Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bi-Polar Floats From The Norsknailpounder

Over the course of the last couple of years, a discussion took place between Todd, the "Norsknailpounder," and myself, that eventually included Olaf, the "float collector extraordinaire," Roger Brun owner of the website, ", and Per Einar, the "great Fish Eagle photographer."

The discussion started with an email from Todd describing a strange float he had purchased from Norway, which had two seal buttons, together with photographs. The speculation began:

Hi Todd,
Don't know what exactly to say about that float. It's odd because it appears to have a definite seal button at the top, and a seal on the bottom. I wish that I could have it in my hand to tell you what I see. The indentation around the bottom does look like a pontil mark, but I cannot be certain. Normally, a float was constructed on a pontil because it had special features added to it, such as a pulled neck or applied shaped neck and seal. I am not seeing that on this float. Maybe one day I will see it in person.

Thanks for thinking of me,


Todd sent me the float to look at. I took photos of it, looked closely at it, and thought that perhaps it was a float made by an apprentice. Maybe the apprentice was being taught different blowing techniques, and had not only put two seal buttons on the float, but had also mounted it on a pontil rod. The discussion ended there until I received the following email last winter:

Hi Tom!

Say, I was wondering about the two pontiled float I have. I've sent you pictures of it before, and as I recall, you thought that maybe they were made by an apprentice blower, who was learning the craft. The reason for two seals might have been to have better control of the float for other tooling such applied necks, etc.

I'm wondering if maybe you could ask Olaf about this, and see if maybe he has the same double pontiled style of float? I'm curious about the numbers of these floats. Maybe during the course of his extensive collecting in Norway, he has come across a few of these?

Best regards,

I wrote Olaf with Todd's question, included Todd's latest photos of the float, and received his reply, which was then sent to Todd:

Hello Tom,

I don't think the photo shows a Norwegian glass float.
The color is almost right aqua/blue but not 100% accurate.
And the seal looks too nice. Japanese ??
I would have liked to see both seals.
But it is an intersting glass float, and if Norwegian, it would be a unique one.


Todd replied:

Hey Tom!

So that was completely my thoughts when Per offered me this float-it's Japanese! The color and the two seals! But I bought it anyway, and thought it may be a small Pear float. It had the pearish shape.

The color of this float is very much like Flesland glass. There are two more double-sealed floats in two small marker bouys I purchased from Roger and Marie. Their color is one blue and one green, which also look like the Flesland glass colors. I also think that the Aalesund floats you Kurt and I have are similar in color to Flesland colors.

I'll try and send a picture of the other two in the marker bouys, and a shot of each two seals. I'm awaiting Roger and Marie's response. I've asked them if they can remember where they found the marker bouys. And I'm going to ask Per if he remembers where he found the 5'' pear-shaped float.


Todd received a reply, and forwarded the information to me:

Hi Tom,

I've just finished the email from Roger, he says the buoys were from north of Trondelag, in a place called Ottersoy. He also told me that another collector was there before him, possibly Per.

Per also wrote, and told me that in fact he was there, and most likely, all three floats were from there. So there we are. I wonder which glassworks they come from?
I can't help the feeling that someone else has one of these and doesn't know it.
Per also said that the guy selling the floats had a pile of marker bouys.

I know that two of these came in seperate marker buoys. One was found most likely at the same boathouse that Per visited and from the same seller. Per sold a few more of these marker bouys to other collectors.

I had to really look hard to see the second seal. After seeing there was no maker's mark on the first buoy floats, I didn't give it a real good look.

I believe that Roger never saw these extra seals on the floats in either marker buoy.
One of the floats in the buoys had water in it. This was never described either. It is hard to see through the netting.

Hopefully there are a couple of collectors who have a marker bouy from this seller and that there are more of these double-sealed floats. Per did say that he saw two of these double-sealed floats, the same color, but can not remember many details.

Do you know any buyer who might have this float in their collection ? I'll also ask Per if he remembers who he sold them to.

This is fun,

Take care...Todd.

I next received the following email from Todd, which included photos of the two floats from the marker buoys:

Hi Tom,

My curiosity peaked, and I couldn't help myself, so opened the netting on the buoys.
I can always put them back. Very interesting and unique.

