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How to Make a Wine Bottle Pendant Light

Wine bottle pendant lights are one of those Pinterest projects that every wife seems to love and every husband insists he can make, but doesn’t. Trust me, I know! I heard that conversation play out a dozen times when I tried to sell some at a local event. But don’t worry–I’m here to help. This post will teach you how to make your own wine bottle pendant light. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make ir yourself, that’s no problem! We sell wine bottle pendant lights in our store as well.

Tools

Materials

  • Wine bottle (one per light)
  • Keyless Lamp Socket (one per light)
  • Rayon Retro Wire (a few feet per light)
  • 0000 Steel Wool for removing adhesive
  • Goo Gone for removing adhesive
  • 50/50 Vinegar water for bottle cleaning
  • Newspaper for bottle cleaning
  • Pot for boiling water
  • Sink or tub for soaking bottles

How to Make a Wine Bottle Pendant Light

Follow along to learn how to make your own wine bottle pendant light. If you find the process to daunting or the materials too expensive, you can always buy a wine bottle pendant light from our store.

Step 1: Get Wine Bottles

Before you can start making wine bottle pendant lights, you need to round up some wine bottles. You’ll want standard (750ml) or magnum (1.5L) bottles. Anything smaller won’t accept a light bulb. Anything larger is heavy, looks silly, and is difficult to cut.

Get Extra Bottles

You’ll want to have extra bottles available. particularly the first time you try this project. When you get to the glass cutting step you’ll find that, no matter how hard you try to score a perfect line, every so often the glass will break crooked, so having some backups available is important.

Where to Get Wine Bottles

Where can you find wine bottles? Try your recycling bin. Let’s face it: if you’re cool with having wine bottles hanging from your ceilings, there’s a good chance you like to imbibe.

If you don’t have any just ask around: we’ve all got friends who’ve discovered the wine loophole (it’s perfectly acceptable to get hammered at home alone. So long as it’s wine. Anything else and you’re a sad, pathetic drunk!) A quick Facebook message usually yields more bottles than you need.

If all else fails, go dumpster diving. Find out when your township’s recycling center is open, dawn some gloves and boots, and hop in.

Selecting a Bottle Color

What color bottles do you want? It’s up to you. I’ve found that clear glass just looks dull and brown glass is too dark.  Green bottles look great as do blue when you can find them.

Step 2: Clean the Bottles

Bottles aren’t hard to clean if you have the right  materials, and prepare them ahead of time. I created an article and video previously about how to clean wine bottles previously. The only update to that information I have is to get a bottle of Goo Gone to clean up the adhesive backing left from the stickers.

Step 3: Cut the Bottles

There several ways to cut glass bottles and they all suck to varying degrees. If bottle cutting is something you plan on doing more than once, I recommend you pick up a Kinkajou Bottle Cutter from Bottle Cutting, Inc. It eliminates much of the trial and error from the process, and they sell a bundle that has all the stuff you need to cut and smooth bottle glass. If you decide to save money and cut your bottles a different way that’s fine. Catch up with me in step 4.

I created a separate article and video on Cutting Bottles with the Kinkajou bottle cutter. Check that out here.

 Step 4: Smooth the Glass

After you cut the glass it will leave incredibly sharp edges that risk cutting your hands when you handle the bottle. The company that sells the Kinkajou also sells a kit including the Kinkajou, several flexible diamond sanding pads, and a bunch of wet/dry sandpaper. This is what I use to smooth the glass, but it does cost some money. Several grits of wet-dry sandpaper from 180 up through 220 will work just as well. Make sure you sand both the inner and outer lip of the bottle.

Step 5: The Final Cleaning

Now that the edges have been sanded smooth you’ll notice glass dust all over the bottle. This is why we didn’t give the bottle a “final cleaning” any earler. I clean glass bottles the same way I clean windows: using newspaper and warm vinegar water.

Step 6: Install the Electrical Components

To turn your bottle into a pendant lamp you’ll need two things: a keyless lamp socket (a lamp socket without an on/off switch), and a length of lamp wire that will position the lamp where you want it verticall y below the ceiling.

