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How to Cut Glass Bottles (The BEST way)

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’ve been trying to cut glass bottles for over a year 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.

The latest method I’ve been using is, by far, the absolute best way to cut glass bottles at home. I realized that boiling water is hot enough to stress non-tempered glass. You really don’t need the super high heat of a torch, at all! You do still need a glass cutter and a rig to hold it in place, but you can achieve smoother, more reliable cuts with nothing more than the cutter and a freshly boiled pitcher of water. Wow! Just read on to learn how.

the best way to cut a glass bottle

Supplies for glass bottle cutting

  • A glass bottle (or two or three) to practice on
  • A glass cutter with a rig for cutting bottle
  • A pot or electric kettle in which to boil water
  • Safety glasses (always a good idea when working with glass!)

That’s it!

The best DIY way to cut a glass bottle

First, use your glass cutter to make a light, even score all the way around the bottle. 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. Actually, they 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, but you can build your own rig to hold the bottle in place, too.

cutting glass bottle

glass score 1

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. Put on some eye protection and carefully pour a slow, steady stream of hot water onto your score mark while turning the bottle. Keep doing this until you notice the bottle becoming warm in your hand. Then run it under ‘cold’ water from the faucet. This water doesn’t need to be actually cold – ice water can shock the glass badly, too. 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. Repeat the hot water/cold water process another two or three times, or until the bottle cracks open along the line.

clean cut glass bottle

This method is not a 100% guarantee, but it works far, far more often than anything else I’ve ever tried. You will need to sand the edges just a tiny bit to make sure they don’t cut you, but you won’t need to spend half an hour smoothing out jagged edges. Just take a look at this example, one of the better I achieved using the butane torch method. This one is fairly salvageable, but many cut this way are not.

glass nick

Just look at the difference! This is without any sanding what so ever and is on the other end of the exact same  bottle.

clean cut glass bottle top

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.

Since I live in a college town, I’ve never had any trouble finding glass bottles to practice on! It may sound strange, but consider stepping out on recycling day and seeing what you can snag if you don’t have friends, roommates, etc. who can give you bottles. Bartender friends are a great bottle resource, too!

Have I convinced you to try this method? Have you ever tried to cut glass? What method did you use and how well did it work?

Natasha

 

 


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{ 16 comments… add one }

  • cynthia August 29, 2013, 08:26

    what a fantastic idea! are you making jewelry with the cut glass pieces? that would be seriously cool!

    • Natashalh August 29, 2013, 09:06

      I’m working on it! =) I’m getting good at the cutting, but drilling is difficult and I don’t have the right equipment to make bezel frames around them right now. Eventually, though!

  • Nicole Lauren August 29, 2013, 15:37

    I was just wondering how to do this the other day, cool!

    • Natashalh August 29, 2013, 17:01

      Awesome! I hope you have the chance to give it a try.

  • Rose August 29, 2013, 17:14

    The results are incredible! Thanks for sharing this great, detailed tutorial.

  • Edi August 30, 2013, 06:25

    Thanks for the tips! I bought a glass cutter longer ago than I’d like to admit and have been scared to try it. These tips make me think I can actually do it :)

    • Natashalh August 30, 2013, 07:34

      It can be pretty intimidating! I really don’t know how many bottles I’ve broken in the process of figuring it out. Even with the easier method, don’t expect every cut to be perfect. They will be much, much better, though!

  • Linda September 5, 2013, 17:12

    Thanks for the tip, Natasha!! I love it. Linda

    • Natashalh September 6, 2013, 05:15

      I just hope someone finds this and avoids the year of frustration I experienced!

  • muhammad farooq February 4, 2014, 03:55

    what an idea.my problem will be solved when i get these items in pakistan

    • Natashalh February 4, 2014, 08:36

      It works way better than any other method I’ve tried. Good luck and enjoy!

  • Don Jackson November 26, 2014, 07:58

    Nice job of getting a straight edge on those bottles. I’ve been cutting bottles for a while with a tile saw and its hard to get a nice edge. If you want to use them for drinking glasses you’ll need to shape and smooth it a lot. I came up with a good way of shaping the edge. Check out my kickstarter campaign:
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/582093084/the-bottle-bit

    • Natashalh November 26, 2014, 11:54

      Nice! It looks like you’ve really figured out how to get a nice, rounded edge. It is really amazing how sharp those clean cuts are until they’re sanded down. I’ve had to give up playing with glass bottles for the time being. We’re living in Hawaii right now and the deposit/refund at the recycling center makes it a little harder to get lots of free bottles compared to when I lived in a college town. Best of luck with your Kickstarter – I’ll give it a social media shout out after the holiday. =)

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