Beer geeks have a way of collecting anything: glassware, shirts, hats, bottle openers, bottles, bottle caps, coasters, labels and almost anything else associated with the hobby. I once had a somewhat small beer bottle collection, on the order of about 300, but now I collect bottles only from certain brewers. Recently Iíve begun collecting bottle caps and six-pack labels, and I have no idea why. Perhaps it is because I know that some day, some place, I will do something creative with a pile of bottle caps or a drawer full of boxes. Letís just keep believing that.
One piece of beerdom which I have had a hard time finding a purpose for is a three liter bottle of Stone Double Bastard, a double magnum that many of us find ourselves staring and salivating at in our favorite store. Can I use it as an oversized, deathly flower vase? Would it work well as a doorstop? Perhaps it would work better as a lawn ornament. The other day as I was rummaging through my home deciding what to throw away (weíre collectors, remember?) I finally decided that my old desk lamp had had enough. Later on that night while moving more things around in my kitchen, I shoved the empty Double Bastard out of the way and it eventually made its way onto my coffee table. As it sat there next to the living room lamp, I heard a simultaneous buzzing as the bulbs above both my head and my fiancťs head went off at the same time. It was one of those movie-moments, where things go in slow motion and dramatic music plays to a crescendo. Ok, so it was just a bottle. But I had an idea and for the next three days it would take over my life.
I began to plan. "It couldnít be too hard to build that thing into a lamp", I said, "Iíve just got to figure out how to put a hole in at the base of the bottle". This turned out to be the most time-consuming part of the project. Melting the glass was out of the question because it is too easy to crack the glass due to heat stress. Drilling the glass was really the only solution, but itís something that must be done with great care. Two common materials are generally used to drill through strong substances such as glass, tile, and stone: diamond tipped drill bits and tungsten carbide. Unable to find any diamond bits, I picked up a 3/8 inch carbide bit at the local hardware store. Drilling through glass is a delicate process, and drilling at higher than 100 rpms with a 3/8 inch bit would almost certainly damage the glass either by a high amount of vibration, or by heat stress. I wanted to test the process of drilling through a glass bottle, but not risk the only three liter bottle of Double Bastard that I would probably ever buy. I started on an empty 22 ounce bomber, and was able to drill through the body of the bottle in about 30 minutes, though it was only fractions of a centimeter thick. When the hole in the 22 ounce bottle was almost completed, I increased the drilling speed to see what kind of damage the bottle could take. It was not long before a good 4 inch crack developed in the body of the bottle.
Drilling the 3L bottle, I was much more careful than I probably needed to be, but only to ensure that the bottle had close to no chance of cracking. The bottle was mounted to two pieces of wood for stability, and after about 2 hours of drilling with intermittent breaks, the bit grinded through to the inside of the bottle at about a 1/2 inch deep. That thickness of glass sounds quite small, but the only safe way to drill through glass is to not apply too much pressure and to let the bit grind through the glass, instead of forcing it to drill into the glass. My original plan was to insert a small, plastic gasket into the drilled hole so that the glass would not damage the electrical cord passing through. It turns out that the glass hole was so finely grinded that it was smooth enough to use without a gasket.
Constructing an electrical cord and connecting it to a standard light socket only required stripping the ends off of the cord and securing the wire to the socket leads through the body of the bottle, and to a wall plug at the other end. I chose to avoid using a "harp" socket because it fit the design of the lamp better if the bottom cap of a standard socket was directly attached to the top of the bottle. I wanted to avoid using any kind of glue so that I was free to easily disassemble the lamp in the future, but, because light sockets are designed for a specific mounting, I had no choice but to directly set the plastic light socket piece on top of the bottle. I picked up some solvent-based adhesive, specifically designed for plastic and glass, and applied it to the bottom of the socket and to the mouth of the bottle. After setting for about 15 hours, the adhesive had solidified clear and the two pieces were firmly bonded. Topping off the project with a new black lampshade gave it a fitting appearance that should meet the approval of any Arrogant Bastard.
Sometimes it pays to hang on to pieces of beerdom after the beer is gone. Perhaps now I can find something to do with that pile of bottle caps.