Updated: May 10
There are lots of videos on social media of people popping off the top of a wine or beer bottle with a small flame. It all looked very simple until the story of Abbie Quinnen broke. Abbie was filming a ‘life hack’ for social media aiming to show how a glass bottle could be cut in half to be used as a vase. The ‘hack’ involves dipping a rope into a flammable chemical, wrapping it around the bottle and lighting a flame. However, the glass exploded during the stunt and engulfed Abbie’s upper body in flames. She put her story out there to warn people of the dangers of trying this at home as she was left 'traumatised' and suffered third-degree burns.
There are alternatives if you have a bottle you would like to cut down into a glass. I recently transformed a set of vintage Kronenbourg Cru bottles into these unique drinking glasses, this is how I did it.
I began by marking a cut off line and carefully sawing around it with my diamond coated ring saw. There is a chance that the bottle will crack, but it is a lot more predictable than trying to stress a crack with a hot flame in my experience. It was particularly important with these bottles as they have a lovely painted matt coating on the outside that would not stand a hot flame crack off.
The saw created a very rough edge which I had to grind down through a series of diamond impregnated grinding pads. When I first started cold working glass 20 years ago we used various grades of silicon carbide grit to do this. That method was just as effective but a lot messier! Once the rims are ground and bevelled the final stage is to polish up them with cerium oxide on a felt wheel to give the glass its sparkle back. See a clip of the whole process here
The finished glasses have a very smooth rim and feel great in the hand. You can use this method to create glasses from bottles of wine, soft drinks, old bottles of whisky and other bottles of spirits. You can also experiment with a variety of finishes to the rim, for example a rough sandblasted look for a more industrial style, or a smooth polished look for a more elegant style.
I like cold working glass, it’s satisfying to watch results materialize and you can learn a huge amount about glass. It's stretched my understanding and broadened the possibilities of what I can do with it. Glass is an essential material in our lives but often mass produced on an industrial scale, with little room for variation or craftsmanship. I'm always intrigued by combining handmade with the machine made to add character to a machine made product so please get in touch if you have a bottle you would like to repurpose or learn more about cold working glass yourself.