Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wine bottle DIY: Fermentation

Previously in this DIY, we "harvested" and "crushed" in preparation for...

Fermentation... when the real work gets started!

After crushing and de-stemming, the juice from the grapes is put into the fermentation vats, where alcoholic fermentation takes place (the conversion of sugar into alcohol and CO2). Sometimes yeast is added to start fermentation.

Much like the transformation of grape juice into wine, we're taking a rough bottle and converting it into a smooth, velvety vessel.

Freshly cut bottles awaiting their "fermentation" transformation

1. Safety gear: glasses, gloves, dust mask. Dust mask goes on if you're using the Dremel; it kicks up a lot of dust. Gloves too, if you skipped them for the cutting phase. Glass dust can be itchy. And might as well put the glasses on while you're at it. It's silly to stop short of 100% safety.
2. Your cut bottles. Tap out the loose shards of glass into the trash and rinse out the glass dust in the utility sink.
3. One of the following finishing methods (see below): sandpaper, Dremel or glass grinder.

How you finish the cut edge is up to you. We tried a variety of methods so you can choose what works best for your situation. Here they are, starting with the least intimidating/expensive option.

1. Sandpaper, 200 & 400 grit. Start with the 200 and use the 400 for finishing. This route is the least intimidating but you'll pay for it with sore arms, lots of hours and piles of sandpaper.
Not even half of the sandpaper...

Macro view of the 400 grit

Mr. P recommends wet sandpaper because it will keep the glass cool. (Wet sandpaper is actually a type of sandpaper, not just wetting regular sandpaper. But you will want to wet the dry wet sandpaper. Are you thoroughly confused now? Who's on first?)

2. Dremel, sanding and polishing bits. If you aren't scared of power tools and can get your hands on one, it'll cut your finishing time in half. Because the dremel bit can skip off the glass edge and leave a burr mark, you need to either be okay with imperfections or put down multiple layers of painters tape as a precaution.

Burrs are bad, m'kay?

3. Glass grinder. If you thought the Dremel was fast... wow.


The grinder is much more powerful and easier to control than the Dremel. Grinding down the rough edges took about 5-10 minutes per bottle, depending on how rough the cut edge was at the start (and if you're a perfectionist). It's a little noisy and messy, but fun.

After grinding down 4 cases of bottles with the grinder, I developed a system: inside edge, outside edge, then top edge to file down any nicks. If the bottle edge was noticeably uneven, the top edge got attention first. For some bottles, I had to lift off the work surface to get the right angle.

Smooth bottles ready for a final cleaning

1. Thicker bottles work best. Their edges can be sanded down without being filed to a fine point that then chips. Champagne bottles are consistently thicker-walled because the bottles are constructed to withstand the pressure from the CO2 inside. More expensive bottles usually have more heft to them too.

Compare the thickness of a wine bottle and champagne bottle

2. Rubbing alcohol works great at removing label residue.
3. Use the glass grinder, if you can get your hands on one. They're not inexpensive ($75-150) unless you can justify using it for other projects. This was the best tool for the job!
4. Every bottle will reach a point of diminishing returns where if you continue to mess with it, the edges will chip or file into a point. These are just the limitations of your Dremel/grinder.
5. No matter what method you use, finish with fine (400 grit) sandpaper. It takes those stubborn edges down.

Mr. P wants to interject that this is project took much longer than he anticipated, but he is not the patient half of our duo. It took about 20 hours for 50 finished bottles averaging 24 minutes a bottle. If you're not using this many bottles and were able to learn from our trial and error, then it should go faster for you.

Up next, the final step and a reveal of the finished bottles!

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