Cutting a Thick Oddly Shaped Bottle
November 17, 2008 3:27 PM   Subscribe

How can I cut a thick oval glass bottle cleanly?

I want to cut the neck and shoulders off of a large Bulleit bourbon bottle. This bottle is oval in shape and seems to be pretty thick. The goal is to be left with only the vertical sides and base which will be used as a wide mouth vase. That wiki picture is at an odd angle, but it shows what I want to remove.

I've read/watched videos on how to cut bottles using a heat and cold shock technique but no results I've seen are clean and even. At worst I can break out a glass cutter and just circle the bottle a few times, but I don't know how this bottle is going to snap when I score it.

I have access to a dremel tool and various hand tools, but no experience cutting anything other than flat planes of glass.
posted by Science! to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
An angle grinder with a diamond cutting blade would do it. You could probably spend days on it with a Dremel, not to mention the hundreds of cutting disks, and not get too far.

I don't think a glass cutter would work because as you're snapping the neck off in the right direction on one side, it's the wrong direction for the other side of the bottle.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:39 PM on November 17, 2008

I would suggest a wet-cut circular diamond-edge saw blade like the kind used for glass tiles, but that's a lot to buy for a one-off.
posted by GuyZero at 3:40 PM on November 17, 2008

not sure if this helps, and cant remember where I learned it, but supposedly taking a piece of string/twine...soaking in lighter fluid and tieing it around where you want to cut and lighting it...then a little tap tap...and a piece of emery cloth to smooth off anything. Sounds like this bottle is rare and or important, so I would try it with some a similarly constructed bottle first

good luck...and pls report back on what did the trick
posted by timsteil at 3:44 PM on November 17, 2008

Response by poster: The flaming string method is the first one I saw online, but it didn't seem to leave a nice straight cut (the cuts were more wavy). The bottle is not old or important, but it's almost 2 liters of whiskey to go through if I mess it up and have to buy another bottle.

If no one comes up with a sure fire trick I might just go to the locally owned tile shop and see what they can do.
posted by Science! at 3:52 PM on November 17, 2008

geez.....this just flashed on me....but wasn't there some kind of gizmo in a bad commercial in the mid-late 70's ( think Ronco...or similar cheap TV spot before the age of infomercials) that was a glass cuttting thing. I remember it being about one step above sticking a candle in a chianti bottle as far as decorating...but the idea was you could recycle your Boone's Farm bottles into water glasses etc etc

Maybe a little google/youtube/ebay fu would turn one up, or at least the idea/tech behind it. Or, probably more likely, sniff around in someone's grandma's attic.
posted by timsteil at 4:06 PM on November 17, 2008

Holy cow. A bottle cutter on Amazon. Google Answers on cutting a bottle with a reference to specific models.

Essentially it looks like a regular glass cutter with a rig to keep the line level & straight around the bottle. You then use the thermal shock technique to actually do the work but the scored line keeps it straight.
posted by GuyZero at 4:12 PM on November 17, 2008

Nichrome wire is the traditional way of doing it. You gotta have a big power supply to pump current through the wire.

This guy seems to have a kind of omnibus list of how-to's, including "hot wire".
posted by Class Goat at 4:14 PM on November 17, 2008

This guy seemed to successfully cut glass with a dremel. Good luck, and please follow up. I have a dremel that I've used very little and would like to learn more about what it can do!
posted by selfmedicating at 4:41 PM on November 17, 2008

Response by poster: Awesome. All your links are giving me more keywords to search and sources to read. I want to do this myself if I can, so I think I'll try scoring it with a glass cutter in a homemade rig, and then thermal shock to finish it. If that fails me, I'll find a saw for the next one. I won't do this for a few days, so if any one else has an idea, I'm all ears.
posted by Science! at 4:42 PM on November 17, 2008

it's pretty easy actually. you need two things, a diamond cutting disk, and LOTS of lubrication. water or oil. the lubricant is the most important part when cutting glass with a rotary tool. a dremel is probibly fine, i use a flex shaft like this which is basically a dremel on steroids.
posted by swbarrett at 7:59 PM on November 17, 2008

When you're using something like a dremel tool to do this, you MUST wear protective goggles! No joke!

In fact, that's probably a good idea no matter how you do this.
posted by Class Goat at 11:49 PM on November 17, 2008

My SO is.. obsessive? and has explored this quite thoroughly. (No seriously). He's busy with something else right now, but this is the jist of what he said. (Pardon the lack of technical terms.)

- There is no guaranteed method.
I'm prepared to believe that, he would probably know. Also - it wouldn't hurt to practice on other bottles so you can get the hang of it.

- Score one perfect, non-stop, continuous line.
This line is crucial! You can't stop/start it has to be done in one single movement. You use like a fixed glass cutting thingy.. a jib.. jig.. - something like that? It has a base and a vertical stick with a cutter on it.. type of thing. I think the whole set-up clamps onto your bench like a vice-thingy. I got the impression you can get them from easily enough (home depot type places?) but you could probably bodge something together to a good degree of success? (If this was just confusing I'll find something visual...)

Okay where were we- bottle, single continuous line - right

-Heat line then toss into a bucket of water.
Here's the one thing I did get some 'technical clarification' on! (of sorts...)

Use a candle (or whatever) and evenly heat only the line. He said "30sec". I said "??... what does 30sec mean?" You should be able to hold it in your hand. Too hot and... *something happens*. I don't remember that bit.
But yeah it's a touchable temp, even by girl-hands standards. (So if you can juuust stand it - too hot.)

Toss it into a bucket of water and voila! (With luck anyway... refer first point.)
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 12:31 AM on November 20, 2008

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