Have you seen all those cool upcycled wine bottle projects on the internet? Torches, lanterns, wind chimes, candle covers, glasses – the list goes on and on. How about those Pins saying you can just soak some string in acetone, wrap it around the bottle, light it up and, voila! cut bottle? Ever heard the saying “If it seems too good to be true…”?
I started trying to cut glass bottles about five years ago now. I quickly learned that the string/yarn method doesn’t really work. Maybe someone out there has gotten it to work, but it never, ever worked for me. Next I tried the glass cutter + butane torch method. This brought a sort of success, but I could tell the torch was stressing out the glass and I ended up cracking a lot of the bottles during the cutting process. I don’t know what sort of success rate I was looking at, exactly, but it was poor enough I stopped taking labels off the bottles before attempting to cut them. Then I tried the dipping in boiling water and iced water baths…again, lots of stress on the glass and plenty of fractured bottles.
Then I came across the best way to cut glass bottles with the highest rate of success. Using your glass cutter with a rig to hold it in place, some boiling water, and water straight from your tap, you can easily achieve fantastic cuts. Awesome! Just read on to learn how!
Supplies for glass bottle cutting
- A clean glass bottle with smooth sides (square bottles will not work with this method, and it can’t cut over raised designs, either)
- A glass cutter with a rig for cutting bottle (I use this glass cutter)
- A pot or electric kettle in which to boil water
- Safety glasses (always a good idea when working with glass!)
The best DIY way to cut a glass bottle
1. Make sure your bottle is clean. Any dirt or grit on the bottle will mess with the cutter!
2. Use your glass cutter to make a light, even score all the way around the bottle. Apply light, even pressure all the way around, but don’t press down too hard. You might want to press down on the cutter, but this really isn’t necessary. Also, make sure you only cut exactly once around – repeat passes are not helpful can make it more likely the bottle will crack instead of cut! Your glass cutter should have more detailed instructions on its operation. I have the Generation Green bottle cutter. I’ve seen this other bottle cutter with more of a cradle to hold the bottle that looks a little easier to use, but I haven’t tried it yet personally.
The score line should look something like this:
3. Bring your pot or kettle of water to a boil and then remove it from the heat. You don’t want to pour just boiling water on the bottle or it will crack, but you also don’t need to let it sit for minutes and minutes.
4. Put on your eye protection (seriously, please don’t skip this part!) and carefully pour a slow, steady stream of hot water onto your score mark while turning the bottle. If your pot is too unwieldy, carefully dip a Pyrex measuring cup into the water to dip some out and use that, instead. Keep pouring water, slowly rotating the bottle, this until you notice the bottle becoming warm in your hand.
5. Immediately run the bottle under ‘cold’ water from the faucet. This water doesn’t need to be actually cold – ice water can shock the glass badly. Just use the regular, not heated tap on your faucet. You should notice the score mark is easier to see, thicker, and probably somewhat white. You may even start to hear a crackling noise!
6. Repeat the hot water/cold water process another two or three times, or until the bottle cracks open along the line. The bottle shown below is freshly cut and not yet sanded. Isn’t that edge nice?
7. Be very careful when you handle the freshly-cut bottle pieces! They are extremely sharp and can cut you badly. To dull the edges, sand them carefully in a shallow dish filled with water or under running water. The Generation Green bottle cutter comes with a piece of 60 grit and 120 grit, but you can also buy “wet or dry” sandpaper at any hardware store. Sanding under water is incredibly important because it traps the glass particles – you don’t want to breathe them in!
Here are a couple additional examples to show the effectiveness of this method. Below is a picture of cut bottle, after significant sanding, done using one of the harsher, ‘usual suspect’ methods with high heat and cold cold:
This photo is the other end of the exact same bottle, shown without any sanding, cut using the method this tutorial demonstrates:
I think the results speak for themselves!
What’s really cool is you can then use a glass cutter to score a couple lines down the bottle and split it open. Then you can start making your own glass tiles and pendants! Once you start breaking it into little pieces, it will be way easier to use glass breaking pliers instead of the hot and cold water method. If you want to start cutting your own bottles, you may need to purchase a bottle cutter online. As I said before, you can build your own jig and use any old glass cutter, but I wasn’t comfortable with that. After checking four local craft/hobby stores, I gave up and got this one on Amazon.
Actually, I’ve had two of these now. The first one didn’t make it when I moved to Hawaii on an airplane three years ago, so I purchased a second one a little while ago. I was so thrilled when my first cut with the new rig came out just as wonderful as I’d remembered!