Home Glass Stories Repairing Vintage/Antique Marbles

Repairing Vintage/Antique Marbles


By Rich Shelby

 

Pricing schedule

Repairs:  Cateyes, Akro, vitro, MK, Peltier, etc. = $2 per marble but no guarantees as the glass will do what IT wants to do!!!

Swirls = I am not repairing swirls at this time.

Factors in repairing a swirl marble

1. The thing may explode in the heating-up process in my kiln even though It is a digital processor and set to the least glass stress when heating to 970 degrees F.

2. Each place where any damage occurred, a whitish substance occurs that has to be picked out one place at a time over the entire surface area of the marble and this whitish stuff runs

into areas where it wants to go if you are not fast enough to catch it in the 1450 degree F flame of the torch.

3. If there is not enough wiggle room between the outside color bands and the surface of the swirl, it can and does rearrange the shape of the swirl.

4. Occasionally there are bubbles that affect the color band patterns when they raise to the surface when in the extreme heat.

5. Both pontil marks melt in and go away because the glass spreads to a spherical shape under the heat.

6. At the pontil ends, most of the time the swirl pattern gets affected and the shape changes and I have to go in and attempt to reproduce the original shape.

7. Mechanical failure - the kiln might have a digital error of the temperature and melt the marble flat.

It takes an average of $20 worth of oxygen and about 2 to 2 1/2 hours to attempt a swirl repair so I am not repairing swirls at this time


Sulphides  a) 3/4" and bigger = $40

b) 3/4" and smaller = $20

Remelts:       2-3 marbles made into one marble = $3

4-5 marbles made into one marble = $4

6 marbles = $6, 7 marbles = $7, 8 marbles = $8, etc.

 

The owner of the marble(s) is to pay postage for both direction of sending the work to me and returning the work to them.

 

 

As of 2010, I have been lampworking glass, making beads for necklaces, bracelets and earrings, for around nine and one-half years with focusing on marbles the last three and one-half years. Since March of 2010, I have repaired/remelted around 700 marbles.

 

A repair of an old marble makes the marble as close to the original design as possible. It corrects and fills in the dents, pot marks and chips to a smooth surface without messing up the design.

 

A re-melt of a group of marbles is when you combine 2, 3, 4, or 5 marbles into one big new marble and change the design. Some changes can be slight but others – you can’t recognize any of the original marbles one bit.

 

Many old vintage and antique collectible marbles are so damaged with nicks, chips, dents, butt cracks, flea bites, etc. that only a small portion of their original beauty remains. Unfortunately, this is a common trait with old marbles, especially with the larger and very collectible old German handmade marbles because they were played hard with the younger kids.

 

I was in charge of the 4th annual Orange County Marble Show in March of 2010. Knowing that there would be contemporary marble makers there like myself along with vintage marble collectors, I needed to do a quick study of the vintage marble-collecting hobby. It is because of this that I had the opportunity to meet and work with my friend Mr. Bob Jackson.

 

Bob had a few old collectible marbles that were chipped, dinged, and/or foggy on the surface and generally very old. He asked me if I could “fix” them. That is when it all started – my quest to repair his battered old marbles.

 

I am going to go a bit scientific here, please bear with me. Coefficient Of Expansion (COE) is a method of determining how glass will react with each other having different colors. If one number of COE is too different from another number of COE the result of combining them will cause stress cracks and the glass will eventually break in ALL cases! One MUST anneal the glass after forming the marble in a kiln for a lengthy time. After making my marbles, they all soak for at least an hour at a high temperature then are allowed to cool very slowly until they become room temperature so I can touch them.

 

All objects, whether solid, liquid or glass, have molecules that vibrate. Solids vibrate very slowly in place, liquids vibrate more and that allows liquids to flow. Gas vibrates really fast so it expands to fill a room. Glass is a liquid but changes from a solid form to a liquid form as the temperature gets higher.

 

Annealing the glass allows the different colors which have different COE’s to align thus vibrate at the same rate. When one re-anneals glass, it just changes the interior structure of the molecules and can even change the way the glass looks – a neat way to get silvered glass to react with clear and make a nice, foggy appearance – but I digress.

