If you enjoy the occasional glass of wine, chances are you have a small collection of empty wine bottles piling up in the corner of your garage. Fortunately, empty wine bottles are one of the most versatile upcycling supplies around. From drinkware to garden decor, here are 10 DIY projects you can make at home.
For most of these ideas, you will likely want to remove the label. Soak the bottles in a sink full of warm water with a few tablespoons of baking soda for 30 minutes. The labels should float to the top. If they don’t, they should scrub off easily with a sponge or steel wool.
1. Automatic Plant Waterer
Save the cork for this project. Don’t worry if your bottle didn’t come with a “real” cork; the synthetic variety works just fine.
Secure the cork in a vice and drill a small hole through it lengthwise with an electric drill. Fill the wine bottle with fresh, clean water and then reinsert the cork into the bottleneck. Turn the bottle upside down and push it into the soil of your favorite potted plant. You may need to dig out a small hole in the soil to keep the bottle upright.
The cork slows the water just enough to deliver a consistent drip, ensuring your ficus never goes dry. This is perfect to use when you're on long vacations and don't want to pay someone to come over and water your plants while you're gone.
2. Garden Edging
Dig a small trench along your garden border. Remove the labels from your bottles and place them, neck down, into the trench so that about half the bottle length remains above ground level. This edging looks best when the bottles are packed close together, with no space between. You can alternate the height of the bottles to create visual interest, or bury them all to the same depth for a clean line. Pack soil back into the trench around the bottles until they stand upright on their own.
It’s a good idea to save the corks for this project, too. If the bottles are left open, weeds and pests will get inside and spoil the look. You can use bottles of similar size and shape, but an edging made of bottles of multiple colors looks great when it catches the sunlight.
3. Bottle Tree
When your yard starts to look a little barren in winter, liven it up with a colorful bottle tree. This is a great way to use up lots of odds-and-ends bottles that are different shades and shapes. Simply turn the empty bottles upside down and place them on the thin tree branches in your front yard.
4. Yarn-Wrapped Decor
You don’t even have to remove the labels for this one. Coat the bottle surface with craft glue. Starting from the top edge of the bottle neck, wrap yarn around the bottle until you reach the bottom. Make sure there is no space between wraps; you don’t want to be able to see glass between the yarn. Thread the tail ends of the yarn into a large-eyed needle and weave them under the wrapped layers so they are no longer visible. Let dry.
For a rustic vibe choose rough-hewn, thick-thin yarn, or twine. Use the bottle as a vase or candleholder, or make several and group them as a tableau.
5. Hostess Gift
Clean the bottle thoroughly, remove the label, and fill with your favorite hard candy, simple syrup, or colorful dried legume. Herb-infused olive oil is another good choice: place a sprig of fresh rosemary in the bottle before pouring in the oil. Replace the cork and tie a ribbon around the neck of the bottle.
6. Drinking Tumblers
Turning your wine bottles into drinkware involves cutting off the top and sanding the edge smooth. Cutting glass may sound scary, but it’s actually a safe and simple process if you have the right tools. You don’t actually “cut” the glass at all. Instead, you stress it through temperature changes until the top pops off on its own.
You’ll need a bottle cutter for this one. Despite the name, this handy device doesn’t cut; it scores a line in the glass to create a weak spot. You can get one for about $20, a steal compared to what you’d pay for a new set of drinking glasses in the store.
After scoring a line into your wine bottle where you want the “cut” to be, you’ll need to heat the glass gently. Some people break out the blowtorch for this step but that’s overkill, and can actually leave nasty stress marks in your finished product. Instead, hold the scoreline over a candle flame, or pour hot water over it. Then run the bottle under the cold water tap. After a couple of these hot/cold cycles, the scoreline will pop. Then you can sand the edge smooth with sandpaper. (Don’t forget to wear safety goggles!)
7. Hurricane Lamps
After making your drinking tumblers, don’t throw the tops of the bottles away. Smooth the edge of each bottle with sandpaper and place them over lit votive candles. The open bottle neck allows just enough oxygen to the flame, which the hurricane lamp shape protects the candle from drafts.
8. Etched Glass
Peel the adhesive backing off of your etching stencil (widely available at craft stores) and apply the stencil to your wine bottle. Make sure to smooth down the edges completely, so no etching cream gets underneath the stencil. Apply etching cream to the exposed areas, and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes. Wash away the etching cream and peel the stencil away. It makes a great gift item or decor piece.
9. Slumped Dish
You’ve probably seen flat, melted glass bottles for sale in gift shops. They look cool mounted on the wall, on the table as a candy dish, or on your stove as a spoon rest. You can make your own at home by “slumping” the glass in a kiln. (Don’t worry if you’re not a blacksmith. You can buy a small, table-top kiln with programmable temperature controls.)
Place your clean, label-free wine bottle in the kiln and set it to warm to 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. After letting it sit at that temperature for ten minutes, increase the temperature slowly. The bottle should start to slump around 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. Crash cool the kiln back to 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, and then let it rest. When it’s completely cool, you’ll have a killer cheese tray.
10. Dish Soap Dispenser
Ditch the cork and get your hands on a pour spout. Pour spouts are available at kitchen stores and are usually used for olive oil bottles. Remove the wine label and paint the bottle, or etch a design into the glass. Fill with dish soap and close the opening with the pour spout.
If you need a place to display your wine before you drink it, check out our tutorial on a wine rack archery target.