Saturday, December 31, 2011

What A Nice Way To End 2011

Walked around the back of the house to the front porch to see if my package from Sweden had arrived, and "I'll be gulldarned"! There it was!


Exercising as much patience as possible, I went inside the house, and grabbed my camera to photograph the scene for you. Thoughts that the box and its contents were a perfect way to end the Old Year, and begin the New with a post to the blog were in my noggin.

The mailing originated from Sweden. It is the third package to cross the Atlantic from Scandinavia in the last month. All three arrived here on Saturdays, after an approximately 10 to 14-day sending, crossing and arrival. Terrific.

Opening the box, it was good to know that nothing had broken. Having had the experience of hearing the sound of broken glass inside a newly arrived package, an exhale of happy breath, after giving a box of floats a shake - came out of me. On top, a layer of rolled up Swedish newspaper pages.

Underneath, a layer of confetti, and once removed...

Bubble wrapped floats.

After removing the wrapping from the first float, I was wonderfully surprised to find that the first Dog Neck was even smaller than a Swedish float that was sent to me from Roger Brun earlier in the fall. That was the smallest I had ever seen, and as you can see from the photo comparison, the new example is decidedly smaller. The larger example is 4 and 5/8ths. inches tall by 3 and 7/16ths. diameter. The smaller is 3 an 5/8ths. tall by 3" diameter. Both have the "flared, or Wide Prescription" Closure.

During my research into glass shapes, I've learned the names of bottle seals or closures, and looked forward to sharing this piece of information with you.

From the BLM website managed by Bill Linsey:

The thin version of the wide prescription finish is primarily and commonly found on medicinal and druggist type bottles and vials that date between 1800 and 1870, though the style dates back to antiquity (Toulouse 1969b). It is also found on some early to mid-19th century liquor decanters, utilitarian, ink, and cologne bottles (McKearin & Wilson 1978). This style was also used on chemical reagent bottles from the late 19th through early 20th centuries (Whitall Tatum & Co. 1902). Many early case gin bottles have a type of this finish which would be more appropriately called a flared finish (discussed below). When discussing medicinal bottles, the name wide prescription finish is most appropriate; when discussing other types of bottles, the more generic flared finish is preferred.

Now, we know that this finish was also applied to Swedish Dog Neck floats too. Thanks to our bottle collecting brothers and sisters, we can learn so much more about the production of utilitarian glass objects- specifically - glass fishing floats.

There is a bit of funny history that precedes this box of floats coming to me. At the end of summer, a Swedish sale of a batch of this type of float came up. Four of us wanted to get together to bid on and win the auction. After winning, we wanted to share the floats among ourselves, and to further share them with a few other collectors. One of our group was going to do the bidding. As has happened to all of us, at the end of the auction, our bidding partner was unavailable to bid, and the auction was sold to someone outside of the group.

Abject apologies were sent out, and all of us agreed, that that's the way the "float" crumbles. But our bidding partner was not giving up. After searching, inquiring, and getting an affirmative answer, our good friend, purchased almost all of the floats, and sent them to the rest of us, who then sent extras onto other friends. That was when we discovered that the floats in that auction were not what we thought they were: Doorknob, or Aland floats. They were the smallest version of Dog Necks we had seen at the time.

A bit of time passed, when suddenly, another auction of those floats appeared. OK! We were going to have another opportunity to try for a bunch. There were more collectors we hoped to pass examples onto via trades, etc. My partner and I were going to go for them. An agreement had been reached. My partner was going to bid in order to save the wire transfer fees that are incurred when sending money from one country's currency to another. At the closing time of the auction, my partner could not be available, and "Son of a Gun!!" we missed them again.

A couple of months passed. I had been wondering,

"would another opportunity arrive? Did the seller have more of them?"

One November morning, another auction of small Swedish Herring floats waited for me to find it. I decided to bid first, and ask questions later. Well, you know the outcome, and here they are in photos for your enjoyment, and mine. We've found not only a smaller sized Swedish Dog Necked float, but also the first 3" diameter Swedish round floats that I have in the collection.

Best Wishes to everyone in the New Year!

Monday, December 26, 2011

KVEITEKULAS - Halibut Egg Floats

In mid-2000, Per Einar returned from a float expedition with photos and the great news that he found, and had in his possession, two Norwegian Large Egg floats. Did I want one? Absolutely! Then the bottom line, a line that was impossible for me to cross at that time of the year. It was winter, my expendable funds were low, and as much as I wanted to add one of those very rare floats to the collection, monetary restraint was necessary. As the years have passed since Per Einar's great finds, the desire to have an example in the collection - never diminished. Then...

It finally happened!

After 6 months of effort, coupled with a great trade, heartfelt thanks go out to the help of my friend "the Raven," and to the exertions of an unnamed explorer. The realization of having such a float, but also an example that was made from almost totally black glass, has been realized.

When I look at the float with back lighting, no light comes through the glass. It is only by having the sun positioned directly behind the float, that I see a small patch of red/brown amber.

My benefactor and I have speculated on what glassverk produced the deep brown glass Halibut Egg floats. The Raven wrote:

"The coastline of Norway, or length from south to north is about 2000 kilometers. All the big eggs are found between Bronnoysund and Trondheim. Located in the middle of Norway (a coastline of say about 300 kilometers) is the Namsos area with its historical 6 glassverks, about 1/3 of the distance from Trondheim area. The only glasswork north that made darker glass floats was Bjorum - marked B with the dott. I have one dark brown and amber from there, but the production list from 1880's doesn't say anything about Kveitekula. So the production place of these floats is still in the dark.