I like to use Rayon Antique Wire for my bottle lamps: it gives them a retro feel that looks great with the bottle. Modern Rayon Antique Wire looks like the old nylon-covered wire you can run into in old house remodels with knob-and-tube wiring, but don’t worry: under the Rayon covering it’s safe, modern, insulated copper wire.

You can order keyless lamp socket online or pick one up at your local hardware store. I use brass lamp sockets but they come in a variety of finishes. Just make sure you buy the type that fully encloses the wiring.

Cutting the Wire

Measure and cut the wire using a pair of wire cutters. Measure an extra foot to accommodate the extra wire you’ll need to wire into the electrical circuit at the ceiling and on the other end to run down the neck of the bottle and wire into the lamp socket.  I like my lamps to hang about 12” from the ceiling, so I measure 24” of wire.

Untwist about an inch of wire on either end, and strip about ¾” of copper wire using a wire cutter. The Rayon Retro Wire that I use use 18 gauge. Make sure you use the appropriate gauge when stripping your own wire.  Once stripped, choose an end of the wire to be the lamp end. You’ll take each bunch of stranded copper and twist the bunch together and then bend it into a hook to go around the terminals on the lamp socket.

Attach the wire to the Lamp Socket

Attach the copper wire to the terminals. The neutral wire (usually the one with white insulation, but not always) attaches to the silver terminal. The hot wire (usually the one with black insulation, but not always) attaches to the brass terminal. The hook should go around the terminal in the direction that pulls the wire towards the terminal when you tighten it. If that’s not the case, loosen the terminal and reverse the direction of the wire.  Ensure that both terminals are hand-tightened with a screw driver.

Knot the Wire

Next we need to tie a knot in the wire just above the lamp socket. This knot needs to be tight to the socket, and not so big that you can’t hide it beneath the lamp socket’s cap.  This knot basically prevents the wires from being pulled away from their terminals by gravity.

Finally, pass the other end of the lamp wire through the lamp socket’s cap and push the cap tight onto the lamp socket.

Install the Lamp Hardware in the Bottle

Installing your assembled lamp socket is easy. Just pass the loose end of the wire through the bottom of the bottle and up through the neck. Pull the wire out the other side and pull it tight so the lamp socket pulls tight against the inside of the bottle’s neck.

Step 7: Installation

Install your wine bottle pendant light light like any other pendant light.  Your mileage may vary! A pendant light requires a canopy to cover the overhead lighting box. If you don’t already have one you can pick one up online or at your local hardware store.

First, ensure that the lighting circuit doesn’t have power by switching off it’s breaker at the breaker box. Now you can safely install the light.

If you already have a canopy on the ceiling go ahead and remove it. Now pass the loose end of your pendant light through the hole in the center of the canopy. Make another knot in the wire above the canopy, which will prevent gravity from pulling the wire out of the connections you’re about to make.

Install the light into the circuit by connecting the neutral (usually white) wires and hot (usually black) wires with appropriately-sized wire nuts. If your wire has a ground wire, attach that too.

Re-attach the canopy to the wiring box and flip the breaker back to an on position.

A secret compartment book I made in about 10 minutes using a custom tool.

How to Make a Secret Compartment Book

I’m definitely not the first maker to do a tutorial on how to make a secret compartment book. But I do think my way adds something a little bit special to the mix: specifically, speed.  Most tutorials suggest cutting out the compartment with an X-acto knife. It’s sharp and it’s accurate, but it’s also slow. I’ll show you how to make a secret compartment book using an oscillating multi-tool.

What You’ll Need

  • A book that’s big enough to store whatever you want to put in it, with a few pages leftover in the front and back.  Note: hardcovers work best!
  • An oscillating multi-tool. Brand is pointless.
  • A rigid scraper blade or, better yet, the custom blade I make in this video.
  • An X-acto Knife for fine-tuning the cut.
  • Glue.  I used thinned wood glue and it worked well. You can also try a special book-binding glue.
  • Clamps
  • Wax paper, for preventing the glue from binding the front and back of the book.
  • Wood scrap, metal scrap, or some other thin object you can slide between the pages to prevent your tool from cutting too far.  Don’t use anything more than 1/4″ thick.
  • Wood scraps slightly larger than the book. You’ll use them as cauls to clamp around the book so it dries in the proper shape.
  • Optional. A wooden block cut to the width and length of the compartment. You can use this as a template.