Talk to you soon,

Three of them. The photos show unique floats, that I did not believe were Japanese. The colors and the style looked Norwegian to me. Wrote Todd with another thought:

Hey Todd,

A thought just occurred to me-is there evidence of holes left from two blowpipes, or was the second seal just applied for effect? It's hard to imagine why two blowers would blow up a single float, but it is a consideration if there are two blowpipe holes. That green one sure is pretty, but in reality they are all beautiful.


Todd's reply:

Hi Tom

On all floats there is but one blowpipe hole. The other seal was maybe for handling? Per is looking for others in the bouys he has.


I am convinced that Todd's three double-sealed floats are Norwegian-made, and are quite unique. Olaf, Per Einar and Roger are also convinced that they are Norwegian, and are now searching for more of them.

Only one of Todd's "double-enders," has a pontil mark. The float was broken off the blowpipe, sealed, then applied to a pontil rod. Very different technique. Why was that done, other than another method to apply the second seal?

Here, thanks to Todd, are a trio of strange and beautiful Norwegian floats!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Swirled Euros Continued...and the Bahama Batch

The post on the French LV swirled float precepitated a number of emails from other collectors, together with swirled floatos. The Swirled European float is an oddity, occurring much less frequently than Swirled Asian floats. If you follow the auctions faithfully, you will often see photos of Swirled Asian floats for sale. At this point, the number of Swirled Euros that I know of is less than 10.

Bob Buffington sent me two floatos of Swirled Euros he has beachcombed in the Caribbean, the beautiful yellow with heavy brown swirls, and the aquamarine ball with amber swirls. Ken Busse is currently Ebay auctioning a beautiful float that is bright blue with amber swirling. Bill Jessop sent a wonderful cd of a number of his floats, which included a green ball with amber swirls. Lighting struck me twice.

The first time lightening hit me, was early this year. I found and won an auction for a grayish colored LV from France. The float's glass is heavily swirled with blue.

In March, an auction appeared for seven floats. The seller described the floats as being 5" diameter Japanese floats that were beachcombed in Alaska. When I looked at the auction photo, I believed that I was looking at European-not Japanese-floats. Opened the auction to find a series of photos showing a beautiful colorful selection of Euros. One was clearly marked with the Gijon Fabril or GF in the Boat embossing. That embossing was known in the past as a "Scrolled 65".

The top photo shows the floats from the auction. As the reader can see, there are a variety of colors as well. As I pondered the auction, the realization that if all 7 were Euros, and all were authentic, then the auction was something special. How often does one have an opportunity to purchase 7 beachcombed Euro floats at one time? It was saved to my ebay file, and a question was sent to the owner requesting to know if anyother floats were embossed. The reply stated that, "There are two with the same mark." I knew that two were definitely Euros.

On the day of the auction's end, my initial interest and curiosity became a sincere desire to win the auction. As I worked in the greenhouse planting seeds, my mind was preoccupied with thoughts of "how badly do you want to win this auction?", and "what are you prepared to spend in order to try your best to win"? Realized that there was no doubt in my mind, that the desire to win the auction dominated me, and that I would have to step aside from my prudent self, by bidding some serious dollars in an attempt to win.

Normally, I only wear my watch when I dress up, but that day, the watch was on as I worked. I sat down in front of the computer during the auction's waning minutes. With gusto, I bid a bundle, then watched the last few minutes elapse. The bid was just a couple of bucks greater than $20.00 as the countdown reached 5 seconds. The auction ended, and I went to see if I had won, and what the final cost was. *@%!! Another bidder drove the price "way up there," in the last second. Oh well! Did I just spend a bundle for nothing but a couple of common Gijon Fabrils, or were the pair of sunturned floats, and the brown amber float the real deal? There was a nice bright green float, and a dark green that I thought was one of the GF's.

At the time of that auction, we seasoned collectors were in the throes of an ebbtide of good floats that continues... There have been a number of nice Euro auctions, but most of the collectors already have what is being offered. Emails to and from other collectors, reveal that we are all looking hard for great float auctions or trades to get the blood boiling.

A few of my email buddies received the news of my having bid on and won this strange auction. One pal-Todd, the "Norsknailpounder," replied with the wish that the box would prove to be a "treasure chest," and not a big costly disappointment.

After the auction's end, the seller was emailed again to attempt to learn more about the floats, and their description. I wrote that it was unlikely that these floats were Japanese, and the fact that two of them had Spanish embossings on them was puzzling. American-made, Russian and Heye Glass floats have been beachcombed in Alaska, but Spanish-made/normally Portugese-used floats being beachcombed in Alaska, was something I had never heard of.

