How to make a Bottleneck slide
March 4, 2005 1:35 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone know how to make a bottleneck guitar slide? I tried google and couldn't find anything reliable. Bear in mind that running to the hardware store and buying expensive equipment is out of the question. Obviously there'll be SOME expense, but things like electric belt sanders simply aren't going to happen. Thanks in advance.
posted by shmegegge to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you mean that you want to make a bottleneck guitar slide? Or that you want to make an entire slide guitar?
posted by pracowity at 2:03 AM on March 4, 2005

Best answer: If you mean just the slide, it looks pretty simple and the fancy equipment is optional.
posted by pracowity at 2:16 AM on March 4, 2005

Best answer: I read about this method in a book a while back:

Find a suitable bottle, one with a neck that is reasonable straight, that your finger will fit inside and is long enough.

Get a glass scoring knife (should be cheap, and available at any DIY shop) and use this to score a line around the bottle where the neck ends and the body begins. This is best done by clamping the blade into a vice, horizontally and pushing the bottle up against the blade. You may need to put something underneath the bottle to score it at the right height. The trick is to rotate the bottle against the blade, rather than trying to score a straight line around the bottle.

Ensure that you go over the line a number of times to make sure that the score is clean and a good depth.

Once complete, heat an oven to about gas mark 8 and put the bottle in it, until it gets nice and hot. Should take about 15 minutes. When the bottle is very hot, take it out of the oven (don't forget oven gloves!).

Holding the hot bottle by the neck, dip the body of the bottle into cold water. The contraction of hot glass in cold water should make the bottle shatter, but only as far as the line that you have scored. Once this is done, leave the neck to cool for an hour or two. Once cold, you can then file down the rough edges with a fine file, then polish it off with wet and dry paper.

You may need to do this a few times to get it to work properly, I recall it taking 2 or 3 goes to get it right. Pitfalls will be a bottle that is too small, scoring a line in the right place and putting the bottle too far into the water and cracking the neck. Ensure you score the line deep enough.

If you find a good brand of beer in the right kind of bottle, it's not too expensive to try a dozen or so times, but the more beer you get through, the more mistakes you may make... :)
posted by gaby at 4:11 AM on March 4, 2005

Response by poster: those are both great answers. thanks!
posted by shmegegge at 4:30 AM on March 4, 2005

My slide is a piece of steel plumbing pipe that I found at a hardware store. It sounds great -- different from glass, more metallic and twangy -- and has plenty of authentic blues precedent. Just make sure it comes off your ring finger without too much trouble, and isn't terribly heavy.
posted by Miko at 7:11 AM on March 4, 2005

um, can't you just get a finger-sized glass tube? I've seen folks play with that.
posted by Goofyy at 7:50 AM on March 4, 2005

Yeah... I've seen the glass tubes for a couple bucks at guitar stores, usually placed near the register as an impulse buy.
posted by jtron at 8:36 AM on March 4, 2005

If you can afford to buy the beer, one would think you can afford to buy the slide, as they're not expensive (just in case you thought they were, or something).
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:07 AM on March 4, 2005

There's a lot of cred in having a real, homemade bottleneck. I mean, Robert Johnson and Lightnin' Hopkins did not go to the music store for manufactured glass tubes (at least not early on). I'm sure shmegegge is going for that down.n.dirty sound.
posted by Miko at 9:20 AM on March 4, 2005

Best answer: A couple of points on cutting the glass.

1) Dip the cutting end of the glass cutter into oil first. 3M, clean motor oil, even vegetable oil. It will make a much cleaner and sharper cut.

2) If you're going to use the "heat and shatter" method (which I wouldn't), wear long gloves and eye protection. Glass really hates sharp thermal shocks, and can fly a surprising distance. Ideally, you have a cape, to keep glass shards from plumetting down your shirt.

Instead, once you have a good score, get a wrench -- something metal and dense about 6" long. A crescent wrench would work fine. A half-inch steel rod is perfect, but you're more likely to have a wrench. I use a 13mm combination wrench.

Put a towel on the table. Hold the top of the bottle, with the bottom just a couple of inches above the towel, and tap firmly with the wrench just below the score mark. Use a rounded bit, not a sharp bit. Many glass cutters have a ball on the other end you can use, but for tubing and bottles, it is a bit light. Tap, tap, tap until the bottle splits at the score line and falls on the towel. (That, BTW, is why we have the towel and table. Otherwise, it falls on floor and breaks.)

You can also use a tile cutting bit on a dremel, but you'll need to go slow, and frequently dunk the bottle into water to cool the cut.

Finally, to make a slide, you'll need to make two cuts -- you need to take the lip off the bottle, then cut the neck away from the body of the bottle. The neck becomes the slide.
posted by eriko at 10:14 AM on March 4, 2005

Buy a small glass vial from a science supply store. Works great.
posted by agregoli at 10:16 AM on March 4, 2005

heat an oven to about gas mark 8

That would apparently be 450°F for those who have ovens that aren't calibrated in "gas marks," which I have never heretofore heard of.
posted by kindall at 10:31 AM on March 4, 2005

I realize this is not exactly the question you asked, but you can buy a slide of brass, steel or glass at the guitar store for about the cost of a set of strings.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:45 AM on March 4, 2005

Much easier than the scoring and oven trick:

- dip a piece of cotton twine in kerosene.
- tie the twine around the bottle neck.
- light the twine and let the string burn off
- using gloves, pick up the bottle and place it into a large bucket of water - it should crack off, and you can use pliers to snap off any remaining pieces.
- sand down the edges
posted by judith at 1:28 PM on March 4, 2005

Once cold, you can then file down the rough edges with a fine file, . . .
Not unless it's a diamond file. Glass is harder than tool steel. The wet-or-dry sandpaper will work, because its grit is harder than glass. The paper will probably cost you more than that music-store slide, though.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:26 PM on March 4, 2005

Response by poster: thank you all for your answers. just to let you know, this was a question for my sister who wanted to make an authentic home-made bottleneck as a gift for some dude I've never met. That's why I'm not just spending the whopping 2 bucks to buy a slide.
posted by shmegegge at 5:32 PM on March 4, 2005

The twine method never worked for me.

I always pushed the cutting blade into the bottle, it takes a lot of force to get a good score (esp. with the crummy tool I was using), and I found that holding the bottle down with my legs was easier, this is a YMMMV kind of thing. The whole endeavor is.

Fine Metal files work well enough to take the sharp edge off the glass. It would take a LONG time to truly round it, but you can make it dull enough to not cut you.

Practice with spares first, or ideally get a couple indentical long-necked bottles.

Or for a completely different feel, use a bone. Though this is 99% not the sound anyone is looking for.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 10:16 PM on March 4, 2005

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