How to Make a Secret Compartment Book

Making the book should only take 10-15 minutes using my method, but it does has several distinct steps.

1. Select a Book

To make a secret compartment book you first need to find a book.  First of all: I don’t suggest cutting up books that are still useful, or enjoyable by someone, somewhere.  But many books (especially encyclopedias) do eventually run out of useful life.

Choose a book that’s a) no longer useful or b) has a special meaning in general, to you, or to the person that will receive it. The only hard-and-fast rule is that it must be big enough to make a useful secret compartment. Dime bags are small, but you never know what else they might to shove in there!

2. Find your Start and Stopping Points

Once you’ve selected a book you need to decide where you want your secret compartment to start and stop. You can get a little bit clever with this step.  You might choose a page with your favorite passage, or with a code-word like “secret” or “this book is totally not where I store the 8mm film of me beating up that hobo without mercy.”  The only requirement is that you leave something at the beginning of the book to cover the compartment, and you leave something at the back of the book to provide a backing.

In the book featured in this video I left 20 pages at the front and back.  Hardcover books make better secret compartments.  You can hollow out the entire book and just leave the solid covers intact.

3. Setup the Cut

Open the book to the page where you want the compartment to stop and insert the wooden scrap you’re using to prevent your tool from cutting too far. Make sure it’s pushed in far enough that it covers the entire area of the page where the cut will be made.

Next, Open the book to the page where you want the cut to start, and fold the beginning of the book as far as you can without damaging it so that it’s safely out of the way.

Clamp the book down to your work surface.  Check that the edge of the pages are still as close to straight as possible.  If your pages are arched back your compartment will be too, and your book may not close right after glue-up.

Now you can setup your cut. Either by “eye-balling it” or by using the optional template block, use the X-acto knife to cut a guide line into the top of the book.  If you do decide to make the cut without the aid of a block, just remember that the tools blade is wide and straight, so cutting a compartment with graceful curves using this method is not really an option.

Sever the first few pages with the X-acto knife.  This should provide a good visual distinction that will let you guide the multi-tool by eye so you don’t need to keep the guide block on the pages and in the way.

4. Cut the Compartment

Plug in your multi-tool and begin the cut.  Keep your blade as close to vertical as you can, and don’t take it too fast.  Using the custom blade the tool will sink straight through the pages. This is excellent for the length of the 4 sides but mind the corners.  You want to take it slow there and try not to cut outside of your guide lines.

When you reach the bottom of the cut you’ll know it. You’ll feel the tool no longer sinking through material, and when you feel that it’s time to move the tool.  Continue as such around the entire compartment.

Don’t feel like you need to completely remove every single page with the multi-tool. Remember, you still have the X-acto knife for precision, so use it to cut the corners without the risk of your multi-tool blowing through the guide lines.

5. Glue-up

Once you’re compartment is cut and you’ve cleaned it up as much as you desire with the knife, it’s time to glue up your book.  Tear off a sheet of wax paper and put it between the pages where your compartment begins. This will prevent the front and back of the book from sticking together and give the book a “hinge” action that opens it up to the compartment.

Mix up your glue.  If you chose to use wood or standard white glue, you’ll need to thin it down with water.  Make about a 3:1 mix of glue and water, and stir it until the texture is consistent.  Use a small paint brush to spread the glue around the edges of the book.  Be generous with the glue application, but try not to let it pool on the wax paper or it will cause it to stick to the book.  Apply to the edges of the top of the book as well as the bottom where the compartment is located. Before moving on, wipe away any excess glue on the covers of the book with a damp cloth.

Once the glue is applied it’s time to clamp it.  You’ll make a sandwich the materials in the following order: wooden caul, wax paper sheet, book, wax paper sheet, wooden caul.  Then clamp the book at the outer edges and allow it to dry for several hours.  If you used thinned-down glue, I’d recommend waiting overnight.