The seller replied:

"As for the history of the floats... They predate my birth (1965) so I really don't know too much about them. My Dad was in the Navy, and I remember him and my Mom talking about finding some fishing floats from Japan washed up on the rocky shore of Adak, Alaska. But they were also stationed on Oahu, Hawaii and on Eleuthera, Bahamas. I don't know if they also found floats in these locations, but they loved to comb the beaches where they were stationed at."

Ahh... an Eleuthera, Bahama beach seemed like the real finding spot of that batch of floats. Euros found in the Carribean is a fact that cannot be discounted. The answer to my email query was a nice little jolt of confidence. Hurry up package!

The box arrived in days rather than weeks. Upon returning from plant deliveries, a nice big double-boxed batch of floats was found waiting on the porch. I had plenty of work to do, so the time spent waiting for the contents of the box to acclimate to the temperatures inside our home, passed quickly. After a couple of hours, I broke away from work to open the package.

The little Kodak digital camera was taken off the charger-ready to document the unveiling. At that time of the afternoon, the light coming through the south window in my float room was just fine for floatography. So, I sat down to open the box. The floats could not have been packed any safer. Not only were they double-boxed, each float was abundantly encircled with bubble wrap to prevent contact with another float.

Through the bubble wrap, it was possible to see enough color to know which float I wanted to open first. Let's start with the obvious aqua with the GF in the Boat. The first surprise: the float had the GF embossing, but also had the number 6-which is uncommon.

The second float was the dark green float. Not another GF in the Boat. It has the "thought-to-be French-made," #1 embossing. Hmmm...the seller never mentioned that mark. The surprises continued. The light green float-another supposed French float with the #10 embossed. Wow! This batch of floats is amazing. The best was still to come.

There was a second GF in the Boat-a nice very light aqua ball. Next, I decided to open one of the sunturned violet floats-the lightest one first. Before I tell you what it was, a bit of a story in the story.

I was under the impression that magnesium oxide was used to counteract iron oxides from turning glass aqua to green, resulting in colorless glass. The magnesium oxide later turned the glass from colorless to various shades of violet under the influence of the sun's ultraviolet waves. Richard Carlson set me straight, when he mentioned the use of selenium to counteract iron oxides in glass mixtures. Selenium was a new one to me, and his information stuck in my brain. Later, I read that the use of magnesium was expensive, and that most of the late 19th. to 20th. century glass mixtures incorporated selenium rather than magnesium to the batch when colorless glass was desired. Selenium also turns pink to violet under the influence of ultraviolet light waves. Thank you for that clarification Rich.

The lightest violet float, was found to be marked-LV. The second sunturned was darker, and though unmarked, was a genuine European fishing float with ample evidence of usage. I saved the brown/amber float for last.

After unwrapping the float from the bubblewrap, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The float was not brown/amber at all. It was golden yellow glass. The brown coloration in the auction photo, was actually orange/brown swirling. The swirling reminds me of Tiger stripes.

Todd, your wish (and mine) came true. The box did turn out to be a treasure chest.

That's the story of lightening striking me twice. Hopefully, you enjoy seeing the pics of various swirled Euros, and if you have one too, kindly send me a photo to document the float, and to share it with others.


Top...Bahama Batch;
2nd...French LV;
3rd...Bob Buffington's yellow/amber with brown swirls-Carribean;
4th...Bill Jessop's swirled aqua-Canada;
5th...Ken Busse's amber swirled blue float-Europe;
6th...Bob Buffinton's swirled aquamarine-Carribean;
7th...Red Torvald Stranne with black swirls-Sweden;
8th...Side view of Bahama yellow with brown swirls and
9th...Top of Bahama yellow swirled float.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

There's Still Hope!

On Sunday, March 1, 2010, the following email from my good collecting pal Olaf arrived:

Good Morning Tom

Hope everything is fine with you today.

I would like to make an effort to obtain the Vallo glass float.
I fully respect if you do not want to be involved. If however, you are positive to help me I would highly appreciate if you could send the following email to the float's owner.


I take the liberty to write indirectly to you via my good American friend Mr. Tom Rizzo whom I have asked to send this email directly to you. He is my reference.

