Marbles are small, round, spherical objects made from glass or stone and most commonly used in children’s games. They are usually less than an inch (2.54 cm) in diameter and often brightly colored or otherwise decorated. Their origins as recreational objects appear to date back several thousand years, and it is also believed that the primitive games played with marbles eventually evolved into the sports that we now know as bowling, billiards, and pinball.
Let’s see how marbles are made:
In this process, the craftsman first preheats some clear glass in a small oven. Then he breaks off a piece of colored glass. After the clear glass has melted in the furnace overnight. He gathers some on a steel rod, then picks up a chunk of preheated colored glass with it. He forms knob and works the mass into a long string that’s up to 16 and a half feet long and thin as a noodle.
He’ll use them in various colors to decorate the clear glass cores of the marbles. He gathers a clump of melted clear glass on the rod and shapes it with wet newspaper, which won’t stick to hot glass. After shaping the end, he rolls the clump on several preheated colored glass strings. Then it’s back in the furnace. This step is repeated up to three times and he rolls the clump on a metal table to even out the surface between each trip to the furnace.
Then he adds a layer of clear glass on top. With another tool now, he stretches the clump to about one and a half feet long. He’ll use this to make several cores. To make the second layer of the core, he rolls a two inch long segment onto colored glass slivers called ribbons. After rolling them in the furnace to melt them. He flattens the ribbons with pliers and snips the excess at the ends. He wraps the core and the ribbons into a layer of clear glass then hand-shapes it.
Now, he rolls the core on more glass strings. Then it’s back in the furnace to melt them. He adds one more clear glass layer, and the inside is finished. That’s a total of six layers for this marble. Other models have fewer or more. The craftsman shapes the glass with several metal and wooden tools. He measures the diameter with metal calipers and gradually sculpts the sphere. He’ll make up to five marbles from this segment ranging up to the size of a golf ball. After scoring the glass with a knife, he places it in open end of a pipe to hold it. Then he gently taps the rod, which breaks the glass and releases the sphere. He melts away the bump left at the spot where the glass broke. Next, the marbles go into an oven at 986 degrees Fahrenheit. The oven slowly cools overnight to strengthen the glass.
Today, marbles are still produced in record numbers. Modern marbles are made from a combination of sand, soda lime, silica, and several other ingredients added for pigment or decoration.