Important: Always wear safety glasses when using your drill. You may also want to put on you shop apron and work gloves. I have had a few bottles crack on me but, have not had one fly apart.
There is a learning curve to drilling holes in wine bottles. You need to practice a few times drilling holes in old beer or pickles bottles. It will take a few tries to get the feel and touch. The amount of pressure and speed you apply when drilling is very important.
What size hole? I have found that a ¾ inch hole works just fine. Some bottles have a ½ inch hole which will also work.. With a ¾ inch hole, you can insert the string of lights very easily. With this size hole you can also pull the string of lights out if they need to be replaced.
Whether you choose to use a ½ or a ¾ inch hole you will need to find a diamond coated core bit. Do not waste your money buying carbide coated drill bits or the spade shaped bits that are advertised to drill in glass. I have tried these types of drill bits when I first started .I did not have good luck with any of them.
This brings us to another point. Diamond coated drill bits do wear out. The life of drill bits depends on several factors. The thickness of the glass you are drilling into, the drill speed, amount of pressure applied and the amount of lubrication. You need to check the tip of your drill bit often. If you see all the colors in the rainbow, especially brown, blue, black or even yellow on the tip of your bit you need to slow down your speed, apply less pressure and be sure the tip of your bits is wet. Diamond bits can and will heat up very fast. When ever you use a diamond drill bit you should remember to use light pressure and lots of water. You will get the feel for this as you gain experience.
I use just plain water. Some craft people use WD-40 or 3 in one oil. I have not tried ether one. It is my understanding that oil lubricants do not work very well with diamond bits. I take an empty dish soap bottle and fill it with water. I can squeeze the bottle to squirt water on the surface and drill bit. I hold the wine bottle tight to the cradle jig with my left hand and work the drill up and down with my right. Every two or three times I squirt water on the bottle surface and the tip of the drill. Remember always keep the tip of your drill bit wet. Water must always reach the tip of your bit... You need to develop the feel for this. If you were to drill with a steady down pressure water would not seep into the hole, even if your bottle was under water. Pumping your drill up and down is one of the critical techniques that you must learn.
I use a small table top drill press to drill wine bottles. You could use a hand held drill. The problem you may encounter is starting the hole. The drill bit will want to dance and skip around the bottle surface. It is very hard to get a hole started. Try this. Take a strip of duck tape and wrap it around your bottle and mark the spot where you want the hole drilled. Start very slow and apply enough pressure so that the bit will start to cut. If you are holding the bottle with one hand and the drill with the other you will need to stop every few seconds and spray water on the drill bit. When using a hand drill I will start the hole by tipping my drill about a 45 degree angle to the bottle.When you have made a slight indentation in the glass , you can then bring your drill straight up and apply light pressure. You will see and feel the drill bit cutting and you will see some very fine powder on the drill tip.Remember: dip your drill bit in water and use light pressure to help prevent cracking and chipping.
Another way to use your hand drill is to build a little circle around the place you want the hole with putty of some kind. I use Silly Putty. Place the bottle between your feet. Fill the circle with water. Bend over and carefully start to drill your hole. Have a cup of water close at hand to dip your drill into every few seconds.
I built a jig to hold my bottle in place. I place my bottle holding jig in a shallow pan which collects the water that I squirt on the drill bit. Be sure that your bottle is level. You may need to build a small platform to place your pan on.
Use a diamond coated bit to drill your bottle.
Start your hold very slow and with very light pressure.
Use plenty of lubricant. Check you drill bit often.
Very slow drill speed, light pressure and lots of water are the key factors to success.
Design a cradle jig to hold your bottle under your drill press.
I also use a ¾ inch plastic hole plug to cover the hole. This will give your bottle
a more finished look. You can buy plastic plugs at most hardware stores or at
Lowe’s. I drill a ¼ inch hole in the center and than cut it in half. Place around your light cord and push it in place. You may need a spot of hot glue to help hold it in place.
Insert a coat hanger in the top of the bottle to help position the lights. Pull some of the lights up tight in the neck of the bottle so that they won’t slip down.
A few more tips
Lighted wine bottles will get very warm to the touch, but not hot.
Use 20 to 35 lights in a 12 inch bottle.
Use your imagination and try different style of bottles. Do not drill into tempered glass.
Be sure to wash out the inside of your bottle right away. You may see some white silicone residue on the inside of your bottle. If it hardens you will have a hard time getting it washed out.
Buy your string lights at Christmas time. They cost mush more at craft stores this time of the year.
Use Google to search for additional ideals from other craft people on ways to decorate your bottle.
I hope that my suggestions and drilling tips will help you with your lighted wine bottle craft projects. During the last few years lighted bottles and lighted glass blocks have been very good sellers at crafts shows. You can now make a few for your friends and a few extra to sell.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please e-mail your questions and comments