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Cutting Bottles with a Tile Saw

How to Cut Bottles with a Tile Saw

In a previous video I demonstrated how to cut bottles using the Kinkajou bottle cutter. The Kinkajou works well: it usually produces a nice straight cut that doesn’t require a lot of smoothing after the fact.  But I’ve stumbled across another way to cut bottles: you can cut bottles with a tile saw.

Materials

My sister gifted me a tile saw a few years ago when I was remodeling a bathroom.  It’s a cheap saw and there are many just like it on Amazon or at Harbor Freight. You can get away with one of the $70-80 models.  In addition, don’t forget to have hand and eye protection, as well as a dust mask or other breathing protection. The saw produces a lot of glass dust, and it’s probably a bad idea to suck it into your lungs!

You also need bottles. The cool thing about using a tile saw is that you’re not limited to round bottles as you are with most speciality bottle cutting tools.

There’s very little to it and no “secret techniques” to show you. If you’re making a straight cut perpendicular to the bottle you can use the saw’s fence as a guide. But I like using the tile saw because you can make angled cuts across the neck of the bottle, as well as other non-perpendicular cuts that you can’t produce with the Kinkajou.

Take your time. If you try to force the bottle through the blade it’s a recipe for disaster. Take it slow. Gently push the bottle into the blade until it fully penetrates the glass. Then rotate the bottle slowly into the blade, until there’s not much material left. Then remove the bottle and plunge into the remaining material until it’s fully separated. In my experience this is the best way to prevent the two side from splitting unevenly and leaving a jagged edge.

Is a tile saw a better or worse method than using a Kinkajou ? Well it depends. The Kinkajou makes a more reliable and smoother cut. But it’s not perfect. Sometimes your bottle will still separate with a jagged edge. In addition, the Kinkajou isn’t designed to cut through the neck, and can only make cuts perpendicular to the length of the bottle. The Kinkajou also requires a time-intensive process of scoring the bottle, and then separating it using hot and cold water.

Cutting bottles with a tile saw is much faster. You can completely cut a bottle in about a minute. You have more flexibility in the cuts you can make. The downside is that your bottles are more likely to break unevenly (so make sure you have extras), and you’ll spend more time sanding and polishing the finished product.

The Restored and Refinished Leg Vice

Restoring an Antique Leg Vice

 

A workbench without vices is just an ugly buffet table.

But quality vice hardware is expensive, as you can see by visiting Benchcrafted and checking their prices. Woodcraft sells a more traditional set of hardware that will still set you back the cost of a few good chisels. I lucked out. I stopped at a local shop called Conny’s Constant Clutter and my eye caught an old leg vice rotting in the elements amidst a pile of ahem… “reclaimed” wood in front of the store.  I left with everything I needed to install a leg vice on my workbench including the metal hardware, oak jaw and horizontal guide, for ten dollars.

Of course, now I had to restore it. 

Restoring an Antique Leg Vice

Before I could do anything else I had to disassemble thevice and decide what could be salvaged. Once again I got very lucky and felt like I had struck gold, or at least struck cast iron with a little surface rust. All of the metal components were rusty but in good condition. The two wooden components, the jaw and wooden horizontal guide, were weather worn and had pretty significant twist.

I decided to scrap the wood and make something new. This gave me a chance to at a little foreign flare to my domestic hardwood bench by making the jaw out of bubinga.

I loosened and disassembled all the pieces with a little help from my good friend, WD-40.  Then it was time to clean up the screw components.

The original leg vice as I found it.

The original leg vice as I found it.

I Remember the Days When Screwing was Dirty!

How’s that for a click-bait-title?

Next I had to clean up all of the metal screw components. When I’ve got large pieces of rusted metal to clean, I use a process called electrolysis. The short explanation is that you submerge the metal in an electrolyte solution and apply electricity to the piece to be cleaned and a sacrificial piece of metal.  Through the magic of science that I really don’t understand, the rust moves from the metal to be cleaned to the metal to be sacrificed.  Yay, science! I have a video explaining electrolysis, so check that out if you’re curious.

This is what the screw looked like after going through electrolysis

This is what the screw looked like after going through electrolysis

Final Cleanup

After I removed all of the metal components from the electrolysis bath I dried them up and gave them a good polish with a wire wheel chucked onto my angle grinder.  Yeah, I know, in the video I’m not wearing gloves. What’s not seen in the video is how bad I regretted it later. Always wear hand and eye protection when using an angle grinder if you value your delicate skin and eyeballs.

I did the final cleanup of the screw with an angle grinder and wire wheel.

I did the final cleanup of the screw with an angle grinder and wire wheel.

Designing the New Jaw

I might have been able to salvage the original oak jaw on the vice, but I used this as an opportunity to add a little flair to my workbench.

I decided to make a new jaw by laminating douglas fir and bubinga, but doing so meant I needed to design and mill the new piece. The new jaw needed holes bored for the hardware as well as a mortise to accept the horizontal guide. The decision to use douglas fir on the inside and bubinga on the outside was intentional.  Bubinga is foreign, interesting, and incredibly hard. It’s a great show piece. But my concern was that bubinga is so hard that it could leave impressions in the work I lock into the vice. For that reason I laminated it along with a piece of douglas fir fitted to the inside of the jaw.