6. Touch-up

After the glue is finished drying, remove the clamps and gently peel away the wax paper. If the wax paper got stuck to the book, use your X-acto knife to delicately separate them from each other.  Gently open up your book.  If the front and back are stuck together at any point, once again use your X-acto knife to resolve the problem.

7. You Put Your Weed In It! (Or You Know, Whatever)

Congratulations! You made a secret compartment book!  Now stuff it with your filthy secrets and vices.  Don’t worry.  I won’t tell.

A custom blade I made to hollow out a secret compartment book. It cuts through hundreds of paper pages with ease.

Make a Tool for Hollowing out a Secret Compartment Book

 

I just got married, and as is tradition I needed gifts for my groomsmen. I didn’t have the time to get fancy, but I wanted to give my guys something that felt like I was thinking of them when I bought or made it.

I decided to buy a small gag gift and an engraved pocket knife, and present it hidden away in a secret compartment book (or hidden compartment book, or “you put your weed in here” book) that I chose specifically for each of them. I’ll be uploading the video and instructions for that shortly.

Most instructions for making a secret compartment book recommend hollowing out the chamber with an Xacto knife. The process is slow but it’s accurate. The claim is that using any other tool–particularly a power tool–would be too imprecise and leave a ragged edge on the paper. Those folks just haven’t found the right tool yet! My solution was to make a custom blade for my oscillating multi-tool that would handle the task.

What You’ll Need

Make the Secret Compartment Book Cutting Tool

Making a tool for hollowing out a secret compartment book is pretty easy if you have the right tools, and should take you no more than ten minutes.

Step 1: Grind off the Teeth

The first step is to use the coarse wheel on your bench grinder to knock the teeth off the edge of your blade, and create an edge that’s as close to straight as you can.  Be safe!

Step 2: Grind the Edge Smooth

We’re only concerned with the flatness and sharpness of about the last 1/16″ of the blade.  Move to the finer wheel on your bench grinder and continue to grind your blade flat. Be sure to check it for straightness before you finish the grinding step! You don’t want to make a blade with peeks and valleys, or it won’t evenly cut your book.

Step 3: (Optional) Sharpen the Edge with a Traditional Sharpening Method

At this point your blade is sharp enough, but you’ll get far better results if you use a traditional sharpening method to bring the cutting edge to a razor-sharp finish using a traditional sharpening method.  I use the Scary Sharp method, since it doesn’t require a lot of expensive tools to get started. All you need is a flat surface and a few sandpaper grits from 200 – 1,500 or higher.

Secure the sandpaper to a flat surface. Wet the paper with a spray bottle, then proceed to work the tip of the blade on each successive grit. The end result you’re looking for is a tip with a mirror finish that cuts the hairs on your arm.

Step 4: Make a Secret Compartment Book

Now that you’ve made the blade, you’re ready to use it to make a secret compartment book. That process is worth its own article, so stay tuned! But your new blade will slice through paper like a warm knife through butter, saving you hours of tedious work with an Xacto knife.

A splice of NM cable made outside of a junction box.

Electrical Code Violations: Where’s Waldo of Bad Wiring

 

Can you spot even more electrical code violations in this video?

Back in the 1980’s my 1860’s two-story home was retrofitted into a dental office.  The walls and ceilings were originally finished with plaster and lathe, but during the remodel some of them were covered with ½” drywall and some were just covered in wallpaper.  The ceilings seemed to have gone through two changes: at some point they cut into the plaster to run wiring and then covered everything with ½” drywall.  At some point later they ran more wiring, and simply hid everything with a drop ceiling.

I removed the drop ceiling ages ago and at least the wiring it hid was accessible, but when I removed the drywall and plaster and lathe it exposed a whole host of dangerous electrical code violations. Let’s take a look.

Electrical Code Violation 1: Splices Outside of a Junction Box

An electrical code violation found in my ceiling. The image shows a Romex cable splice outside of a juncton box.

This splice violates the National Electric Code by being made outside of a junction box.

Here’s the first problem:  someone made a splice outside of a junction box. The problem should be obvious: if a short occurs or the splice fails, there’s nothing between your hot wire and a bunch of combustible material like the dried-up lathe covering the walls and ceiling, and the corn cobs stuffed in the ceilings by rodents over the last 150 years.  Yeah, that’s totally a thing here.

