Glass Marbles for Fun and Play How Are Glass Marbles Made
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Glass Marbles for Fun and Play How Are Glass Marbles Made

Little balls made of the materials of common stone, rolled and baked earthen materials such as clay, or crafted of colorful marble (calcium carbonate) and have been used and enjoyed since the time of the Egyptians and later, the Romans.

Marbles are a Source of Play and Games

Used for games and play, marbles are loved by all. Modern marbles are made of colored glass, mass-produced with an eye towards their beauty.

Marble makers first smelt recycled glass and previously-made marbles that were rejected due to imperfections in size, shape or desired coloration. Melted at 22000 F until liquefied, the molten glass is allowed to pour out where it is sheared into exact lengths which determine mass. The molten wad of glass falls onto twin rotating screws that resemble an Archimedes water screw. The rotation screws prevent the glass from sticking and it also causes the glass segment to become round. It travels the length of the twin screws, become more solid as it nears the end.

It next drops onto two more screws that are smooth-surfaced and exactly positioned to let marbles that are too small to drop through (to be re-melted later) and marbles that are too large are separated at this stage also. These rejected marbles which are slightly off-size or non-round are either remelted another time, or can possibly be used as the shaker-orbs as commonly used in spray paint cans. Cans of spray paint contain simple semi-round glass balls that stir-up the paint when the can is shaken.

These marbles that pass the size and roundness test are next placed in a furnace at around 9860 F and allowed to cool slowly over the next 72 hours. The slow cooling strengthens the glass, reducing the likelihood of fracturing and breakage upon impact when used in normal situations such as gaming.

colorful marbles made in West Africa

(image source)

Colored marbles, those amazing glass spheres with ribbons and ropes of color require more manual and intense laboring. First, a slug of glass is melted and gathered upon a glass-blowers stick (an iron rod) It is withdrawn and rolled upon a ‘bed’ of thin color glass that has been previously prepared and laid-out in a very close side-by-side position. The little rods of colored glass stick to the core of clear molten glass, and are returned to the kiln to melt and merge.

Withdrawn a second time and possibly coated with more clear glass first, this core is once again rolled upon a bed of another color of thin glass straws, the molten core picking them up as before. Again, pressed into place and re-melted in the kiln. This process can be repeated as many times as necessary to incorporate as many colors and layers as desired. Thin pipettes or flat ribbons can be imparted with each session, spots and dots, -whatever the artisan desires. Stretching and twisting the molten core using special steel glass-moulder’s tools can impart the familiar ‘swirls’ we see n the finish product.

When the desired number of colors and shapes has been achieved, the marble-maker begins to mould the round orb with various techniques ranging from a fistful of wet newspapers to special wooden forms. When the marble or orb nears the correct circumference, the globe is sectioned-off and cut from the main molten core. Stored upon a metal support base, the point of separation leaves a little nub which is heated with a hand-torch and made smooth and round. Again, the nearly-finished glass orb is returned into the furnace at 986 F and allowed to slowly cool over the next three days. Amazing creations can be made and no marble will ever be exactly alike, each having their own unique provenance and identity.

Child's Play with Marbles

Yet in the eyes, minds and heart of a child, marbles are and always will be just an object of fun and play.

marbles background

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Comments (5)

Cool article! :-)

I remember playing with marbles when I was younger. Wonderful post! I buzzed it up :)

excellent I buzzed it up

Great informative piece. I enjoyed marbles as a kid.

Great info. At the school I teach at there is still a two week marble season each year. It's a fascinatiing experience. Marbles have interesting names these days.