Monday, January 31, 2011

Wine bottle DIY: Crushing

Now that you've harvested your bottles for the wine bottle centerpieces, we're ready for the second step in winemaking: crushing/de-stemming, aka cutting the bottles.

Let me begin by saying there are many ways to do this, ranging from "so simple I must be missing something" to crazy dangerous... like an alcohol-soaked string that is then lit on fire.
Like I said. Crazy. Dangerous. - source

Moving on. We started on the easy end of the spectrum...

1. Glass cutting rig - Mr. P didn't want to spend money ($45) on a cutting rig he wasn't sure would work (mixed online reviews).

"Glass Dude" sells them - source

Why buy when you can DIY? Mr. P has an arsenal of tools and a basement to run amock in so he built his own out of wooden dowels and a fixed arm with a $5 glass cutter.

glass cutter

Once scored, we tried to break the bottle by shocking it with hot and cold water (fail), a candle (fail again), and MAPP gas torch (excelling at failing by now). None of these methods had any chance of working because of issues with the rig. Without a way to firmly hold the cutting tool at the correct angle with consistent pressure, the cutting wheel skipped and always left us with a chipped edge.

Consensus: No matter how you cut it (har har), the uneven score lines were the problem. The key to a clean cut is an even score.

2. Wet tile saw - We were thisclose to ordering the stupid rig online but Mr. P wanted to exhaust all possibilities before doing so. So one Saturday morning I followed him into the basement to skeptically watch from a safe distance.

Adding water before firing up the saw

The tile saw was loud enough that I wished for four hands: two for my ears and the other two to partially cover my eyes. I couldn't watch. Something bad was going to... oh wait, did it just cut cleanly through the bottle?

It did, it did!

After several test bottles, we had a viable method. Sure the blade left a chipped edge, but it cut consistently and quickly (under a minute per bottle). Any of the previous methods left an unfinished edge too, so this was no biggie. We'd figure out how to finish the edges later.

Consensus: Holy crap! This project was going to get off the ground!

Supplies, if you're doing it our way:
- A place you can get messy. NOT a project for your dining room table!
- Your bottles, obviously.
- Tile saw, with water.
- Safety glasses.
- Gloves. (Note: I used latex kitchen gloves to handle the cut bottles. Mr. P, who was working the saw, used tougher work gloves.)
- Dust mask. While not necessary at this point, keep in mind there are tiny glass pieces flying around. Safety first!

1. Determine the height of your vase(s).
2. Set tile saw block/guard that distance from cutting wheel.
3. Lay bottle on its side and SLOWLY roll it into the cutting wheel.
4. Push bottle into blade so that blade just cuts through to the inside surface.
5. Rotate slowly, holding bottle ends for stability as cut approaches 100%.
6. You have now successfully separated your bottle into two pieces. Toss the neck piece. Keep the base for The Next Phase.

Up next, finding a way to finish the sharp edges!

Are tackling any DIY projects outside of your comfort zone? Do power tools, flammable liquids and torches intimidate you too?


  1. I'm super impressed that you took this project on! This was one thing I wanted to try, but it got too late in the wedding planning process so I didn't even try it.

  2. Laura: I'm cautiously optimistic about finishing the edges. Waiting for a contractor friend to locate his glass grinder (like the one I had in high school art class) so we can cross this DIY off the list.

  3. way to tackle such a daunting project in the name of makin' in personal! love it-

  4. "Up next, finding a way to finish the sharp edges!"
    I finish the sharp edges by placing it in the Bottle Bit and spinning it around like its on a lathe. That allows me to sand it easily. You can check out the kickstarter campaign at