Workshop Spotlight - Diamond Bottlenecks glass guitar slides with Ian McWee
I have known Ian McWee of Diamond Bottlenecks for many years. When I first became interested in slide guitar, I was reading an issue of Guitarist Magazine and a review of some beautiful glass slides caught my eye. After reading I realised these were made local to me, and knew I had to pay a visit. This must have been over 15 years ago now, and Ian was as enthusiastic about his slides and slide guitar in general as he is today. 

Diamond Bottlenecks Guitar Slides

Fast forward, and in 2015 when I was beginning James' Home of Tone, I knew I had to stock Ian's lead crystal glass guitar slides after personally using them ever since that first meeting. I'm very proud to stock these slides and for opportunities to make an article and associated video like this. I would like to mark a special thank you to one of Diamond Bottlenecks' endorsed artists, Doug MacLeod for helping make the video happen too.

Diamond Bottlenecks Guitar slides

I wanted to capture some photos and videos of the process of making and finishing Ian's 'Ultimate' model, a lead crystal glass slide. This starts with the large hand-blown glass tube which are blown by one of Ian's specially selected and skilled UK based glass blowers. These start this process in the raw form shown above, a long 1-2ft tube ready to be made into a guitar slide.

Diamond Bottlenecks Glass Guitar Slides

There aren't too many lead crystal glass blowers around that can achieve a tube this precisely made, but with Ian's lengthy experience in the trade he is able to work alongside a handful of those skilled UK glass blowers to make these beautiful slides possible. The refined work doesn't end there, as it is in Ian's workshop in the heart of UK glass making country, Stourbridge, where a plethora of machinery ensures the final finish stages of the slide making process are as precise as the first.

Diamond Bottlenecks guitar slides

Firstly, the long lead crystal tube must be cut down to a usable size using a clipper saw. This is noisy and messy work already and a piece of machinery not for the faint of heart!

Diamond Bottlenecks glass guitar slides

This stage is also a taster of the level of custom work Ian can often supply his long time customer base. Whether you're a player that prefers a fuller length slide, or a shorter partial slide, cutting down the length of the tube is done one by one so should you require or be on the look out for a specific length tube either myself or Ian can do our best to help. Over on my listings, I usually measure each in stock slide so you can see the accurate measurements of the slide you're interested in. And Ian can work with his customer directly to to help achieve their desired sizing.

Diamond Bottlenecks guitar slide

We're now left with a pretty darn rough guitar slide, so up next is a selection of polishing methods to ensure the slide feels comfortable in your hand for years to come. The flat diamond wheel is the first of those stages, taking off any bad knurls or uneven-ness from the initial clipper saw cut.

Diamond Bottlenecks guitar slides

It already became pretty apparent to me why glass guitar slide making, particularly with lead crystal, is done by so few, possibly even only Diamond Bottlenecks to this extent! The variety of machinery required is seldom used or found, so it's great to see first hand and for me makes the slides feel that bit more special.

Diamond Bottlenecks guitar slides

With the cut edge leveled out, it's over to the linisher belts to begin the process of smoothing out the heavy work carried out by the tag wheel.

Diamond Bottlenecks guitar slide

There are two linisher belts used by Ian, each with a different grade belt for smoothing and polishing. They move at some speed, and with wet hands a confident grip is required to ensure no slides are pulled away and broken.

Diamond Bottlenecks Guitar Slides

The shaping is beginning to be apparent now when you observe the cut edge. But it's far from the glossy finish you'll be familiar with if you're already a Diamond Bottlenecks owner. We moved on to the tag-wheel now which helps with the rounded internal edge.

Diamond Bottlenecks guitar slides

As with most stages, this is another messy job but makes for a fun photo!

Diamond Bottlenecks guitar slides

A much larger polpur wheel comes next, which concentrates on the outer edges and playing surfaces.

Diamond Bottlenecks Guitar Slides

The cerium polishing mop then takes care of any fine surface marks and helps bring the edges up to the highly buffed finish.

Diamond Bottlenecks Guitar Slides

To ensure those inner edges are comfortable when placed on the slide finger, the final stage is a fine grade tig belt.

Diamond Bottlenecks Glass Guitar Slides

There we have it, one finished, domed topped Diamond Bottlenecks 'Ultimate' model in a beautiful cobalt blue & clear prism colour. 

Diamond Bottlenecks glass guitar slide

Only one thing left to do, enjoy the new Ultimate lead crystal slide and what better way than with Ian's vintage 30's National Duolian!

Diamond Bottlenecks glass guitar slides

I hope this article helps provide a little more insight into the steps taken during the making of each Diamond Bottlenecks Slide. Perhaps one day I could capture one of the glass blowers creating the raw tube too, but it was great to start with the man himself, Ian McWee doing what he loves. 

I've also made an accompanying video in association with one of Ian's endorsed artists, Doug MacLeod who has kindly allowed us to use some of his music. If you're an acoustic, blues or traditional slide guitar fan then I'm sure you'll find a lot of enjoyment from his music if you haven't already come across him. Doug is a proud endorser of Diamond Bottlenecks slides, and also has his own signature variation of the Ultimate lead crystal range. 



Thank you to Ian of Diamond Bottlenecks, Doug MacLeod and to you for taking the time to read this!

James.

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