 

When I repair a marble I make sure I allow it to heat up in my kiln very slowly, usually 1 degree F per minute because I want the glass to not thermal shock on me and have splintered shards all over the inside bottom of the kiln. Sometimes that happens in spite of my precautions. I’ll say it now and will repeat this many times: Glass will do what IT wants to do!

 

Bob showed up one day with his bad looking marbles and I made an attempt to “fix” them. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photographs of them before I made my attempts. Below are pictures of the “fixed” marbles.

 

Here some pictures of the fix/repair I did on Bob’s marbles:

bob before bob after

 

Then, my friend Jim Perez wanted a few repairs and I was on my way.

Marble #1 of Jim’s:

Before #1 jim before After #1 jim after.

 

Marble #2 of Jim’s:

Before #2 jimbefore After #2 JIM after

 

Marble #3 of Jim’s:

Before #3 jim before After #3 jim after

 

and finally, marble #4 of Jim’s

Before #4 jim before After #4 jim after

 

As you can see, there was extensive damage to all of these four German handmade marbles.

 

So now with a few repairs under my belt, so to speak, I was ready for the biggest challenge as of date – repairing a sulphide marble that was 150 years old and in the worst condition I’ve ever seem. Wendy Turpin gave me this sulphide marble that was SO distressed, I couldn’t tell what the little figurine was in the interior of the glass. See the pictures below:

fig1 before

fig2 before

fig3 before

fig4 before

fig5 before

This is some of the worst damage I have ever seen in any marble and she wanted me to have it and attempt a fix – to bring it back to what it once was.

 

Here are the results of over 2 hours of work:

fig after1

fig after2

fig after3

fig after4

 

It’s a little bird! I was able to remove all the deep cracks, chips, dents and all the exterior damage. The final result gave a marble that was 7/8 the original size after I removed all the debris I could without harming the little figurine.

 

I need to take a break here and let you in on the facts. I will attempt to repair and I will remelt marbles together to make bigger ones BUT there are a few things we MUST agree on before any work will be done:

 

1) I can’t be held responsible for the result of the repair/remelt.

 

2) When you have me attempt a fix, you are giving me the marble for me to do my best in keeping the original design if it is a repair marble. I must know if what the owner of the work wants. For example, a) the pontil(s) left unaltered, b) the discolored glass where the scare were left alone, c) do I attempt to pick out all the discolored glass IF the design will allow, d) is the marble to be made totally clean and round with a flame polished look, e) etc.

 

When I remelt marbles to make bigger ones, I need to know if I have artistic license. That is, can I twist, single fold, double fold, spiral, alter the design, etc. to my liking. If not, I need to know what the owner of the work has in mind as a final “look” of the work.

 

In the process of warming the kiln up to 978 degrees F, the old glass goes under a lot of heat stress it isn’t used to and there may be some problems happening with the glass molecules. I have seen a few marbles split in half so attempting to repair them and not disturb the original design is impossible – in those cases, I use my art to make them look as artistic as I can. Sometimes during the soaking and cooling process, when I put a perfectly round marble in the kiln after repairing it, it goes wonky all by itself as the internal molecules do what THEY want to do – it can’t be helped. I have tried to rework the marble the next day to no avail, it still does what IT wants to do and goes wonky again!

 

Once I attempted a repair on an old German Swirl marble that was 1 ½” diameter. I showed the owner that the color veins were too close to the surface and suggested he gets it polished but he insisted. I can’t be held responsible after I make it known I don’t feel it appropriate to attempt a repair and the owner insists on me repairing it. We decided that I could have artistic license IF it didn’t work out and he agreed. As I predicted, the marble’s interior color swirls were in fact too close to the surface and they wiggles instead of swirled like the original design. I took this now different design and worked it by twisting the swirls in all different directions, making it sort of looking like a faux wire pull on the outside color veins. The owner was amazed at how nice and refreshing the marble looked after I worked it artistically.  I am NOT repiring swirls at this time!!!

 

By now, I hope you understand that I can’t guarantee any results even though I have the experience at the torch. I’ll say it again, the glass will do what IT wants to do no matter what I attempt. Make sure you fully acknowledge this before I repair any marble(s) you want me to work on. IF it turns out to be a disaster, know I tried my best. If you have ANY emotional attachment to the marble you want repaired, I suggest you do not have it repaired. Rather, buy a nice pedestal and display it in a safe place and leave it alone.