During what feels like another lifetime, I went to winery that served water in glasses made from upcycled wine bottles. I thought this was the coolest idea ever, and I wanted to try making my own. I promptly bought a glass cutting kit and began hoarding empty wine bottles like they were made of gold. And then I did absolutely nothing with them.
Almost two years have passed since I went to that winery, and I finally decided that it’s time to do something with the collection of wine bottles gathering dust above my kitchen cabinets, or recycle them and move on with my life.
Since I loathe waste of any kind, I chose the former. I whipped the glass cutting kit out of storage, and read the instructions. That’s when I realized it’s actually more of a glass scoring kit, than a glass cutting kit, which made the process a little more complicated.
Nevertheless, I’m actually really happy with the final result, especially since I rarely do DIY projects! These glasses are unique, versatile, and make a thoughtful gift. And of course, they are a great way to reduce waste! Although the kit I bought came with some bare-bones instructions, they left a lot to be desired, so I thought I’d share my own, more detailed instructions, in case you’d like to try making some yourself!
Here’s what you’ll need:
Clean, empty wine bottles. I never have a shortage of these, but if you’re not a wine drinker, you can always ask a friend to save some for you!
Glass bottle “cutting” kit. I hate to admit it, but I bought mine on Amazon. If I were to buy one today, however, I would check my local hardware store first. I’ve also seen them on Ebay and Etsy. If you’re more savvy with tools than I am (or know someone who is), you could probably skip the kit altogether and finagle your own glass scoring system with a clamp and a diamond blade. All you really need is a way to hold the bottle steady and something to cut it with.
Sandpaper. The kit I purchased included sandpaper, but it would help to have a few different grits of sandpaper, from course to fine, to get the edges smooth enough to drink from.
Miscellaneous: baking soda, cooking oil, water, and protective equipment (gloves, goggles/glasses, and a mask).
- First, you’ll need to remove the labels from your wine bottles. There are a few different ways to do this. First, mix baking soda and water in a shallow dish or a stoppered sink. Then, submerge the bottles in the mixture for at least 30 minutes. Some labels will slide right off after a good soak, but others might not budge at all. For the more stubborn bottles, rub cooking oil all over the labels, and give it some time to sink in. Then, you should be able to scrape the labels off and clean off any remaining residue with soap and water.
- Next, prepare the water. Fill a large bowl or another container with water, and put it in the freezer for a couple hours. Whatever container you use should be as deep as possible. Keep the water in the freezer until it’s ice-cold, but not frozen. Next, fill a large pot with more water, and put it on the stove. Again, the deeper the pot, the better.
- Put on protective gloves and glasses. Then, score the wine bottles all the way around using the bottle cutting kit. It’s a good idea to measure the depth of your containers of water because the cut on the wine bottle will need to be fully submerged in the water. In other words, you won’t be able to make a glass that’s any taller than the water is deep. I made my glasses about 3-4 inches tall.
- Heat the pot of water on the stovetop until it’s just below boiling. Then, plunge the scored wine bottle into the hot water, making sure that the score line is completely submerged, and hold it there for about 30 seconds. I used a potholder to hold the bottle in place the entire time. Then, submerge the bottle in the cold-water bath for 30 seconds. Alternate holding the bottle in hot and cold water, until the bottle breaks apart at the score line. Because some wine bottles have thicker glass than others, some will take longer to break apart then others. Use tongs to pull the glass out of the water and set it aside to dry.
Note: Not every wine bottle will break apart perfectly at the score line. Sometimes you’ll end up with a jagged edge or a bottle that separates in a completely different place than where you scored it. I suggest repeating this process with more bottles than you want glasses, that way you can discard the ones that don’t turn out.
- After the glasses have cooled down, you’ll need to sand down the rough edges where they broke off. Make sure to put on your gloves, face mask, and protective glasses for this step. It’s also important to wet the sandpaper by dunking it into a cup of water to prevent glass dust from flying into the air. Using just the sandpaper that came in my kit seemed to remove the rough edges enough for decorative use. However, if you want really smooth edges for drinking glasses, you can start with 80 grit sandpaper, then 150 grit, followed by 320, 400, and on up to 1000 or even 2000 grit for perfectly polished edges. This process can take quite a bit of time and elbow grease!
- Wash your glasses thoroughly to remove any glass dust. Then, they’re ready to use!
These glasses can be used for drinking, but there are many, many other ways to use them, too! They can become votive candleholders, succulent or air plant pots, makeup brush holders, flower vases, or even a place to store your spare change.
Let me know if you try out—I would love to hear if it works for you, or if you have any other suggestions for upcycling wine bottles!