For my next project I wanted to have a go at recycling wine bottles and had started reading and researching. I wanted to steer away from the slumping bottles trend and ideally was looking at how I could turn a bottle into something else. In my mind there were two avenues to explore –

  1. turning the bottles into bits / frit that could then be fused together / used in molds
  2. turning the bottles into glass sheets that could then be cut and made into other items

My conclusion was that the best way to do 1. would involve either taking hot bottles out of the kiln and plunging into cold water in the thermal shock method or smashing bottles with a hammer and putting through a frit piston (along with the dangers of all of the glass dust created). I felt that I was not ready to do either of these yet as my confidence in using a hot kiln or handling lots of glass dust was just not there yet. I also suspect things like using a frit piston will be easier being done outside in the warmer weather.

So, I turned my attention to 2.  That is, creating glass tiles / sheets from bottles that hopefully could then be cut into shapes etc to create other items. In pursuance of this I collected together some wine bottles. Soaked and cleaned them. Despite adding bicarbonate of soda,  vanish and white vinegar to the warm water, the labels either slid off easily ( bottles of Ned) or stubbornly stuck fast ( bombay spice). There definately must be a better way to remove labels! The internet claims anything from just soaking in water and soap   to using bicarbonate of soda, borax and white vinegar. Ones I haven’t yet tried are olive oil and nail polish remover.

Those bottles where I had been able to remove labels from were placed in the oven to dry. I had purchased a glass bottle cutter from Amazon a few days before. There were two dominant types online. One being a circular cutter type design, the other being a lie-down cutter. Both had good reviews and I just picked one to try. My aim was to follow this method or this alternative method (both on glasswithapast) for creating flat glass.

Unfortunately on my first attempt at using the bottle cutter, the glass bottle shattered when trying to score it and left me with a nasty gash on my arm.

I decided to take a rain check to up my safety protection for cutting bottles and have ordered a face shield, cut resistant gloves and sleeves in readiness for a future attempt once my arm has healed. It also made it very obvious to me that none of the tutorials / youtube videos I had seen demonstrating the glass bottle cutters had shown / used or even suggested the use of safety equipment. (I had been wearing my safety goggles, but had reserved my gloves until the actual breaking the score line part). The lesson learned for me is that bottle glass is not predictable and I’ll certainly be wearing hand and arm protection all through the process in future in addition to eye and face visors. This youtube video does show the use of gloves, goggles and mask and is a bit more comprehensive than some of the other instructions I have seen.

Hence, although I had deliberated, should I start with Float, System 96 or Bullseye Glass (the main options for glass fusing), the fact that my kiln seller also had a bundle of glass to sell meant I would be starting out with Bullseye. It was a relief to have this decision made as I knew that different glasses DON’T mix (see Creative Glass Guild explanation). In order to prevent cracking and losing the integrity of your piece, the glasses being fused together must be tested as being ‘compatible’ (or it all gets very complicated to test this yourself) or you can only fuse one piece of glass with itself (e.g. a wine bottle – see Glass with a Past). Bullseye and System 97 and some Float Glass suppliers guarantee this compatability and that the glass they sell can be safely fused together.

I had found the following suppliers in the UK:

Bullseye Glass – Warm Glass UK and Glass Studio Supplies

System 96 – Creative Glass Guild and System 96

Float Glass – Creative Glass Guild and Pearsons Glass (supplies all types of glass)

 

And so, I start with nothing…… check out the Info Topics section for the list of equipment I accumulate as we go along. I watched these useful free videos from Bullseye Education and made a note of the equipment being used in these.

As for kiln choice, I found Warm Glass UK useful, for their sheer diversity of kilns and descriptions and videos. I figured if the kiln was being sold on this website that it had a certain credibility and spares and servicing in the UK would pose no problem. I then searched eBay and Facebook Marketplace for kilns for sale. I also googled for kilns and found several websites  that advertised second hand / refurb kilns either on their websites or facebook pages (e.g. Kilncare , Northern Kilns). Although I had also read that ceramic kilns could be used to fuse glass (cheaper option judging by eBay) , I decided to go for a plug in ‘starter kiln’ and eyed up the HobbyFuser and the Skutt Firebox 14. Given my inexperience I thought it wise to start with a recognised, common, hobby glass fusing kiln.  Also, given I hadn’t yet decided on the location of the kiln, a plug-in again seemed most flexible whilst I sorted out my space. I set up a saved search with email notifications for eBay and set up a notification on Facebook Marketplace for kilns. Then I watched and waited……

Thanks to Facebook, I am now due to collect a HobbyFuser 3 along with a selection of Bullseye Glass and some basic equipment within the next week or so.