Thanks to you, and your book "GLASS FISHING FLOATS OF THE WORLD" there are many glass float collectors around the world today. I am one of them, living in Oslo, Norway.

I started my interest as a kid, walking along the beaches in the small fjords of south-coast Norway, looking for glass treasures from the sea. The interest took off a few years ago when I was lucky to buy 150 glass floats from Lofoten, North Norway from a man who also showed me your book. I was hooked.

I have all these years specialized in collecting Norwegian produced glass floats, having bought several boxes filled with glass floats from fishermen living along the Norwegian coast-line. My collection today also consists of many beautiful euros.

But I miss one glass float-only one to my knowledge-which is the Vallo float.

The one which you bought from Vebjorn is probably the only known example in the world today. I have been in contact with the National Maritime Museum in Oslo, and I am working on having all my 2350 glass floats to be part of an exhibition there, concerning the coast-culture of Norway. It would be good if I could bring the Vallo float back home, and present to them all the glass floats types/markings being produced in Norway.

With best regards
Olaf Raab

Now, there's a way to start a day! As the reader may know, almost without exception, the first thing that I do in the morning after getting out of bed, is turn the computer on. Next, I go to my emails. As I write this, today is one of those exceptions.

I've been dying to do another post. Friday, as if someone threw a switch, my spring season of selling herbs, perennials and vegetables came to a screeching halt. There was nothing on the books to pick and deliver. No matter how many years I'm in the business of growing plants for the retail market's gardeners, that sudden halt of sales is a shock. I've recovered now, and last night before going to bed, started working on this post. This morning, I did turn on the computer first, but instead of checking for emails, and new floats, have come here to attempt to finish this post.

As I write this, a Woodpecker is trying to attract a mate, and is striking the side of a tree with alacrity. Almost makes my head hurt to imagine what banging a beak into the side of a tree must feel like to that lustful male.

On the morning of Olaf's request email, the very next thing that I did was to write an email to Alan Rammer to introduce Olaf, and included his email. Next, I sent a copy of my email to Alan to Olaf. It brought me great enjoyment to attempt to help out two fine collectors, and certainly, my friend Olaf.

Would Alan consider?

A day or two passed, when at the end of an Olaf email, he included the following postscript:

Hi Tom,

P.S. No news from Alan.
My guess is that he turns the proposal down. I am usually a very optimistic and positive person.

I did make an attempt to assuage Olaf's disappointment by asking him to be as patient as possible, because Alan's life was quite full of responsibility caring for a very special person, and that he would write back. Knowing that the chance of Alan giving up the Vallo was unlikely, I still held out the hope that to bring the Vallo back to Norway was a very worthy entreaty. He would not take that request lightly. Alan would not only write back, but would also need time to consider what giving up the float meant.

Two days later, I received an email from Alan, and quickly wrote Olaf.

Hi Olaf,
Here's a good way to start the day:

Hello Tom,

I would like to write to Olaf about his desire to bring the Vallo float back to Norway.

As much as I enjoy the float, I have come to the conclusion in recent months (since retirement actually) --- that we cannot take our earthly possessions to the afterlife with us, and it is sometimes fun to share an item with someone who just might enjoy it as much as we did.

Can you please send me Olaf's full email address?


There you go Olaf. Now, the possibility of you owning the Vallo, is very real. I wish the two of you great good luck.

Also, I have not asked Alan, but would like to propose something to the two of you . The passing of the Vallo to another collector is tremendous news to dedicated collectors. I would like to do a post on the float, but only if the two of you think that it's a good idea. I'll leave this up to the two of you, but did want to put the prospect out there.

In the meantime, have a great day-I can just imagine how excited you are at the possibility of your desire becoming reality.

Best Wishes,

Olaf's reply was almost instantaneous.

Hi Tom

That is fantastic news!

At least Alan is willing to consider it. That is great!

Thanks for being so kind Tom and be the middle broker.
Highly appreciated.


A few weeks passed. During that time, Alan and Olaf got to know each other a bit, and an agreement was reached to return the float to Norway. On April 3rd. Olaf wrote:

Still awaiting the Vallo to arrive-hope Tuesday. Will let you know.

Then the next Vallo email arrived:


The Vallø arrived today. What a fantastic beauty ! So small, and such nice letters. Can't be a display float. It has definitely been used. The size of only about 3", tells be again that the first floats here were the small ones, like the AAV, AV, HV etc etc.