Schimmelmann is far south, in fact not more than 40 minutes with car from where I live. The location is wrong but the color is right. You know in 1830's they shipped with boats. That I know. So Schimmelmann Glasverk could have easily sent them north by boat for the halibut-fishermen. That would be poor speculation, but still a valid point for the blog. It is in fact easier to exclude which glassverk it can't be."

The great collector of rare colored authentic glass floats - Bruce Gidoll has one. The two of us were very lucky this year. Bruce got his float last winter via a purchase from the greatest haul of rare Norwegian floats that I know of. 18 months ago, the Raven sent me photos of three Kveitekulas that he had just received - two black, and one green. They were found by one explorer, who also had found another black, (Bruce's) as well as a handful of Aasnaes One Knobbed floats. Absolutely amazing!

Bruce and I talk on the telephone or email one another almost daily. A few days after the delicious wait for his float to arrive from the other side of the Atlantic ended, Bruce called to tell me,

"Tom, my Black Egg has climbed all the way to the top 3 of my favorite floats".

In a later telephone chat, he told me that it ascended to the top 2. That's saying a lot! Bruce's collection of rare and incredibly-colored authentic floats is amazing to see, and for that float to be among his top two favorites took me by surprise.

A few months later, knowing how much I would like to hold one in my hands to look at, he purchased a special carrying case for his float, packed it safely inside the case with bubble wrap, and brought it together with his sweet wife Lupe, to celebrate their visit to our home last April. Together with the float, they were ready with camera and enthusiasm to record the look on my face as I unpacked the float. At that time, I told Bruce about the Norwegian search, and later, the negotiations that were taking place on my behalf. He was cheering on the sidelines for me to have one too.

Bruce's float is different when looking at the glass seal or seal bead. His float has a raised and pointed seal, while mine has a flat and crude seal. The color of each floats' glass is the same when first looked at. My float captures less light when back lit. The weight of the floats are a surprise when first held. The glass is dense and heavy. At this time, I know of 5 brown examples of the dark brown/black glass, and 7 of the Green Halibut Eggs. The brown/black glass examples all exhibit the same thick and somewhat crude-looking mold lines. The Green examples are thinner through the body, not as heavy in the hand and the mold lines are sharper. The Raven, Bruce and I believe the black glass floats were blown into a wooden mold, and all produced by the same glassverks.

We are calling these floats, "Kveitekulas," or "Halibut Glass Balls". They were used for deep water fishing for Halibut. As the years passed into the 1900's, Portugese-made floats were used for fishing the deep waters for Halibut. They were among the few floats made with glass that was strong enough to withstand the terrific pressure found in the very deep waters fished for Halibut.

The Kveitekulas are a very unique float. According to those who have made expeditions throughout Norway looking for glass floats, they are very hard to find, and of the few that have been found, they are often family heirlooms, and not for sale or trade. The floats are part of the history of the fish known by the names: Kveite; Wheat Fish; God Fish or Halibut. The Halibut is a much revered fish in Norwegian history.

Rock carvings and bones from the great fish have been found in rock caves in the Rogaland, Trondelag and Nordland areas. It is estimated that the human habitations are at least 6000 years old. They were known as Wheat Fish, due to the fish trading in Eastern Finnmark, dating back to the 1600's. The trading of Halibut to the neighboring Russian people was the first trading between people in northern Norway and their farming neighbors in Russia. Those Norwegian fishermen were able to acquire grain in exchange for Halibut. The grain was very important to the people living in the cold and rocky areas where it was almost impossible to farm, and important to the Russian people who did not have access to the Halibut.

The "Wheat Fish," were highly prized, and their value was placed at the same weight in flour for trading. An average Halibut in those days, weighed well over 100 pounds. Cod, Haddock, Pollock and other fish were also traded, but it was the Halibut that were the most important species of fish for trading.

In the beginning the use of spears was the method used to catch the Halibut when they came to the shallow waters for spawning. Later, the use of lines with baited hooks made from carved bone, and fishing in deeper waters, became the method to capture the great fish. "Great," because of the huge size Halibut can grow to - over 600 pounds. In a short period of time, it was realized that the Halibut is slow growing, and too slow to mature to spawning age to allow heavy fishing pressure in any one area. Fishermen learned that areas where the Halibut lived were quickly depleted of fish, and they would not reappear there again. That reality necessitated a constant search to find the fish, and having to fish ever deeper and more dangerous waters became the norm.

As the fishery progressed through the years, and the fishermen fished further from shore, it was necessary to use either handlines or Trawl to catch the Halibut. I've read about the use of "line" (hand line), both from the northern and northwestern Norwegian coast. From Sunnmøre there is the story of a traditional line fishing in the winter:

At the islands, the day began at 4:00 A.M. The fishermen rowed their boats west towards deeper waters. After four to five hours of rowing, they arrived on the fishing grounds, as the day started to brighten. After all of the work to arrive at the area where Halibut had been caught, there still was the problem of finding the "right spot". The fish were not everywhere on the bottom. They would have specific areas to lie in wait (their bodies hidden under the sand) for baitfish, squid, etc., to swim past. As in all fishing, you might be close, but if you weren't in the right spot, you caught nothing. After being fished hard, there were fewer and fewer big fish to find. The waters fished were very deep with strong currents. In order to hold their lines down on the bottom, rocks weighing two pounds or so, were used. The Raven and I have searched for and discussed how the Kveitekulas or Large Egg floats were used. My Norwegian cohort has heard of fishermen saying that they were used on hand lines. From the limited evidence we have, it appears that Kveitekulas were used in hand line fishing rather than having been used on trawl lines, gill nets or trawl nets. As stated earlier, few of these floats have been found, and most are kept as family history. Does that mean that few were manufactured? I think it does.

