The Basics of Bottle Morphology


Bottle is a term used to describe any container (often of glass) that has a narrow neck, commonly used for storing drinks or other liquids. It also comes from cockney rhyming slang, describing the “courage or confidence needed to do something difficult or dangerous”.

A bottle can be made by mouth-blown or machine-made methods. Mouth-blown bottles can be produced in many shapes and sizes and a range of finishes, but the most common are rectangular and cylindrical.

General Bottle Morphology pop-up page

A typical bottle has a base, a bottom plate or parison mold and the lower part of the bottle known as the heel or insweep. The body, or upper part of the bottle, is formed by a combination of the base and the upper part of the collar or lip (if present) on the finish. A ground rim/lip is a finish where the top surface of the finish has been hand ground to enhance the sealing and/or closure fit. This process very often leaves behind a very fine, sandpaper-like surface and small chips.

Gather – A glob (gob) of molten glass which is gathered on the end of a blowpipe before it is blown into a bottle (Bridgeton Evening News 1889; Jones & Sullivan 1989; White 1978). Early bottle makers often called this person a “gatherer” or “glass gatherer” since he would collect a glob of molten glass from the pot or tank of hot glass before it was expanded to form a bottle.

Heel – The lowest portion of the bottle where the body begins to curve into the base and terminates at the extreme outside edge of the base, usually referred to as the “resting point” (Firebaugh 1983). This area is not necessarily symmetrical or circular but can be rounded and incised or flattened with the use of a baffle plate on a machine-made blank or parison mold.

Decolorize – In glassmaking the addition of substances such as manganese dioxide, selenium or arsenic to the glass mix or batch to neutralize the iron and carbonaceous impurities that were naturally present in the sands used to make glass. This process was typically done in the late 19th century and is still used on some bottles.

Ground rim/lip – A finish on hand-made bottles with external screw-threads that was hand ground to enhance the seal and/or closure fit. This process often left behind a very fine, sandpaper-like textured surface and small chips to the outside and inside edge of the rim of the finish.

Generally speaking, a hand-made or mouth-blown bottle should not have a glass-tipped pontil scar. The image to the right is a sauce bottle base that has a glass-tipped pontil scar.

A bottle episode can be a great opportunity to apply pressure to your characters, calcify running themes and showcase your creativity. It is a unique and challenging setting that requires characters to be preoccupied with something other than their usual action, and it’s an ideal way to focus on the emotional movement of a character and their interactions within the setting. It’s a brilliant way to show a variety of emotions from different perspectives, and it can be a lot of fun to write.