from beer bottle to beer glass, part one: ‘cutting with string’ fail


If you enjoy beer as much as we do in our household, you probably share the love for microbrews. One of our favorite makers is Portland’s Hopworks Urban Brewery (or HUB), whose Abominable Winter Ale features art (by Martin Ontiveros) as cool as the beer is delicious. We love the Abominable so much, we’ve decided to keep him around by turning those empty bottles into snazzy drinking glasses.

Now, we’re pretty handy, but we don’t own a glass cutter, so of course I Googled for other ideas. I landed on this tutorial on cutting a bottle using string and acetone. As you may have gathered from the post headline, it was not a rousing success. It looks so easy in the video! What did we do wrong?

Step one: Tie a string around the bottle where you want the bottle to be cut.
Step two: Soak the string in nail polish remover (that’s the acetone — we used a small ramekin for this).
Step three: Place the string back on the bottle (wear gloves and keep the open acetone far away from you) and set the string on fire with a match; rotate bottle to distribute the fire. (I did the “one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand” counting thing for between counts of 12 and counts up to 20 and beyond while the string was on fire.)


Step four: plunge the bottle into a sink filled with icy water and apply pressure to both ends of the bottle — voila! the bottle should cleanly snap at the string. Except in our case, when the bottle should do NOTHING AT ALL, not matter how many times you try.

First we tried cotton string: caught on fire, but bottle did not break.

Then we tried cotton yarn: soaked up more acetone, burned better, but bottle still did not break.

Then we tried several rows of cotton twine that looked more like what they use in other videos online): burned well. Burned for an entire minute. Bottle did not break.

These bottles bear mute testimony to how many times we tried:


Next step: Anyone have a glass cutter? — Mary T.

From our partners

this might sound rude but I know people who have made the same mistake — did you check to make sure your nail polish remover was actually made with acetone? A lot of them no longer are. You could also try buying pure acetone and see if that works.


None of the fire methods I tried worked. I tried nail polish (with acetone) and straight alcohol, yarn and string. Sometimes the glass wouldn’t break at all, sometimes it would break with a jagged edge.

I bought this glass “cutter” on Amazon . It’s a little complex to set up the first time, but once I got the hang of it, I was able to get pretty straight cuts after scoring the glass and then dunking the glass back and forth between pots of hot and cold water.

You have to make sure not to press too hard when scoring the glass, only go over it once, and don’t press too hard.

Happy cutting!

Mary T

Not rude! We actually did check, and it was. But thanks!


The string section looks about 5 strings wide in the photo. Is that how you tried it? Maybe try a tighter wrap of about two loops max. Might give a more focused shock zone. It’s the temperature difference that will inititate the break after all. A colder bottle might help too.
It’s a poor method for a clean edge anyway. Will always be jagged. Better even with a $2 glass cutter from a hardware store and your belt if you don’t really want to by a dedicated bottle cutter.


I second sarah–you’ll probably get better results with pure acetone. We got super glue off of something using acetone–my nail polish remover (with acetone) just made things smell like putrid flowers and did nothing.

Good luck! If you get it to work please post and let us know.

Mary T.

Thanks for all the responses! Ginty, that was one of many, many variations we tried. We went everywhere from one string loop to many. All were soaked in the flammable solution but nothing seemed to work. I probably should have mentioned that we have a friend who works with glass, but she fires and smelts it, not cuts it. So after we do the initial cut, we’re going to have fun experimenting with her high-quality glass sander, so we’re not worried about edges (unless a bottle shatters, which would be very unpleasant on many accounts). I’ll try some more of these suggestions in the meantime and yes, more posts will follow. Thanks again.


We did this with cotton string and it failed. Tried with acrylic string and it worked on our first bottle but, 2 other bottles it did not work on. Second time with acrylic we tied the string really really tight and soaked it longer in the nail polish remover…it worked!! But not really the quality that I wanted to be able to actually do anything with the containers. Will be looking into a glass cutter and how to sand the edges!


We did the same thing and after many tries we discovered that the darker bottles do not break, the lighter brown and clear bottles do!!


I’m having trouble with the string even lighting. I’m using a blended acrylic and cotton string and nail polish remover. Do you need to squeeze out access nail polish remover or leave it? I’ve done both and it just seems too “wet”. The string burns great without the acetone but falls apart where it’s tied.