Mini Cordwood House Build: Preparing Stained Glass Windows


I just can take waiting any longer.  I need to start working on my house, but we have too much snow on the ground to do anything outside yet.  How can I possibly build my house inside while waiting around….

Prepare the stained glass windows.  My current plan (subject to change at any time) would require 500 glass bottle bricks to fulfill.  That is a lot.  The number one reson that could change this plan would be that I just don’t have time to do that many.  But the sooner I start, the better my chances get that I have enough bottle bricks.

So what is a bottle brick?  That is what they call two bottles that have had the ends cut off and are then taped together.  They are used in cordwood or cob walls to create a stained glass window effect.  Let in the light, let in the warmth.

We have been collecting the glass bottles for a few years now.  Friends and family have saved their empties and brought them to add to our collection.  We broke plenty along the way, but we should have a pretty good start to the 1000 bottles we need.  There is also a bottle recycling place that we can go and get bottles at.  Should be easy to reach the goal.

Now to get to work.  Here’s what I did:

1. Soak the bottles in water with vinegar to loosen the crud and the labels.  An old sponge works great to scrape the bottles off.

2. Score the bottles.  I got this nifty cutting block to make sure I made straight lines.  The deeper you score, the easier the bottles break.  I noticed that when I pushed harder on the bottle that it splintered a little bit.  Much harder and I would be afraid of breaking the glass.

3.  In order to break the bottles along the score line, I did hot and cold water.  Nearly boiling and full of slushy snow to be exact.  Dip the bottle in the hot water then immediately into the cold.

I had to go back and forth for the bottles that weren’t scored deep enough.  One of the bottles broke before it even got into the water, that was the one that splintered when I cut it.

4. Once the bottles are all cut, you can sand the edges to make them smooth.  I will be wearing gloves an covering the sharp edges, so I’m not going to take the time to sand 1000 bottles.


5. Connect the bottles, open ends together, to the desired length of the thickness of your walls.  Our walls will be 18″ thick, so that is how long the bottle bricks need to be.  I connected the bottles with a piece of cardboard to make the tube.

6. Repeat 500 times.

Tin foil between the cardboard and the glass allow the sunlight to be reflected through the bottles and you will get a brighter window.

The cardboard tubes were a bit of a pain to make.  I am going to try a few more options like: using plastic bottles to connect the beer bottles or just using wine bottles because the beer bottles are small and require more support between them (they are 5 inches a piece and the tubes need to be 18″).  I’m sure the process will change as I go.

For more information, check these out: forum


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My understanding is that since the whole wall is build with the log ends exposed and using natural clay, that the whole wall is porus. The air can move through the wall naturally, so there is never a trapping of the moist air anywhere. I had heard that when people have sealed the bottles air tight that they have actually broken with the fluctution of temperatures. Pretty neat, right?


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