Miscellaneous Random

bottle cutting: an art project

i cut you! i cut you! ::::


I’m deviating away from food today for a pragmatic art lesson. I have this habit of collecting glass jars. I take all shapes and sizes. There are tall, narrow ones that used to hold capers. There are squat, beautifully frosted ones that contained delicately scented sake. I have bottles that contained various olive oils: there are square deep green bottles, there are tall round green bottles, there are clear glass bottles with decorative edges and textures. I have multiple beer bottles, collected for the beauty of the glass color. I have crystalline green, deep blue, sea green, and clear with interesting painted labels. There also the wine bottles of similar regard. These bottles all remind me of the sea. Of beautiful light through stained-glass windows. Of deep, dark wines sampled and dimly lit restaurants. Of colorful fruit syrups. Of homemade jams and jellies.

Eat does not have this fascination that I do. It plays out like this: I collect a bunch of these jars and bottles, it clutters things, we get into a fight, I get rid of most of them, and then I start all over again. Basically, the circle of life. My life with jars.

So while I used these jars and bottles for food storage and often silently admired the kitchen window backlight shining through on gray Sunday mornings, I decided to turn colorful bottle collecting into a practical and creative adventure. The excuse for my cluttered collection is to create functional glassware. I am a practical woman. Don’t stifle that, Husband.

A quick summary of the process: I appealed to my friends for colored glass bottles and collected many of my own. The first step was to remove all paper and plastic labels. Some of the paper labels came off easily in warm soapy water. Others needed more of a scrub using a mixture of baking soda and coconut oil. The plastic labels needed some extra work too. Once the bottles were stripped of those labels, I began the cutting process. I ensured I had lots of extra bottles with which to practice. An important part of the bottle scoring procedure is to score the line around the bottle in a perfect circle, not deviating as if to make a spiral path. The glass does not separate as well and there will be more sanding to attend to if there are some pointy edges to smooth. Once sanded, I cut out my designs to etch, applied the contact paper, painted on the etching cream, and rinsed for a one-of-a-kind set of blue glassware for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary this past June. Here is a fair tutorial to explain:

First, order your Kinkajou bottle cutter. In the simplest model, there are separation rings and a glass breaking tool included.


Look at You Tube videos on use and read the instruction manual before starting. Practice on bottles you don’t want to necessarily keep. There will be mistakes! Set up your chosen bottle:


Make sure everything is level.


The score line should be perfectly circular for best separation (although I’ve found on really thick bottles, even perfect score lines can break unevenly — Boo!):


Apply the boiling water and ice water in 10 second increments to shock the glass and encourage breakage on the score line. Don’t try to twist or break it yourself! It should fall away without any human pressure. Remove the separation rings carefully and proceed to the next bottle.


There are some thicker bottles below, and despite my perfect scoring on a couple of them, they did not break perfectly. Sometimes the uneven nib can be sanded down. I sand the glass right away, so as to not forget and get a finger slice accidentally later. I use 80 grit waterproof sandpaper to take off the sharp edges (do top, inner, and outside edges), wetting the glass and the sandpaper before starting (to prevent glass flakes from aerosolizing). This first sanding has a frosted appearance (see the olive green glass in the photo below), and work my way down to 600 grit for a smoother, shinier look. (UPDATE 9/2015: After I appealed to my friends to borrow a sander without luck, I ended up buying a Dremel with grinding and sanding attachments. The grinding heads work great to sand down a small uneven nib and to round the edges on thicker walled glass (not useful on the thinner walled). The sanding heads work okay to polish and shine with smaller grit. It takes more muscle but the hand sanded edges look cleaner and more even to me. If you have access to a wet sander with silicon carbide sandpaper, go for it.)


Next is the glass etching. Sketch your designs and trace onto tracing paper or use carbon paper to transfer to contact (or vinyl) paper). I did a seaside theme.


Cut out designs with the X-Acto knife very slowly and carefully. Don’t rush, the design edges will look choppy.


Now, stick these stickers to the glassware. The cylindrical curve may cause wrinkles; just smooth them down really well.


Apply the etching cream and follow the instructions on how long to leave it on. Rinse well under cool water before removing sticker. You did it!


