How-To: Bottle Cutting

Uploaded by makemagazine on 19.06.2011

Using a bottle cutting jig like this one, I’m going to show you how to turn a discarded
beer bottle into a reusable drinking glass. Now the method is more like “controlled
breaking” than it is like cutting, but I think that makes it more fun. I’ll show
you how it’s done.
So let’s get right to it. Peel off any labels that you don’t want on your glass. Soaking
them in warm water will make this easier.
Line up the bottle on the jig so that the cutting wheel is where you want to make your
The wheel should be perpendicular to the surface of the glass.
While pressing down firmly, turn the bottle down into the cutting wheel. Keep the movement
consistent and stop when you’ve made a complete circle. You’ll know when you’ve done that
when the cutting wheel makes a “crunching” sound on the glass.
The score on the glass should go all the way around.
The next step is to hold the bottle over a candle, turning it at an even pace about a
half inch over the flame. Make two or three turns of the bottle.
Set the bottle down and then drag a piece of ice over the score. When you hear a crackle,
you know the that the glass is starting to separate at the score. This can sometimes
happen right away but you may need to put the bottle back over the flame again. Just
be careful and don’t make the same mistake I did.
Another way to separate the bottle is to dunk it in a tank of cold water. I found that this
method worked really quickly, but sometimes would leave small cracks and uneven cuts.
If you have any small imperfections like this one, you can usually sand them down fairly
If this is going to be used for drinking, you’ll want to polish the top of the glass.
Sprinkle some silicone carbide onto a flat piece glass. Spray it with some water, and
then start to rub the glass onto the surface, eventually making a figure eight motion.
Some of you might find this noise to be incredibly annoying. When the noise dies down a bit,
you’ll know that the glass is pretty well polished. Here’s a before and after. Before
on the left and after on the right.
The next step is to sand the edges of the lip at a 45 degree angle. This will round
the edge off a little bit and make it more comfortable for drinking.
Of course, you can also do this with a wine bottle. But the glass in a wine bottle is
a little thicker, and you may need to go back and forth between the candle and the ice a
few times. But be patient. Rushing through it can lead to a bad break.
For another way to do this, check out Sean Michael Ragan’s method on Make: Projects.
He uses a torch and a turntable to evenly distribute the heat along the score line.
Pretty neat.
In fact, there are lots of different ways to do this. If you’ve had a good experience
with a particular method, let us know in the comments.
Anyway, that’s my brief primer on bottle cutting. Here are a few of the glasses I made,
and here’s a low vase I made for my mother. You’ll find that bottle cutting is pretty
easy but it just take a little bit of practice to get the hang of it. If you have an idea
for a how-to video, send me an e-mail at, or on twitter: @MattRichardson. Until next
time, so long!