Drilling Holes in Glass & Cutting Bottles

by Paul Wilson pwilson@exis.net

This FAQ is by popular demand, i.e. these TWO questions are asked several times a week.

Drilling Holes

For most glass craftsmen and women, the best method to use to cut glass is the grinder method. The main reason for this, is they already have a grinder and the cost of a bit is only $15.00 or $20.00. This bit can also be used for small pieces of glass or inside curves.

There are several small bits on the market that fit on a grinder. These can be used to do a "plunge grind" if kept adequately lubricated. Use a sopping wet sponge against the back of the bit to keep it wet, while you lower your glass slowly onto the bit slowly drilling through the glass. Most bits are meant to sit high on the grinder shaft, in this case a "second story" or "grinder tower" attachment is required to provide support for the work. This method almost requires two people to perform. One to keep the bit wet, the other to control the work. The size of the bit determines the size of the hole ordinarily although you can enlarge the hole using the bit.

The other popular method for drilling a hole is to use a special drill bit made for glass and ceramics. Ordinary twist drill bits and wood brad point bits can NOT be used to drill glass. The bit will likely catch on the glass and break it or at least pull it out if your hands dangerously. You can pick one of these special bits up at most glass or hardware stores. As previously mentioned, it is important to keep the well glass lubricated. A preferred method is to use putty or clay to build a small dam around the location to hold a small amount of water or cutting oil, and to slowly drill through the glass. Best results occur when you use a drill press and a slow speed because its easier to control.

Cutting Bottles

There are several methods for cutting bottles, the best of which is the use of a sixties vintage bottle cutter.

One method for cutting bottles is by using a V-block and a regular glass cutter. The V-block can be made by cutting two 45 degree cuts in a short piece of 4 X 6 so that you have a trough in the wood that a bottle can sit in. If you don't have a saw capable of this, you can alternately nail or screw two 2 X 4's together forming a trough. You then turn the bottle in the trough while holding the cutter against the side scoring a line all around the bottle. A few gentle taps around the score should help break it in two. You might want to add a nail that can be used as a rest for the bottom of the bottle ensuring a straight score that starts and stops at the same place.

Another method is to use a piece of string soaked in something flammable like charcoal starter fluid. Then tie the string around the bottle where you want the cut. Light the string while twirling the bottle on its side allowing the heat to evenly spread around the line. A few gentle taps should break the bottle. This method should be done outdoors. The cautions are too numerous to mention. Flammable liquids, ventilation, hot glass etc. Be careful!

Paul Wilson, 1997 ©

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posted 11 Jun 97