It appears that a hand line fishery continued through the years of commercial Halibut fishing, but as the numbers caught in each area depleted, the need for gear capable of covering more area than a single handline with a few hooks on it, became necessary. Trawl line fishing had existed for a few hundred years prior to glass float use, and became the standard method used for Halibut as the boats became larger, and the need to catch more fish to pay for the boats and gear increased.

From the book Dorymates: A Story of the Fishing Banks, chapter X.
Trawls And Whales

"The Norwegian fishermen had been catching, selling and trading Halibut for centuries before the North Americans began appreciating this great fish. The Norwegians used a Trawl to catch them long before they were used here"

"A Trawler such as the schoonerVixen, is fitted out very differently from a seiner or a hand-liner. Instead of a large seine-boat, she carries from four to eight dories, and a crew sufficiently large to allow two men to each dory, besides the skipper and cook. The trawls are tarred cotton ropes the size of a lead-pencil, that come in lengths of about fifty fathoms, or three hundred feet each. To these are attached at distances of a fathom apart for cod, and a fathom and a half apart for halibut, short lines of from three to six feet long, to the ends of which hooks are made fast. About six of these lengths of trawl, or 1800 feet, are coiled in a tub, and each dory will carry out and set from four to six tubs of trawl in from twenty to two hundred fathoms of water. The lines contained in the several tubs are made fast to each other, and all are set in one straight line, from one to two miles in length. The trawls are anchored at each end, and buoyed by small kegs, so that the hooks shall hang just clear of the bottom."

And from the Congressional Edition, Volume 1, 1887 comes this description:

"Trawls: "When the fish swim at some distances above the bottom, the trawls are kept at the proper height by means of glass floats."

As technology advanced, and the use of glass floats on nets and lines increased, the use of glass floats to suspend baits on trawls became common. They were much more efficient than wooden balls, or corks, especially when used at the great depths that Halibut live in. The use of Portugese-made floats in Norway for Halibut and any other deep water fishing or netting became the accepted method. I often wonder if the heavy-thick-glassed floats embossed: British Made, with the 5-pointed North Star, and often a number in the center of the star, were used for deepwater fishing? I can see no other reason for the heft of those thick glassed floats.

Continuing the oft-repeated history of commercial fishing, as the numbers of Halibut diminished, the use of trawl nets, fished at great depths became the norm. From a description of Halibut fishing, comes the following information:

In September 1936, Ove Johansen using 10 nets, who's materials and labor were purchased with funds from state contributions, put them in deep water at Skråva in Lofoten. Line fishermen had left the area, believing that it was not possible to make a profit fishing for Halibut there. Johansen made great catches using the hemp yarn nets. The news spread quickly, and by October, 60 boats were fishing for Halibut - fishing with nets. The catches were very good. News of great catches continued to spread, and more and more boats began to fish, until at the end of November, the bottom fell out of the fishery, and the boats began to hunt the fish in new areas outside Hamarøy and Lødingen. The new gear was soon adopted with success wherever depth and bottom conditions permitted it.

During the many years of my study of commercial fishing, a timeline has become evident. That timeline equates the changes in fish populations with the necessity to fish deeper and more dangerous waters, and the change in gear, etc. As the decades of commercial fishing passed, the methods changed. Trawl net fishing became the most often used technique. From the late 1870's until the first years after WWII, the use of trawl nets who's headlines were strung with glass floats, reaped the huge catches necessary to feed the populations, to pay the investors, to pay for the boats, gear, food and supplies to keep a crew, and to pay the crew itself. The huge number of Trawl nets that were used during that 80-year history, accounts for the tremendous production of millions of glass floats in Europe, Scandinavia and America.

Together with the need for the huge endeavors necessary to feed the world's people and fishing economy, came the demise of the great populations of Halibut and other fish that once existed. Afer WWII, the decline in fish populations continued. The need for better fish-finding technology, huge factory ships trawling huge trawl nets, necessitated the use of metal gearing, causing the end of glass float use. Metal and plastic floats could withstand the new metal gearing, and quickly took the beautiful glass floats' place. Those Halibut Egg floats that exist as family heirlooms in northwestern Norway, and in the collections of a few collectors, are reminders of what once existed.

I'm so very fortunate to have an example, and wish to tell you how much that float excites me. I cannot put it inside of a case. It sits on top of a low case to my right. The sun shines through the south-facing window, and lights up the floats around the Halibut Egg. The Kveitekula remains black. It does not reflect the colors of it's glass, as the others do. I am able to caress it in my hands at will. I can feel the variety of textures - the ripples, nicks, patches of undulations and the indentation that is the size of my thumb print on its glass skin. Together with the feel of the float's thick mold lines and the heft of it... all are a constant source of wonder to this float collector.

Photo Credits: The top two photos were taken by Per Einar;
The Three Kveitekulas photo taken by "The Raven" and
The photo of Bruce's Halibut Egg sitting on white is Bruce
Gidoll's photo.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Out Of The Blue

A recent post dedicated to "lightening striking Stu Farnsworth twice," has prompted me to relate the same phenomenon striking me in mid-October. I was very fortunate to win one of 2fishin2/Woody Woodward's wonderful auctions for a Blunt Nosed Torpedo Roller.

Woody's auctions have always been as good as they get. After the auction, I sent him an email to say, "thank you" for the opportunity, and to ask if he might have an extra Torpedo Roller to sell.

Woody wrote back, and said that he did have one available. I had been trying to add an example of that beautiful float to my collection for many years. After writing about the Torpedo's availability, Woody continued...,

"I have a few euros, but I think you probably have all the ones I have as I got them a long time ago. You do have an amber M egg float right?