One year ago: zucchini whoopie pies

Two years ago: nectarine murabba with cardamom, rosewater, and lemon

Three years ago: crack pie and panko-crusted baked chicken

Four years ago: sun bread and peach puzzle (a very unique and lovely dessert!)

bottle cutting: an art project
Recipe type: miscellaneous
  • Lots of clean empty cylindrical glass bottles. I used beer, water, and wine bottles. Paper and plastic labels should also be completely removed.
  • Bottle cutter - I used the Kinkajou. Watch the YouTube videos on use before starting or read the owner's manual.
  • A large pot of hot water and a large pot of ice water (Each should have a separate large cup with which to dip and obtain water as needed.)
  • Gloves (gardening or rubber -- when shocking the glass with hot and cold water)
  • Safety glasses
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Uninterrupted time (no young children around)
  • 80 to 600 grit waterproof sandpaper pages (a wet diamond wheel sander is better and faster, if you have it)
  • Optional supplies, only if decorating the glassware: Glass etching cream
  • Sticky vinyl or contact paper (painters' tape also works depending on your choice of design)
  • Hand-drawn designs or clip art (and carbon paper to transfer, optional)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paintbrushes
  • X-Acto knife, to cut out designs
  • Cutting surface (like old cardboard)
  1. Once your bottles are clean and free of labels, set up the Kinkajou bottle cutter where you want to cut a bottle. Please see the YouTube videos or the owner's manual for details. Score the line and remove the Kinkajou.
  2. Line your sink with grocery bags. When you separate the glass, there'll be sharp edges and you want the unwanted bits to fall into a bag, not down the drain.
  3. Position the separation rings around the scored line. Pour hot water over this line to heat the glass. Next, shock the glass with cold water over the same scored line. You may hear a crack before there is any separation. It may take two or three rounds of hot and cold before the glass completely separates. The thicker the glass, the more cycles needed also. After separation, carefully remove the separation rings and apply to the next scored bottle. Complete these same steps for all of your bottles.
  4. SANDING: The sharp edge needs to be addressed on each glass. Use your safety glasses and work in the sink. There will be very small pieces of sandpaper grit and glass flakes.
  5. Starting with the 80 grit sandpaper and the glass under running water (to prevent glass dust to aerosolize), sand the outside edge, top edge, and inside edge on each cut bottle until each is more smooth. The sanded edges will have a frosted appearance. To make them more shiny, use next finer grit sandpaper and work your way down to more fine grit until you achieve a more smooth and safe edge. Keep the glass and sandpaper wet for all of the sanding. Alternatively, you can set up a deep bowl of water in the sink, partially submerge your bottle, and sand. After you have sanded all of your cut bottles, give them a good wash in the dishwasher or by hand. (UPDATE: See the post body for more information on using a Dremel tool for grinding and sanding.)
  6. ETCHING: Read the instructions on the bottle very carefully, as different brands have different recommendations on how long to leave the etching paste on the glass. Mine took about 15 minutes with a thick, odorless paste.
  7. Prepare your workspace. I recommend newspaper.
  8. Draw your design on the vinyl sticker paper. If doing a mirror image or a complicated design that is already drawn on another piece of paper, use carbon paper** to transfer design. Make sure you get the correct orientation. I drew my designs on the backside of the vinyl sticker paper so I reversed my drawings when transferring, then had the final design in the correct orientation.
  9. When using the X-Acto knife to cut, use small deliberate movements for detailed designs. Take your time. It will be worth it.
  10. Retrieve your glassware and clean outside surface well with rubbing alcohol. Allow to dry and apply your design stickers. There may be some wrinkles given the shape of the glassware and the detail of the design. That's okay: make sure you press them firmly down to prevent leakage of etching cream, thus disrupting your design.
  11. Apply the etching cream in blobs and brush well into all corners of the design. Make sure to stay on design surface and the vinyl. Anything the etching cream touches on the glass, will be frosted. Follow the instructions on the etching cream bottle for length of time needed to etch. Mine took 15 minutes.
  12. Rinse well with cool water, blotting and wiping residual etching cream away. Peel off vinyl sticker to reveal your design. When the glass is wet, it may be hard to see the etched design. If you're careful with the final design sticker when removing, you may be able to use it again.
  13. Give all of the final edged glassware a good run in the dishwasher before using or gifting. You can also tweak any more rim sanding if needed.
* I used the Martha Stewart glass etching cream for this project. The Armour brand was not available. Here is a basic side to side a comparison of the two brands. The MS brand was thick and pasty, no chance of it running down the sides of a glass into areas you do not want to frost. Some sources I read stated the Armour brand was a bit runny. The MS brand also took 15 minutes to fully etch, while the Armour brand states only a minute or so is needed.

** Is carbon paper even made anymore? I remember seeing this in offices when a child. It seems so antiquated now but so useful!

what do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe:  
story of a kitchen