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GLASS FISHING FLOATS FACT SHEET
Japan started using glass fishing floats for fishing in 1910, and by 1939 millions of Japanese glass floats were being used. Although Japanese glass fishing floats are no longer being manufactured for fishing, thousands of glass floats are still being used by fishermen. Now when they break off their nets, they are almost always replaced with cheaper plastic or styrofoam floats.
Many glass floats remain in circular ocean currents in the North Pacific. Japanese glass fishing floats are swept north by the Kuroshio Current into the North Equatorial Current, then into the Oyashio Current. Then the North Pacific Current (or Drift) is formed. This Drift travels east across Pacific, slows in the Gulf of Alaska and turns south. The California Current pushes the water into the North Equatorial Current once again. An endless circle.
Glass floats wash up along the whole West Coast of the Americas, Hawaii, the South Pacific Islands, beaches all around the Pacific Rim, Australia, Korea, Russia and of course Japan. The floats also come ashore on the Gulf Coast States, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
The thrill of collecting isn't limited to the coastal areas. You don't need to live on a beach where they wash ashore. There are many opportunities to find floats in antique shops, garage sales, float and bottle shows, flea markets, auctions, Ebay, etc. I personally have found authentic glass floats in antique stores in Nevada, Montana, Michigan, Arizona and know of many folks who have found them throughout the land-locked areas. The possibilities are endless for anyone interested in collecting and admiring the beauty and history of glass floats.
Japanese glass fishing floats were hand made by a glassblower, using recycled glass from old window panes, water jugs, whiskey, sake and milk bottles. In addition to the recycled glass the glass manufacturers also made up batches of glass using the chemical elements necessary. The floats were blown with a blowpipe, removed from the blowpipe, sealed with a button of melted glass and placed in a cooling oven.
While floats were still hot marks were often embossed on them to identify the glass factory that blew the float or the fishing fleet that used the float. These marks included Trademarks, Kanji symbols and Hiragana / Katakana syllables.
Most glass fishing floats were blown in a cast iron mold bowl. Some glass fishing floats were blown into a two-piece mold or a three piece mold to speed up the float making process. Seams on the outside of floats are a result of this process. Sometimes whittled or dappled markings where the wooden molds were carved are also visible on the surface of the glass.
The Japanese experimented with many different sizes and shapes of floats, ranging from 1.5 inches to 18 inches in diameter. Most were spheres, but some were cylindrical or “rolling pin” shaped.
Most floats are shades of green, the color of recycled bottles. Some clear, amber, aquamarine, amethyst, blue, cranberry, purple, yellow and orange were made in the 1920s and 30s.
Many glass floats show wear patterns from rolling in the sand and surf. When the netting disintegrates a net pattern image remains with clear glass in the places the float was protected by the net.
Some glass floats have small amounts of water trapped inside of them. This occurs when floats are suspended in arctic ice or held under water by nets. Water pressure on the glass surface forces entry into the floats through microscopic imperfections in the glass.
TERMS and DESCRIPTIONS:
AUTHENTIC GLASS FLOATS: floats that were manufactured and used for fishing. They are made with heavy glass and usually show some wear from the surf and sand. Some have trademark symbols embossed. They were produced from 1910. Asahara ceased production in 2000. Hokuyo ceased in the mid 1970's.
CONTEMPORARY GLASS FLOATS: floats that are made by the same glass factories that made authentic fishing floats. These floats are made with heavy glass, have no signs of wear and were never used for fishing. They usually come in brilliant beautiful colors. They may also have trademark symbols. They were produced from 1940 - 1960.
CURIO GLASS FLOATS: floats that are made of thin light-weight glass. They come in a variety of bright colors. They have been produced since 1960 for costal gift shops.
PONTIL: a solid steel rod. No pontil (or punty) was used in the process of blowing glass floats.
SEAL BUTTON: a blob ('button') of melted glass placed over the hole left when the blow pipe is removed.
NUBBIN: the bubble inside the seal button.
CIRCUMFERENCE: actual measurement around the width of the float.
DIAMETER: circumference measurement divided by 3.14.
RATTLER: Float with nubbin bubble broken off inside the ball.
FROSTED: etching of the surf and sand on the surface of the float, sandblasted surface.
DOUBLE BALL: a hollow sphere within the primary ball. The inner ball is larger that the regular nubbin bubble and ranges in size from 1/2" to 3".
SPINDLE: a thin thread of glass suspended inside the float going from the top to bottom or side to side. It does not touch the sides.
GLASS BALL, A Comprehensive Guide for Oriental Glass Fishing Floats found on Pacific Beaches by Walt Pich (First Edition 2004)
BEACHCOMBERS GUIDE TO THE NORTHWEST by Walt Pich (First Edition 1997)
BEACHCOMBING FOR JAPANESE GLASS FLOATS by Amos L. Wood (Binford & Mort, 4th ed., 1985)
GLASS FISHING FLOATS of the WORLD, The Collectors Price Guide and Identification Handbook by Stu Farnsworth and Alan D. Rammer (Second Edition 2005)
Hope this was Helpful:
I spent a lot of time getting this information together and having it checked out by the float experts
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