I am so proud to have that one in my collection, thanks to you and great thanks to Alan Rammer who was willing to dispose of it. Alan Rammer is in fact a very nice man.

All the best


What happiness that brought to me personally. As the time passed between Olaf's original email, and the arrival, there were a few times that I bent Nancy's ear about the trade, and always, the thought of the float going back home gave me a feeling of worthiness in my attempt, and in my desire for the trade to happen.

After the trade was culminated, and the float arrived safely, the next email to Olaf was filled with excitement for him. The knowledge that the float was not one of the 1878 Paris show models, but was in fact, a used float, was wonderful news. Also, Olaf's measurement of the float's size and the photograph of the float next to a standard 5-incher was a surprise.

Thoughts of the engraver's wonderful work on the seal of such a small float, and the person who stamped the embossing on the seal came to mind, as well as the distinct possibility that one or more Vallos might someday be found in a gear pile in an old Norwegian fisherman's boathouse.

Both Olaf and Alan considered my desire to write a post to the blog about the trade, and also sent me their impressions after the float's recrossing of the Atlantic.

From Alan:

Hi Tom,

I have been spending most of this month trying to begin the arduous task of settling the estate of the lady I have called my "Northwest Mom," for 32 years. There has been little time for much else. I have 4 months to try and settle what needs to be done. It's a task involving 57 years of collecting by her and her husband. They threw NOTHING away! So far I have had over 40 cubic yards of stuff hauled off! I also have to get ready for my trip to Europe in less than a month!

I am taking a few moments this evening to try and answer your questions about the Vallo float.

I have only had it a few years and did not fully understood the significance of it until I had told you, and you told Olaf. It is always exciting to have one of a kind floats, and this one was no exception. But in the bigger picture, as I age, this does not really matter. Each float is unique in its own right, and a piece of a larger puzzle to the history of fishing around the world using them.

Yes, at first I did not want to trade it or sell it because I do enjoy my Euros. The aura of it being one of a kind, made it a bit harder to part with until Olaf explained his hopes and plans for his Euro collection one day, as well as this particular float being the only one known and its historical significance.

At the same time, certain events were beginning to take place in my life that made me think about my floats, their importance in regards to the bigger world picture and family issues. I decided it was time for the Vallo float to go home. That is where it belonged. I did not have any problems parting with it this time. It seemed quite right, and actually exciting to send it "home".

While I enjoy my floats, they are becoming less and less the center of my life. I enjoy sharing them with others, and do not need to have duplicates or examples of every kind. It actually brings me joy to know the Vallo float is safely home in Norway. Who knows? Maybe another one or two will come our way in the years ahead?

In this world filled with con artists and less than scrupulous people, Olaf is one of those who is on the complete opposite side of the spectrum - a very honorable man. I will most likely never meet him but I had very good feelings from the moment you put us in touch with each other.

Knowing the Vallo is back where it belongs does not bother me in the least! It actually feels very good!


From Olaf:


A real collector is the collector who feels more joy and more fun by fulfilling other collector's dreams, rather than collect or keep glass floats themselves.
Alan Rammer is a real collector or THE collector.

Ever since I dreamed of getting my Norwegian collection of glass floats complete; and displaying my collection at the Maritime Museum in Oslo, there was one unique glass float that I missed in my collection, the Vallo glass float.

Having looked at thousands of Norwegian glass floats, I had at a certain stage- doubts of its existence, but having seen the photo on Vebjorn's website, there was actually one located on the other side of the Atlantic, in the USA.

I knew the history of the Vallo Glasswork. It was located outside the town of Tonsberg, only 1-hour with car from Oslo. I read that the glassswork had won medals for their glass floats at the exhibition in Paris in 1878.

Alan made my dream come through when he accepted my offer for the Vallo float. He was also so kind to share moments of his life with me, and he enjoyed bringing joy into other's lives. He certainly brought a fantastic joy into my life. If he had been here, he would have seen a big smile on my face when I unpacked this beautiful, olive sea jewel with its beautiful letters.

Also huge thanks for putting me in contact with Alan.

I admire that man, who in my mind is described as AAA. I will always think of him when I look at this fantastic glass float in my collection, presently in my home.

Hopefully, it will later appear at the Maritime Museum in Oslo, where also other people can enjoy looking at-in my opinion-the most unique glass float in Norway, the VALLO glass float.