Now this isn’t just good practice, it’s in the National Electrical Code, specifically code 300.15 which states that all spices in nonmetallic sheathed cable (the type you use for most household wiring) must be installed in a junction box.

 

Electrical Code Violation  2: Hidden Junction Boxes

This image shows a hidden junction box in my ceiling. It's an electrical code violation because the splices are hidden away and can't be accessed for maintenance.

This junction box violated code because it was hidden inside the ceiling and made inaccessible for maintenance.

The second problem that I discovered was that, above the drywall and plaster and lathe, there were a metric crap-ton of hidden junction boxes. You might not consider that a problem.  After all the splice is protected, so why get your panties in a bind over it?

A hidden junction box isn’t as much a safety concern as it is a maintenance problem.  Sometimes splices fail, and when they do, would you prefer the splice to be accessible, or would you prefer it to be hidden under drywall that needs to be cut, replaced, and refinished in order to make what should have been a simple, cheap, and fast repair? How about 10 years down the road when you don’t remember putting that junction box up there in the first place? The hidden junction box is an electrical code violation because it turns a cheap and obvious repair into a major issue.

The plethora of hidden junctions have already bit me in the butt numerous times in this house.  I’m not the one who installed them so locating them often required following wires out of the panel and into either the itchy, insulated space of the eaves, or into the claustrophobic, creepy crawlspace. I’ve spent entire days tracing wires in my house because someone took a shortcut 20 years ago.

Once again this in the National Electric Code, code 300.15.A if you’re curious.

Electrical Code Violation 3: Knob and Tube Wiring Cut Off and Live in the Ceiling

This image shows an electrical code violation I found in my ceiling. Not only was this knob and tube wiring junction not in a junction box, it was cut off and left live in my ceiling.

This Knob and Tube wiring was fine, until they cut it off and left it live in the ceiling.

And then there’s this.  This is some old knob-and-tube wiring. Now this isn’t a problem just because I found it.  Knob and tube gets a bad rap not because it’s inherently unsafe, but because it can break down with age, and because of the way it can interact poorly with modern upgrades to the home.  For example code 394.12 states that it can’t come into contact with insulation because it creates a fire hazard, but plenty have people have retrofitted with blown insulation without much regard to what might be within the wall or ceiling.

But as I said the problem here isn’t the mere existence of knob and tube.  It’s the fact that it was cut off and left live in my ceiling.  How this place never burned to the ground is beyond me. This single find illustrates a number of electrical code violations in a single junction!

A corner shelf I made out of an old door.

Turning an Old Door Into a Corner Shelf

We’ve all seen a door turned into a shelf on Pinterest, DIY Network, an the living rooms of folks who like decorate in the country theme.  I am not one such person.  In fact my decorating philosophy involves heaps of unwashed clothing, dog hair tumbleweeds rolling across vast expanses of floorspace, and horror movie posters.  Yet I have several of the original doors from my 1865 home and absolutely no desire to use them as, you know, doors.

This is an incredibly simple project (even easier if you just buy mine).  Basically you cut the door roughly in half, screw the two sides together, and attach some triangular shelves.  There’s a little more to it than that, but not much.

Measure the Door

This drawing shows the cut line.

This drawing shows the width, height, thickness and the line where the door should be cut.

You could just cut the door in half, but then you’d be an idiot. When you reattach the two sides at a 90 degree angle one side will be longer than the other.  So it’s important to measure and write down the dimensions of your door ahead of time and plan this cut accordingly.  To the side is a rough sketch of my door’s dimensions:

Width: 31 3/4″
Height: 81″
Thickness: 1 13/32

A tape measure will work fine for this job, though I used a micrometer to determine the thickness of my door with a little more accuracy.

Cut the Door

The door after being cut with the tracksaw

The door after being cut with the tracksaw

You can use this simple formula to figure out where to cut your door:

2x + t = w

(Where t is the thickness of your door and w is the width. Solve for x.)