I read that last phrase again: "you do have an amber M egg float right?" Then quickly wrote Woody to say...,

"I do not have an amber M Egg. If you've got one that's available, Man! I would love to get yours."

I did have one once, purchased from Dick Chitty.
Dick makes yearly buying and selling trips to outdoor sales in Norway. Many years ago, he returned with a number of Norwegian Egg floats, and began auctioning them on Ebay. His Egg float auctions were the first that I'd ever seen. I knew of the floats, because on the very first night that I sat down to a computer and Googled "antique glass fishing floats," a site came up that showed European glass Egg floats. I've never forgotten seeing the three photos of those uniquely shaped floats, or reading the too-few paragraphs telling of their age and rarity.

During Dick's first auctions, Woody (who at that time, was one of the foremost bidders for European floats) won Dick's amber M Egg. I wrote Dick to ask if he had another. He did have one to sell. The deal was struck, and for years, I enjoyed having that float in the collection. In the summer of 2009 Olaf Raabe and I began to send emails back and forth across the Atlantic.

Quickly, we began trading floats. One day Olaf wrote to tell me of a beautiful rare float which he had a double of. It was available to me if I could offer a good float to trade. It took a while to figure out what I could offer. I hoped to make an offer that would put a smile on his face, and return the excitement that Olaf's float would give me. It wasn't easy to come up with the right combination. One afernoon, as I was driving, the thought to offer Olaf my amber M Egg came to mind. I had enjoyed that float for a number of years, and while I knew that I would miss it, thoughts of the float that would take its place, gave me the feeling that I should make the offer. Olaf gladly accepted, and we have always been happy with that trade. But, in the passing of time, I found myself missing that float, and began the search for another.

I wrote Dick to see if he might still have one. He was kind enough to look for me, but did not. Dick said that he would keep his eyes open for another. He later found some beautiful Egg floats, but not the amber M. I began a new search by writing collectors who might have one, but again, no luck. Woody never crossed my mind. Years earlier, he had stopped collecting Euros, and devoted himself to building his incredible Japanese float collection. Never giving up hope, I continued looking. Olaf had been searching in Norway for me too.

"Out of the blue," Woody offered me a chance at the missing-from-my-collection Amber M Egg. Good fortune. A gift from a friend. Fate. Not only do I again, have an example of that wonderful float gracing my collection, I have Woody's which was Dick's.

The float arrived last Saturday together with the Torpedo and the Blunt Nosed Torpedo. Whenever I look at or hold the M in my hand, the early years of fun bidding for Euros, the people who have come and gone from the Ebay scene, beginning to build the collection - all of those memories are part of it. It's great to have floats that have a special history. It's great to have a story to relate to Stu, and you.

The photo of the Blunt Nosed Torpedo is Woody Woodward's.
The photo of Dick Chitty, was sent to the author by Dick.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Freezing Weather On The West Coast

Those who have read last fall's post showing my garden with glassballs hanging from the purlins, as well as others on the ground - getting a sunburn, and turning darker, perhaps wondered if I put them inside during the cold winter days and nights? I did protect them during the first winter, but last year, the thought came to me:

"Tom! They're glass. Glassballs have been subjected to all types of weather, from the Tropics to the Artic. They were on the boats coming in from the Grand Banks in winter northeasters with snow and freezing salt spray covering them. There's no reason that they should have any problem staying outside during any season of the year!" So...

Last winter, they stayed outside with no problems at all. In fact, they were buried under the snow for weeks on end, thawed out, frozen - as single digit temps chilled them during the coldest nights, then warmed up in the sun of a new day. When they weren't buried under snow, they were beautiful - hanging there, and shining in the winter sunlight. They charged me up whenever I looked at them.

Todd the "Norsknailpounder," sent an email this morning:

Hi Tom

I woke up this morning and noticed my balls were freezing, just thought you might care. Todd ")

And he included floatos showing me his "frozen balls."


Thanks for putting a smile on my face this morning.

Truth is, while there is a sensitive part of me that does care, a bigger part of me, and my balls...have been basking in unseasonably warm temperatures. I've even been working outside sans jacket.

Of course, this glassball collecting farmer has been watching the weather, and knows that a cold high pressure trough has the West Coast to the Midwest in it's clutches. It's only a matter of time until it works its way to the East. I'm spoiled, and don't want these mild temperature to end. So, good reader, perhaps you care that I'm taking the time to share Todd's "frozen balls" with you?

Friday, November 11, 2011

What A Maker's Marking!

Short post today, but I wanted to show the readers a new addition to One Of A Kind Norwegian floats. This float was found in Northern Norway in late April 2011. The float was found on an expedition, and shared with us by The Raven. Don't know what to name it. Is it HGVI with a Cross, or are the letters intended to be read differently? I do not have any further information on the float's size. The Raven speculated that the initials could be:

Fishermens' initials;
2 Brothers initials or
a Father and Son's initials.

Hopefully, as time passes, I can share more about the float's size. Isn't it amazing that after seeing so many initialed floats from Norway's early glassfloat use, that suddenly, something like this one appears! It is so uniquely embossed, and I wonder where the engraver came from? This float seems out of the norm for Norwegian lettered embossings, but as I look at the mark, I see and feel the Viking in it. The cross reminds me of a float that Per Einar found on one of his expeditions. That float's embossing was a somewhat similar cross, but the cross was much smaller, and without initials. Then there is the VG with the Cross, which is a Euro - not Scandinavian float.

Speaking of Scandinavian - not Euro float. For a long time, I've been thinking that the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish floats should not be considered as being European floats. Olaf Raabe and I both think that they should be classified as "Scandinavian" floats.

