Making gifts: Wine bottle planter

Winter solstice means family time, candles and presents! Christmas and solstice correlate in the northern hemisphere because they’re a few days apart. Australia’s winter solstice is in June, so our holiday doesn’t have to share the limelight.

Each gifter is assigned one family member to make a solstice present for. The presents must be handmade! Husband was making for a gardener, so he wanted to make a planting pot.

First cut

You will need:

  • a glass cutter (or use the acetone method…I haven’t used this myself though)
  • a saucepan tall enough to fit an entire wine bottle in
  • a bucket tall enough to fit an entire wine bottle in
  • a steady supply of iceblocks
  • waterproof sandpaper
  • a bowl with a flat base and a lip, filled with water
  • potting mix
  • a drainage medium such as gravel, cork, netting
  • absorbant string i.e. a natural fibre such as cotton.
  • a succulent or hardy herb (such as thyme)

We borrowed a friend’s glass cutter to make wine bottle planters. I keep bottles that don’t have a reusable cap and remove the labels. There were a pile of bottles ready for us to use. Which is just as well, it took us a while to get the hang of cutting them!

One that didn't quite work!

One that didn’t quite work!

Hang the cutter on the bottle at the point you want to cut it. You need to take into account a few things when picking this point. How long is the bottle’s neck? Make sure it will fit when inverted. Husband found a way to trim the bottle necks; but it’s not easy so avoid that if possible.

Is the base of the bottle flat or raised inside? Red wine bottles are often like this; cut higher to give clearance for the bottle neck. Are the shoulders of the bottle sloped? White wine bottles are often like this; cut lower so the neck section will sit flush.

Use the blade on the glass cutter to mark a score around the diameter of the bottle. The score only needs to be a shallow burr, you’re not actually cutting the glass. The score also needs to be as constant and consistent as possible to ensure a clean break. We’ve found this is a learnt skill; it look several bottles to get it right!

Scoring a burr in the bottle with a glass cutter

Scoring a burr in the bottle with a glass cutter

Snap!

Extreme temperature changes will split the glass along a burr. Fill the saucepan with water and get it to a rolling boil. Leave room for the water to displace because you’ll be submerging the bottle! Fill the water in the bucket with cold water and add the iceblocks. Keep more iceblocks at hand to add to the water as it warms up.

Stand the bottle in the boiling water first, making sure the burr is well covered in hot water. Keep the bottle there for about 10 seconds, then submerge it in the iced water for 10 seconds. Alternate between the two water containers until the glass breaks. The bottom of the bottle falls from the piece you’re holding into the water, it feels peculiar!

Moving the bottle between boiling hot water (in the saucepan) to icy cold water (in the bucket). The tin in the saucepan was an experiment, but it didn't keep the water hot enough so we removed it later.

Moving the bottle between boiling hot water (in the saucepan) to icy cold water (in the bucket). The tin in the saucepan was an experiment, but it didn’t keep the water hot enough so we removed it later.

The glass cutter instructions said it would only take about three sets of hot and cold water to break the glass. We found it could take longer. The process was faster if you maintained the temperature extremes between the two water sources.

Sometimes the glass will break irregularly, especially when you’re beginning. This means you need to cut your glass more smoothly and consistently. If the break is pretty close to straight, we still use it. Just be super careful when sanding it down.

The cut edge of any glass is sharp, so treat it carefully. Put the waterproof sandpaper into a flat bowl and add water. You don’t need much water, it’s just there to clean up the glass dust created during sanding. Place the cut edge of the bottle down onto the sandpaper. Rotate the bottle on the sandpaper to smooth the top edge of the cut. Then angle the bottle and rub it along the sandpaper until the outside edge of the cut is smooth. Finally, get a smaller piece of sandpaper and rub it along the inside edge of the cut until its smooth. We run our fingers along the edge to test if the glass is safe to touch. Use caution with this method, obviously!

Sanding

Sanding

Filling in

With the glass edges sanded down safely, the bottle is now ready to be planted out. Invert the top of the bottle and place it in the other half of the bottle. The bottle neck will be suspended inside the bottom of the bottle. Water will collect in the bottom of the bottle and then be drawn up the bottle neck to water the plant.

We used gravel at the base to keep the soil in the top section. Cork or netting will do the same job. Feed a few lengths of string down the neck. They need to be long enough to touch the water reservoir in the bottom half. Add soil to the top half of the bottle and insert your plant!

Wine bottle planter. This one doesn't have string running down the neck to draw water up to the plant. It would work much better with the string.

Wine bottle planter. This one doesn’t have string running down the neck to draw water up to the plant. It would work much better with the string.

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One Response to Making gifts: Wine bottle planter

  1. Pingback: Making gifts: musical notebook | Reduce reuse recycle

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