Part of living in rural Maine and staying sane involves an application of alcohol.
Now, before you cast temperance-flavored aspersions, understand that even our state government sponsors television advertising suggesting that, hey, you there, you might need a drink about now. (If you think I’m joking, please fall down the rabbit hole of Maine Spirits commercials.)
Anyway, the point is you’re going to be in hearty supply of empty bottles. So what to do with them?
For us, the answer was obvious: buy a propane torch and some stuff off Amazon, and cut them in half. For what? FOR WHAT!?!?! WELL I’D TELL YOU IF YOU’D JUST HOLD STILL:
This is a winter-in-Maine garden of green onions, parsley, and the experiment in the middle is mint from the yard that the wife picked in the dead of January (it’s actually taken root, and is somehow doing great despite my many eye-rolls). Moving on, all of those planters are old wine bottles that we cut in half. Similarly, some additional uses thus far:
We’re also planning to make some wind chimes to keep the deer out of the gardens this summer, but we’ll get there. Anyway, if you’re still interested in how we do it, here’s the step-by-step. First up (after you’ve…obtained… the bottles), get the labels off. I’ve found the best method is a soak in hot water:
The hot water usually does its job on the adhesives, but I’ve found this varies by specific bottle. As a general rule – and I’m not making this up – the more expensive wines have much more troublesome labels. I’m in the process of satisfying my own curiosity about why this is the case, but for now just know that cheap wine = quickly naked bottles.
Once you have the bulk of the signage off, use a hot SOAPY sponge to clean them up. This is important for two reasons: (1) it will remove the rest of the adhesive residue; and (2) the bottles need to be very clean and dry for the scoring process.
At this point, you can actually use these for any number of things around the kitchen, from pickled vinegar, to salad dressing, to a very annoying and monotone jug band.
So let’s talk about the actual breaking process. It’s three steps: (1) score the bottle; (2) heat the score line as acutely as possible; and (3) shock the heated score line to separate the bottle. This can and will go sideways in unpredictable ways.
Step 1: Score the bottle. I use a rig from Amazon that was about $20.00, and so far has made this part of the process pretty straight forward:
Step 2: Heat the score line. Most of the instructions I’ve seen and videos I’ve watched use boiling water here, and YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY DO THAT AND NOT THIS:
After heating, then shocking in ice water:
These will have their edges sanded (about six minutes by hand with silicate sandpaper), and the jar on the left MOST CERTAINLY WON’T become a candle, while the contraption on the right is a self-watering planter to join the ranks of the others we’ve already made.