Often, when writing sellers of floats from countries outside of America, I want to be specific by calling the floats: British, English, Scottish, French, etc., because it seems important to credit the country and its people with the floats made there, rather than lump them altogether. So, do you think that classifying the above named countrys' float as being Scandinavian is worthy?

Last night, I was asked the question:

"how do I post a comment to the blog"?

The easiest way that I know of is to write your comment, add your name to the end of the comment (if you wish to) then when asked for a "profile," just click "anonymous".

I would love to have more comments shared by the blog's readers. The comments add to everyone's enjoyment, and enhance "sharing". For the author of the blog, there is the knowledge that the post has been read, and is interesting enough that it causes comment. Without feedback, the writing sometimes feels lonely. Hope this helps those who have wanted to comment, but were blocked in their attempt when they came to the "profile," part of the submission.

The photo was sent to the author for sharing by the "Raven."

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Lightening Struck Stu Twice

Sunday evening an email from Stu Farnsworth was waiting for me. Here is what Stu wrote:

Hi Tom,

Been awhile. I wanted to share some exciting news with you about my awesome new find.

Several years back I had to sell my Grooved Roller to pay off some bills. A serious collector in Hawaii had made me an offer I couldn't refuse, but...I had to let one of my very favorite floats go. Realizing I would never be able to replace it was pretty hard. Life goes on, and we can't take them with us.

Recently, I received a letter from a lady who, with her husband, had run a grocery store on the Marshal Islands several years back. In that time, Islanders would bring in floats to trade for groceries. She had acquired quite a nice group of floats that included two double sausages and several rollers. Her request of me was: could I give her an idea of what she had, and how much were the floats worth? She wrote that she had no intention of selling any. To my shock, in one of the pictures was a Grooved Roller. I had to look at the photo three times - just to believe it was really there.

I wrote back asking her if she would mind taking some scans of the float by itself, and send them to me,which she did. The float not only was outstanding,but still had Bryozoan and Coral attached. I immediately wrote her back,and told her whatever she does, not to ever wash and clean that off. I then asked her if she would ever consider selling it to me? Her reply was:

"No, we want to hold onto it since it was the oddball of all the floats that had been brought in for groceries."

I understood.

With very little money in my PayPal account, and having been let go from my job,I devised a plan. I offered a package deal of floats to a collector, which included a Blue Dot, Cranberry, Side Marked Chinese Star, Chinese Amber Star, a Sun Colored Torpedo and a few other floats not as rare. I thought it was a good deal for both of us, and so did my trading partner. My package deal of floats was accepted. After I received the funds, I decided to make a cash offer for the Grooved Roller. All they could say was "no". I had the shakes as I wrote the email, but I did finish it, and sent it off.

Waited and waited that day for a response which never came back. I felt that maybe I had insulted them. Before I went to bed that night I got on the computer one last time. An email from the lady was waiting for me to open. Her response was:

"If you are really willing to offer that kind of money for this float, we would be stupid not to accept."

My heart was pounding so hard with joy!

I tossed and turned trying to get to sleep that night, and tried to calm myself down. I would not have the float for two weeks. The float's owners live in New Mexico, and were coming up here to visit her Mother in Washington State. They wanted to hand deliver it.

The day finally arrived, and I guess the bottom line is - this is what it's all about. Something like this happening to me is just one of the great things that makes this hobby so much fun. Kind of like what happened to you with the Sickle and Hammer float. I feel excitement having a float like this back into my collection. And I have the float's history and the tale of how it all came about to remember. I now know of only 4 of these Grooved Rollers that exist. Here are the scans I wanted to share with you.


Immediately after reading Stu's email, and looking at the great floatos, I emailed Stu with my impressions, congratulations and the desire to post his story and float to the blog. It's so much fun for me to share these things with you. The stories and floats move me in the happiest of ways. From the kind responses I've received, I know that these shared stories and floats stimulate you too.

Stu answered the next day, and said that he would be really happy to see his story posted for everyone to share in his good fortune. Before I end this post, I wanted to add Walt Pich's writing about the Grooved Roller. The following is found on page 45 of his great book: GLASS BALL A Comprehensive Guide For Oriental Glass Fishing Floats Found On Pacific Beaches:


The grooved roller is another float in the ultra rare category. This unique float is similar in size, shape and color to the D.G. roller, but it has a half-inch groove running the entire longitudinal perimeter of the float. It is akin to the grooves found on the American roller which are wider and deeper than grooved European floats. The sealing button has a small dai mark stamped onto the button's edge. The only example of a grooved roller that I have examined is from the fine collection of Stu Farnsworth."

Thanks Walt.

Walt's books are a must for anyone interested in Asian floats, or like me - all floats. He's a fine writer, and his knowledge of the Japanese floats and their history - gleaned from years of research, expeditions to Japan, the combined knowledge shared by other collectors and his friendship with Woody Woodward make up a history that all of us glass float collectors are very fortunate to be able to learn from and enjoy.

Congrats Stu!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A New One Of A Kind

Approximately two weeks ago, a beautifully shaped, tiny new example of a 19th. Century Norwegian glass fishing float was found in western Norway.

If the readers remember Per Einar's expedition in March 2009, on Per's first stop, he found four remarkable floats. The floats have been called Aalesund floats in honor of where they were found.

This new float is the same general shape as the Per Einar floats, but is much smaller - about the size of a small Egg float, or tiny One Knobbed.

Rather than having a body that is flattened and elongated the way the Aalesund is shaped, this float has a round body. Both this tiny example and the larger Aalesund floats have the same type of shaped button-like ends.