When I was restoring the vice it was still too cold outside for wood glue, so I brought the jaw pieces inside for the glue-up. A little Titebond 3, six quick clamps, and a few hours later the new jaw was ready to be cut to it’s final form.

 

Shaping the Jaw

In my design, the jaw is the same width as the workbench’s leg at the bottom and flares out to about twice the width towards the top. The easiest way I found to make that cut was to draw it out with a pencil and follow the line with my circular saw.

After cutting the jaw to the final shape I used my low angle jack plane to remove the saw marks and smooth the sides, then added a roundover to the edges the whole way around the jaw using a block plane.

Cutting the taper on the jaw of the leg vice

Cutting the taper on the jaw of the leg vice

Modifying the Leg

Because the workbench’s leg becomes the back half of the vice, it needed some modifications. First it needed a hole to accept the screw. The tricky part is that the hole must be larger at the back of the leg where a metal piece gets inserted to catch and lock the screw in place.

The way I solved this problem was to trace a line around the leg that represents the center of the hole. At the back of the leg I begin by drilling with a 2” Forstner bit to the depth of the hardware I need to install. Then I finish at the back using a 1” Forstner bit drilled to about half of the leg’s thickness.  Then I started from the front of the leg and drilled until the holes met in the middle.

By drilling only halfway from either side I limited the amount of error in my angle, and I prevent any blowout from my bit exiting the surface of the wood.

Next I needed to chop a mortise at the bottom of the leg to accept the horizontal guide. This was by far the most difficult part of the whole process and could have been made easier by dismantling the bench and working from an easier angle. I started by drilling out a rough opening for the mortise my making several holes with a ¾” forstner bit. Then I squared up the hole with chisels, rasps, and a metric crap-ton of test-fits and patience.

Modifying the leg to accept the vice hardware.

Modifying the leg to accept the vice hardware.

Installing the Hardware

It was finally time to install the hardware that connected the leg to the jaw.  I pounded the metal piece into the back of the leg that caught the screw.

I had a few more modifications to make to the leg. I drilled a hole in the front for the screw and fastened the front hardware with the original wood screws. I chopped a mortise the the bottom of the inside of the jaw which accepted the horizontal guide. I flared the mortise out at the bottom and added wedge to the end of the guide. For a better understanding of wedged mortise and tenon joints check out this Popular Woodworking article.  I thought this was a more elegant solution than doweling it into place like the designer of the original hardware had done.

After I installed the hardware into the jaw I installed the assembly into the workbench’s leg. I slipped the screw into the hole in the leg and the horizontal guide into the mortise at the bottom. It everything was cut correctly the screw would turn freely and the horizontal guide would glide through the mortise.

It didn’t. But about a half hour of fine adjustment later, the vice glided as gingerly as a young Brian Boitano. Or maybe even an old Brian Boitano. I can honestly say I don’t know what that guy is up to.

Test-fitting the leg vice

Test-fitting the leg vice

Sanding and Finish

Now that the leg vice was functional it was time to tweak the form. I removed it from the bench and sanded it to 220 grit with my random orbit sander. I used a belt sander to delicately trim down the top of the jaw to match the top of the bench, and then I used the sander to trim down the bottom of the jaw so it didn’t scrape the floor. I wiped up the dust and then I applied a few coats of teak oil, which is the same finish I used on the rest of the bench.

Final Thoughts

Like I said at the beginning: a workbench without a vice is just an ugly buffet table. It’s a workbench’s ability to hold your work in place that makes it useful, and for that you need things like vices, dog holes, and holdfasts. Installing the leg vice has literally changed the way that I woodwork. I spend far less time figuring how how to secure lumber to my work surface and far more time actually working with it.

Whether you buy a top of the line BenchCrafted vice kit, the economical version from Woodcraft, or you luck out and find a great hand-me-down vice that you can retrofit to your bench, the important thing is that you have one. And before you settle on a particular vice, I really recommend reading Workbenches by Christopher Schwarz. This is a great book on designing traditional workbenches and has a long section discussing the various types of bench vices, the pros and cons of each type of vice, and plans on how to integrate them into your workbench.

The Restored and Refinished Leg Vice

The Restored and Refinished Leg Vice

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 bunch of fence pickets that I offered on Freecycle.

Giving Your Trash a Second Chance

Those of you that follow my website and my YouTube channel know I’m all about reuse: I save the scraps from my big woodworking projects to make little woodworking projects. I use my sawdust to mulch my garden and as bedding for my worm farm. I feed table scraps to my worms or throw them on my compost pile. Then I turn around and use my worm castings and compost to feed my garden. Basically I try to make my life as much as a closed ecosystem as I can and I produce very little trash. What little trash I do produce can almost entirely be recycled via my local single-stream recycling program.

