Home Glass Stories Revealing the Inner Child

Revealing the Inner Child by Rich Shelby

I received a phone call one day from a gentleman that had a customer who wanted a German swirl marble repaired. I listened carefully and thought it would be impossible to repair. The gentleman said the marble was, on a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being best, a 2. He said it was very damaged with several nicks, dings and chunks taken out of the marble. He said it was worth nothing monetarily but the customer wanted to pass the swirl marble down to younger family members.

I went to explain to the gentleman that, 1) the old glass might explode in the kiln during the warming-up process, 2) if the color bands in the core were too close to the damaged surface, the act of working the repair might distort the interior designs, 3) the two pontils where the color bands came together might be distorted in the torch’s heat and finally 4) the success rate of a swirl marble repair was about 5% to bring it back to the original look that the marble maker made a long time ago.

The gentleman told me he’d let the customer know and get back to me. About a week later, I got the phone call to go ahead and try to repair the swirl marble. He said the customer was told about the main problems but wanted me to try to repair it anyway.

About a week later I received a package from the gentleman with the customer’s swirl marble packed inside. Wow, was it damaged – more then I imagined talking over the phone with the gentleman.

Here are pictures of the marble I received in the mail:

I sat for 30 minutes studying this marble trying to determine if I should send it back or actually try a repair. I looked at the amount of glass that would remain after I heated the marble in my kiln (IF it would withstand the heating process) and tried to imagine the glass moving to fill in the deep depressions. I also had to consider the nature of the old glass because where any “hits” were, it makes a whitish looking spot that needs to be attended to and what I needed to do to make it clear of these spots as it was when it was originally made. I looked to see if the color bands of the inner core wouldn’t be disturbed and be bent out of shape and ruining the original design of the swirl. Finally, I had to consider what might happen to both pontils and what work would be needed to save the original twists there.

Finally I decided that if the customer wanted it repaired and gave me the permission to “art it up” if something went wrong, I’d give it a try. By art it up I mean I was given the permission to do any twists, feathering, reshaping the inner core swirls, etc. that I wanted to do and it would be fine.

I allowed the marble to warm up in the kiln VERY slowly, checking each 15 minutes to see if it exploded – it didn’t – so good so far. I allowed the marble to “soak” at 970 degrees F for 2 hours while I made other marbles.

It came time for me to start the torch work repair. Big deep calming breath I puntied-up the swirl and began the repair. For 2 hours and 35 minutes I heated portions of the marble at 1450 degrees F, removed the whitish color spots, move glass from one side of the marble to fill in the lowest places and rounded and rerounded the marble several times to insure the spheroid shape. I paid special attention to the pontils not to disturb the color spirals ending at those two spots.

Here are pictures of the result of the German swirl marble:

As you can see, the result turned out to be better than I imagined it would. I didn’t see that there was a trapped bubble of air in the original marble as it was so damaged. Filling in the low spots didn’t distort the inner color swirls whatsoever. The original glass was full of little, tiny bubbles that couldn’t be seen before the repair. I couldn’t compare the pontil color twists too well because of the damage but I am pretty happy with the results.

Thanks you for looking at my work.

Rich