The float is now in the collection of the Float Collector Extraordinaire. The Raven and I believe that the Aalesund float, the small One Knobbed, as well as the larger One Knobbed, and the new tiny Aalesund type, were made at Aasnæs Glasverks. Aasnæs was one of the very early producers of glass floats. The glasverk started producing its products in 1813, and was in business until 1883. During its time in business, the company produced a huge number of glass fishing floats, and an array of shapes, sizes and beautifully embossed floats that included the large Teardrop Marker glass buoys.

Whether the shaped floats such as the One Knobbed came before the round Cod Gill Net floats produced after 1840/41, no one has yet shown proof of. These beautifully shaped floats were not mold blown, were finished on a pontil rod, and the ends were hand shaped/tooled. Why would the glassblowers have gone to so much trouble creating these pieces of fishing gear, when the round ball with the normal seal button could have been much easier and less costly to produce? Were Cod Gill Net floats the first type of glass floats used, or were smaller floats for smaller fish such as Herring used first? Always, there are questions, and once in a while an answer appears. Congratulations Raven! What a wonderful One Of A Kind to have in your collection.

The photos were provided by Olaf Raabe, and the author.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Very Interesting Photograph

From a recent Ebay auction: Report to the Governor by the Illinois State Fish Commission dated Sept. 30, 1890, comes this photograph. The net used was a seine net, and I'm wondering what the readers think the floats in the photos are? Are they glass floats?

As I look at the photo, and see the reflection of the light on the floats, they sure do look like glass. The first photo is at 100% magnification. The second is 200%, and the third is 400%. It would be terrific if the photo not only shows glass floats, but doesn't one of the floats in the foreground look like it has the Knob on one end? The float in the upper right, when looking at its shape and the shapes of one or two others, appears to be Egg-like. Can you see any capnets?

Are the floats tied directly onto the headline? This has been said to be the method used to tie the early Aasnaes Glasverk One Knob floats. Few of those floats seem to have survived, perhaps due to the lack of a protective net? The Raven has written in an email, that they broke easily due to not having a protective capnet, and may be why Aasnaes Glasverk discontinued their manufacture and use. If they are the Plumb Bob or One Knob type, could these floats be the floats on the S.H. Davis Brothers Patent?

What do you think you are seeing in the photos?

To see the photos in a larger format, put your cursor on the photo, and left click. If you roll the wheel on the cursor, you can go from one photo to the next...

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Spending Time With Cholly "The Man Who Came Before Us"

I would like to dedicate this post to Charles Abernethy's son-Mike Abernethy. About one year ago, there was a surprise email from Mike in which he thanked me for writing about his Father. I had hoped that one day, one of Charles' family would come across the blog writing, and contact me. Since that realization of my daydream, we have traded a few very nice emails. Last spring, Mike and his daughter helped give my friend Bruce, a wonderful gift. In order to make that gift possible, Mike took time out of a very important family visit to help me. Thanks again Mike.

Earlier today, an email was sent to "The Raven," in which I told him of plans to revisit Charles Abernethy's booklets for another post. Also written, were thoughts about how wonderful it would be if Charles was still alive. What fun all of us collectors would have had with him. Ended those thoughts with happiness that Charles did what he did through his writing as well as his being our European Float Grandfather. In a telephone conversation with Alan D. Rammer, I asked Alan who inspired him and Stu Farnsworth to collect European floats? He said that Charles was the catalyst for collecting European floats. It was Charles who introduced the West Coast collectors to his European and Japanese Caribbean finds, and floats directly from Europe via notices he had people place on post office billboards, and anywhere else he could think of. Around the world, Charles was "putting out the word," that there was a man looking to purchase glass fishing floats. Once Cholly was bitten with the float bug, there was no stopping his imagination, or desire to add to his collection. His booklets are dated from 1979 until 1990, and each one is a little enthusiastic gem, written by a man who truly loved the glassfloat hunt, the people involved and the floats that came to him. It's such a pleasure to read his writing, and to reproduce some of it for you. From Charles' booklet: A Potpourri of Rare Floats 1983


Such a phrase is the constant watchword of the float collector. So, this year before I visited the West Indies I decided to send out a few letters to the post masters of two towns to be placed on their bulletin boards (a ruse I learned about from an eminent collector). Interested persons were to contact a man who lived in the city of Kingstown, St. Vincent.

When I arrived at the airport my friend met me with a hearty handshake and then burst out laughing. He said the two postmasters, instead of posting the notices on their bulletin boards contacted the Island's radio station. My friend beamed with pleasure at hearing his name on the air for all 150,000 inhabitants to hear.

"Well, how many floats did you get?" I broke in excitedly.
"None," he replied, "not one, but it sure was nice to hear my name on the radio."


Deep in the native section of Kingstown on the island of St. Vincent, is a drab, unpainted ramshackle building bearing the sign "Fishnet Restaurant". Festooned from the ceiling is a large fishnet decorated with conch shells, lobster claws, starfish and crabs. In the corners of the ceiling are hung large Fishermens glass floats with nets. Despite the few low voltage light bulbs, you can just make out the rickety tables and chairs. What it lacks in impressive furnishings, it makes up with its delicious West Indian dinners of fresh caught dolphin fish, lobsters, conch (or "lambi"), and savory exotic vegetables unknown in the States...christophines, dasheens, breadfruit cakes and plantin.

As I walked to the counter to alert the waitress, my attention was caught by the strange 4-foot glass float marker as shown on page 2.

I had never seen anything like it. It has a very heavy cylindrical metal base which contained a storage battery. On top of the base inscribed in raised letters was the following: SHINKOGYOKI S S MISAKE JAPAN. The 10-inch glass float bearing the double F trademark of the Hokuyo Glass Co of Japan, gives buoyancy to the marker. At the top is a tiny glass container with a small light bulb within. Near the top is a wooden tag with Japanese characters in red on one side, and the word "MERC URIO," on the other, the word divided into two separate lines.