With a door width of 31 3/4″ and a thickness of 1 13/32″, I found that x equals (more or less) 15 3/16″.  Mark your door down the length accordingly.  For a job like this there are two saws you can use: a circular saw with a straight edge clamped to the work piece, or a track saw.  I sprung for a DeWalt Tracksaw two years ago and now I wouldn’t want to live with out it. Whichever tool you use, make sure the door is well-supported on both sides of the cut line, and line up the blade such that the kerf is centered on the line.  This way the waste will be equalized on either side of the cutline.

(Though you might be tempted, I strongly suggest you don’t use a tablesaw.  Most people don’t have a tablesaw capable of safely cutting something as big and irregular as a door.)

You should be left with two sides that, when fastened together, will have equal visible surfaces.

Fastening the Two Sides

The two sides clamped together.

The two sides clamped together.

I decided to fasten the two sides together with 2″ screws, counter-sunk and hidden with plugs.  I measured from the edge of the door 23/32″ (half the door’s thickness) and marked the door 2″ from either end and at 12″ increments in between. Next I used a 3/8″ Forstner Bit to drill about a 1/4″ hole that I could countersink the screws into, then used a regular twist bit to drill the rest of the way through the door.

In order to fasten the two sides together I found that it was much easier to stand the two sides vertically and clamp them together.  This way you can make fine adjustments to the fit with your hand or a rubber mallet.  Make sure you put something between the clamps and the wood to avoid marring the surface, and make sure you have the two sides positioned in such a way that the two visible inside surfaces are the same width.

Once the two sides are clamped securely together, run your screws through. Once all of the screws are installed you can remove the clamps and continue to work on it horizontally.

Note: After completing this project, I would change the way I fastened the two sides.  Instead of drilling holes in the visible parts and screwing the two sides together, I think I’d use a Doweling Jig or (if I were rich) a Festool Domino to connect the two sides. The drill-and-plug method works fine, but it’s imperfect and adds quite a bit of touch-up work to the finish process.

Cleanup

I used a scraper to remove loose paint and used a large chip to purchase a match at a local decorating store.

I used a scraper to remove loose paint and used a large chip to purchase a match at a local decorating store.

At this point you’ll want to clean up the holes you just drilled and start thinking about the finish.  I dapped a bit of wood glue into the holes, then inserted a 3/8″ dowel rod into them and cut it off with my dozuki (any saw which you can trim the dowels flush with is fine).

Think about what you want your finished door to look like.  Is the paint chipped?  What type of paint is it?  The original finish on my door was lead-based paint and was flaking off at spots, so I used a paint scraper to remove any lose flakes.  I took a larger piece down to The Decorating Center and they helped me find a good match. I wanted my shelf to look rustic but I didn’t want to risk having lead paint flaking off of it in the future.  So I painted the dowel plugs and the edges of the door that I cut with the saw and left everything else as it was.  I’ll take care of the “loose paint” problem a little later.

Installing the Shelves

Cutting the shelves is pretty simple.  I had some plywood that was sitting against my shed for a while.  The surface was worn  and would match the door, but structurally it was still very strong.  I cut off about an inch of waste on either side so I wasn’t using the junk edges to build my shelves, I cut 90 triangles with sides equal to the inside width of the door (15 3/16″ x 15 3/16″ x 21 5/16″  ). I painted the shelves with the matching quart of paint I had purchased, and then I used my brad nailer to install the shelves at the top, bottom, and two equally spaced on the inside.

Note: This is another aspect of the design I would change if I had it to do over again.  I’d use my pocket hole jig to install them.  Not only would it be a more secure fit, but it would also be reversible of the shelf position needed changed in the future.

Finish Work

After installing the shelves it was time to tackle the flaking paint problem.  I had a gallon of lacquer and applied several coats to the entire shelf.  The shelf has interesting, glossy sheen to it now and I suppose it depends on your taste as to whether or not that’s desirable.  But the original coat of paint is now securely protected under multiple clear coats and won’t flake off.

That pretty much covers it! I’m really pleased with the way this project turned out and plan on selling it to someone who can appreciate the style a little more than myself. If you have any suggestions on how I can improve this process, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email!

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