your pressure pad and apply pressure on the bottle and get the head into position and tighten the yellow screw. Remove the card stock and while applying pressure on the bottle with the pressure pad, loosen the yellow screw.
Slowly rotate your bottle towards you while applying pressure with your pressure pad. Once you see that your bottle has made a full rotation, stop and remove the bottle. Pressure can be tricky. Too much pressure can result in a deep score and too little pressure can cause a light score. Either score can end badly. Practice getting the pressure right and your results will be amazing.
After you have scored the bottle, heat the score up with the Heat Gun on low. Continue to rotate the bottle to get an even heat. You want the bottle to be warm to the touch but not too hot.

 

When you feel it’s ready, put the bottle in ice and water and let it set for a minute or two. The idea here is to shock the glass by going from heat to extreme cold. If your bottle is too hot, it could cause your bottle to break badly. It is exciting when you pick your bottle up out of the ice bath and the bottom falls off.

Too Deep (top) and Light bottom) Scores on Bottle
Too Deep (top) and Light (bottom) Scores on the Bottle

Occasionally, you may have to reheat and chill the bottle a second time if you get a stubborn bottle. Be careful and make sure you have a good grip on both ends of the bottle because it could break loose when you reheat. Be patient and let the magic happen. If you feel that you did everything right and it still broke wrong, don’t worry.  The bottle manufacturer doesn’t care what happens to the bottle once you empty it. The bottles are made very quickly and can have stress, just like other glass. Luckily, our materials are cheap so if we have to give up on a bottle that’s ok.

Separated Bottle in Coming Out of Ice Bath
Separated Bottle after the Ice Bath

After your bottle has separated, the cut edge can be razor sharp. I use a 120 grit Diamond Pad to go around the outside cut edge of the bottle to smooth the edges and use a half round Diamond File to smooth the inside edge of the bottle.This way you can handle you newest work of art safely. Be sure to keep your Diamond Pad and File wet while sanding the bottle. This will keep the sanding dust and friction heat down.

Cutting Wine Bottle Rings

I like to cut rings out of the bottle to use for wind chimes. They come in several colors and have an interesting sound. You can also put them in a kiln and slump them into interesting shapes, usually about 1250-1300 degrees. Talk about the ultimate upcycled bottle project!

Wine Bottle Rings (fresh cut and kiln slumped)
Wine Bottle Rings (fresh cut and kiln slumped)

Huge wine bottle ring wind chime project
144 wine bottle ring wind chime by Steve Roley.

The only thing I do differently, when cutting rings is to score all of your rings at one time. After you have all of your scores finished, heat the whole bottle with your Heat Gun on high, quickly rotating the bottle for an even heat. I use the high setting because I can get the whole bottle warm fast. Make sure your ice and water level covers all of your scores when you put the bottle in.
Bottle Art is so much fun so have some friends over and let them help you empty your “materials” for your next work of Art! The sacrifices we must make!

 

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