As I stared at it in amazement, the owner Edgar Adams came up and said,

"It's a Japanese channel marker. Picked up by a friend of mine over twenty years ago right here in the Grenadine Islands. Said the lamp was still blinking when he got it. He loaned it to the restaurant as a decoration, but in all these years, you are the only customer who has ever asked one question about it."

I sent a photo of it to a collector friend describing the above events. He replied it is NOT a channel marker at all, but a marking device used by the longline tuna fishermen to mark the beginning and ending of every 100 sets of baited fishhooks as they are played out continuously over the stern of the fishing boat for a distance of sometimes 50 miles.

When the fishermen commence their operation, they first drop overboard marker #1, lighted and ready to do its job. Glass floats basketball size are attached to the line at certain intervals to keep it at a prearranged depth. These floats are the rubber collar type carrying a 6-foot bamboo pole topped with a red and white flag. Then when the next 100 sets of hooks are played out, over the side goes another lighted marker. At night the exact location of their continuous line can easily be observed. When a lighted marker shows unusual agitation it means there are plenty of fish at hand, and then a small boat will be dispatched to investigate the hooks.

As I left, Mr. Adams added,

"Walk on down Bay Street along the shore a half mile or so to the fishing village. They often find floats and bring them in here asking if I'm interested in buying any."

So off I trod in the blistering noonday sun. Not a soul was stirring on the streets...even the stray animals sought shade somewhere. All the shops were closed for a two hour siesta.

At length I found several fishing boats complete with outboard engines on the beach and a score of men idly lounging about under a canvas shelter. Hardly had I asked if there were any "Sea Balls" available when a teenage lad showed up with a green 12-incher in a frayed net...just the type I most enjoy. So suddenly did he appear that it seemed almost pre-planned! "How much?" I asked. The lad hung his head, staring at the ground. I knew then he'd never spoken to a white man before. With those men standing about looking and their knowing about how much money a float should command, I was cautioned to offer a proper price. When I made my offer, he held out his hand in acceptance, folded the banknotes and stuck them in his waistband.

One of the fishermen, a pleasant outgoing fellow, shouted to me, "You take snap of the lad holding the sea ball." That suited me, as the tourist must exercise care in the West Indies when using a camera. The natives just do not care to have their photos taken indiscriminately. Timidly, the lad held up the float. As I left, pleased to get a float and content with the brief interlude at the tiny village, the leader smiled, "You send snap to name is Nick."

In due time I mailed copies of the glass float marker to Mr. Adams enclosing Nick's photo and the shy lad who held up the float. Forty two days later I received a note from Nick St. Clair thanking me for the snaps and telling me he had a grapefruit float he'd send me soon.

So, you see, once in a while, a long complicated chain of events regarding floats will produce some pleasant and positive results.

The St. Vincent 6" Purple L.T.

Ultimately, - six months later - after six months of waiting and six months of palm greasing, I received a roughly wrapped 6"cube-shaped parcel who's sides suspiciously bulged -- It was Nick's float at last! It's a very beautiful 2-piece molded, very light purple with net bearing the mark LT. I had obtained two other LT's xome years ago on Grand Cayman Island. Its color is so extremely pale - almost clear when looked at on its equator that the only purple noticeable is as you look around its circumference.

I hung it outdoors in the sunlight to observe if such exposure to the elements would deepen its purple color. It is said, that by so exposing floats, that the color of the basic ingredients will become more pronounced. Five months later the manganese dioxide has perceptibly deepened its purple color.

It has never firmly been established exactly what country is the manufacturer, tho' some have turned up in the West Indies and none apparently along our West Coast. I would hazard, therefore, they're European made.

Even now, glassfloat collectors wonder where the LT marked floats were made, and what the letters, "LT" mean is unknown. My guess is that the floats were made in France. It has been conjectured that the letters stand for "London Transit," and at one time, I wondered if they stood for Lowestoft. The fishing vessels' numbers from Lowestoft start with the letters, "LT".

Later, Charles writes a pretty acerbic two paragraphs:


I received a 3" very very light almost imperceptible green two-piece molded float with a most insignificant sealing button located where the two halves are joined together. It is from RUSSIA. A more drab, unstimulating float I have never seen. It has the blahs: it even lacks the expected hammer and sickle logo one would expect, as noted on other Russian floats washed up on our Pacific shores.

I have only to add that if all floats were as dullsville as this I would under no circumstances ever have considered collecting them at all!

"Hey Stu! Hey Alan! Did either of you send that float to Charles?"

Stu sent me one last year. While I understand (we were still in the Cold War/ Charles was a veteran) and chuckle at Cholly's distaste for that float, I do not agree with him. My little beauty sits next to a wonderful example of a Hammer & Sickle float. I'm so happy to have Stu's gift, and think the float is an uncommon float, not often found in collections. It is a great addition toward my goal of collecting the 5 Russian floats that I know of. Charles continues writing about other float acquisitions made that year which included a sandblasted Hokuyo Rolling Pin, a Spindle, three Korean 3-piece molded 3-inchers, the WAIKIKE WONDER - a 10-inch diameter blue/green Double F and a 4-inch Japanese Sausage Roller.

At the end of the booklet is the title:


Charles writes:

Since the most activity in finding floats has long been along our West Coast, it is a popular misconception that just about all the floats have been manufactured in Japan.

A glance at your Kwik-Reference pocket-size Float Chart shows that the above paragraph is a myth. Fishermen in Europe have used Norway-made floats since 1840, 70 years before Japan entered the market: Denmark, 40 years; and USA, 30 years. Unfortunately the Atlantic Ocean currents do not flow westward, and therefore we find but few European-made floats along our Atlantic shores.