Maximize Reuse By Thinking Beyond Your Own Necessities

So what about the stuff that doesn’t fit your own needs? What do you do when you have some item or materials that have absolutely no value to you but might be useful to another like-minded person with a different set of needs, projects, or priorities?

Now I’ll admit it: things that I want to get rid of that still has monetary value I’ll usually try to sell first. And why not? Living a life without money is at worst impossible, and at most completely impractical for the average person.

I’ve tried offering items to my friends and family, and that’s fine provided you limit the offerings to items like clothing, appliances, and furniture, but beyond that unless your friends are as nutty about reducing trash as I am, they might not respond, and might actually think you’re flat-out strange for wasting so much effort on keeping things out of the trash can.  I know mine do!

The CraigsList Option

You might try listing stuff on the free section of your local CraigsList, but I’ve had very little success with this. First of all my local CraigsList’s “Free Section” is where pallets and pianos go to die, and where people try to con you into cutting down trees they don’t want. In the past when I’ve listed things on CL’s free section I’ve received more spam and scams than legit replies, and those that did reply never showed up.

Freecycle

A bunch of fence pickets that I offered on Freecycle.

A bunch of fence pickets that I offered on Freecycle.

Fortunately I found out there is a pretty large like-minded community interested in giving and receiving free stuff. I started with Freecycle, which I think started off on Yahoo Groups. Basically it was a group, or a series of geographically dispersed groups of people who would post “Offers” and “Wants:” basically things they wanted to give away, and things they needed.

Unfortunately I never had much luck with Freecycle, mostly because I have issues with the website, which are still, apparently, ongoing, and group admins are quite picky about how you word your posts.

Fortunately a website came along that streamlined the entire process of using Freecycle: it’s called Trash Nothing. Trash Nothing is basically an interface to Freecycle that lets you easily post Offers and Wants in a way that isn’t going to upset a anal group moderator. It offers other cool features like integration with Facebook so your friends automatically see your offers, email notifications when a user posts an item, notifications when a user posts a specific type of items (I have notifications for “wood” and “books”), and they even have an iPhone app. When I’m working around the house and run into something that needs to go, I take the picture with my iPhone, and in 30 seconds I can have it posted to Trash Nothing.

Trash Nothing is fantastic for three reasons: the first is, obviously, it’s free. The second is that it’s members-only, and the third is that it’s moderates. So unlike CraigsList, spamming and scamming is minimal.

Earthineer

There’s another online resource that I’m keeping a close eye on called Earthineer. Earthineer is basically a social network for homesteaders, but it’s geared toward sharing information and resources, and less towards bitching about work and begging for Farmville cows. Earthineer is still pretty small and it might be hard to find a lot of folks in your area, but the people who are there are precisely the kind of folks that might be interested in giving, taking, or bartering for things you no longer need.

Glue applicators cut from wood scrap.

More Uses for Strips of Scrap Wood: Garden Markers, Hand Plane Tuning

In a previous article I talked about how I cut wood scraps into thin strips. Originally I was using them as glue applicators, but discovered some new uses!

One of the primary uses of these strips is as disposable plant markers in flower beds.  I grow most of my plants and vegetable from seed, so I don’t have the markers that come with store-bought plants.  Besides: those little plastic flags never break down, and you end up seeing them poking out of your mulch years later.  These are wood strips, thinner than some pieces of mulch! They’ll totally biodegradable and should break down in a year or so.

The last use I talk about in this video is to use these wooden strips to setup your hand planes.  This was actually discussed by Chrisopher Schwarz of Lost Art Press. As you adjust the lateral adjustment and depth adjustment on your hand plane, run a small scrap of wood across both sides of the plane iron to verify that it’s cutting to the same depth on all parts of the blade.

How to Stop (Some) Junk Mail

"15 credit card offers, but I still didn't get the latest issue of Jugs!"

“15 credit card offers, but I still didn’t get the latest issue of Jugs!”

You know what really annoys me?  Junk mail.

“Me too!” echoes a chorus of everyone, ever.

Before I get into some tree-hugging rant I’ll just throw a possible solution at you: www.dmachoice.orgwww.catalogchoice.org, and OptOutPrescreen.com. Go to these sites, sign up, and choose which types of direct mailing you do and done want to receive. It’s similar to the National Do Not Call Registry but for direct mail, and about as effective (take that as you will). In other words it will help, but it probably won’t totally eliminate your  junk mail.

Now, back to my rant.

What’s an environmentally-conscious geek to do about junk mail? Most single-stream recycling programs will take junk mail or shredded paper, and if you don’t have that option rural farmers love it because it makes great animal bedding. I know of several farms within a few miles of my town that have shacks along the road for people to drop off bags of such material.

But forget about all of that, because you’re smart and you remember your Three R’s and know that it’s always better to reduce than it is to reuse or recycle.  If the junk mail is never printed and sent in the first place, the environmental impact of it’s production, transport, and inevitable disposal never has to happen.  Plus you don’t have to figure out what to do with it, which is kind of the point here.

So check out the sites I mentioned above, and post below to let others know how they worked for you!