It is noteworthy to observe that one landlocked country - Czechoslovakia - entered the market at the turn of the century, and turned out their beautiful, high quality and much sought after floats for 40 years, obviously on contract to other countries. Not only is their round MADE IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA logo neatly displayed, but even their sealing buttons are smooth and professionally turned.

When I look at the Charles' Chart, I am struck by the information contained there, especially when looking at the American dateline. Charles shows the 1st. American-made floats for the year, 1880. Did he have the same information that I do? How did he know that? Once again, I'm struck by the desire to be able to talk to him. Charles chart also shows: Floats being made in Belgium.

I wonder what those floats look like? I cannot remember hearing of Belgium-made floats. I stopped writing for a minute to look at the markings in Amos Wood's book, and found the boxed S over the A, as "reported to be of Belgium manufacture on float used in Atlantic Ocean Fishery in 1970's. From collection of Charles Abernethy."

He attributes floats being made in Scotland, and Czechoslovakia (the Czech Republic) first being made just a bit before or in the year 1900 and

He has the first Russian floats being produced a bit before or in the year 1960.

That leaves me with question marks concerning the Russian Hammer & Sickle float. When I look at my example, then compare it with the Russian 3. and the non-embossed Russian float, it is differently constructed and sized. All three were blown into a 2-piece mold, and the mold lines run from top to bottom on the floats, but the Hammer & Sickle's seal bead or button is larger and flattened, rather than slightly raised and rounded off. It's glass is differently textured. There is also a size difference. The Hammer & Sickle is 2 and 7/8ths. of an inch diameter, the other two are 2 and 3/4 inches in diameter. Also, the Hammer & Sickle floats, according to Amos Wood, were first beachcombed in 1936, which does not coincide with Charles' graph.

So what! You may be thinking to yourself. Well, for me, the float questions never stop. I want to know as much about floats as I am able to. So, I search for anything that will further my glassfloat understanding, and truly enjoy finding a piece of information such as Charles' QUICK REFERENCE FLOAT CHRONOLOGICAL CHART. Thanks to that chart, and Amos Wood's book, I now know what is considered to be a Belgium-made float.

Thank you's go out to Charles, Stu, Alan and Amos for giving so much of themselves to this collector, and I'm sure you agree - to all of us. I look forward to writing the next post, and hope you have enjoyed another visit with Charles Abernethy.

The Photos:
the 2nd. photo is Charles Abernethy; and
the 3rd. photo from left to right at the top: Stu Farnsworth, Charles Abernethy and Alan D. Rammer. In the lower center of the photo sits Amos Wood.

Put your browser over the photos, left click, and enjoy an enlarged photo.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Stokksund Egg Float

Writing to you has been on my mind for months, but I have to ask the readers for their understanding. Life has thrown our family a hard curve to negotiate. In mid-May, my Wife was diagnosed with cancer, and we have been fighting the battle since that time. There just has been no free time that I did not want to spend with Nancy, so my writing had to take a backseat. Things have stabilized a bit. The desire to write is so strong, and it rained last night, giving me a break from hours of watering the plants that I grow for my business.

An excellent auction ended last Sunday for a never-before-seen float on Ebay. It was a tightly-netted, bullet shaped and colorless glass float offered by Olaf Raabe the "Float Collector Extraordinaire". The auction attracted a number of bidders, and for those who missed it, those who would like to know more or those who are lucky enough to have one, for my first post since the spring, I've chosen to write a bit about these "new" floats.

Perhaps it's best if I copy and paste "FCE's" email writings about the float for you. From the beginning:

"Spoke to Mr... today. Very interesting news.
He has found a new type of egg up north. Tom, I thought I had them all. Clear glass, moulded, and oval at both ends-but no knobs, 5 cm wide and 12 cm long. He has no camera, but said that he will send me one float for inspection. To me they sound a bit like larger Hovigs, but without the knobs., and were made in a mould. Strange?
Think I can get hold of a few. Are you interested ??"

Excitedly, I wrote back, and answered that I was absolutely interested, and excited to see Olaf's first photos when the float arrives."

In Olaf's next email he wrote:

"The net with the bullets was found not far from and south of the Namsos area in Stokksund, close to AAfjord, up north. The eggs were attached to fishing nets for catching Hyse, a type of small Cod, and were not for eel nets. These are no doubt new to the collector market, like Hovig. Do you see the mould marks in the photo? There are not many bubbles in the glass, and some have none, so I don't think they are amongst the oldest made floats."

In a subsequent email, it was written that the owner of the net kept a few of the floats, Mr... kept something for his collection, and a few others were available to Olaf, which he desired to make available for serious collectors. The "Float Collector Extraordinaire," has the most "well-rounded" collection of Norwegian floats that I know of. His ability to find and add spectacular floats to his collection is paramount, and he is constantly kind to everyone he trades with. The friendship we share is a true gift in my life. While I know I'm digressing, the desire to let the readers know a bit about this fine man is important to me. To continue...

Olaf and I write eachother as often as possible, and the majority of our email conversations are about floats and their history. When Olaf wrote to tell me of this spectacular find, the first thing I asked him was what they should be called. It was thought that "Stokksund Egg Float," would be a good name. At this time, there may be no other examples of this float found on that lone net in Stokksund. There was a float auctioned in Norway a couple of years ago, which was so heavily netted that it is impossible to know if it too was a bullet shaped egg. Perhaps that float's owner will read this post, and let us know if his float is a bullet shaped Egg Float?

Olaf wondered about a few things concerning the origin of these floats, and said:

"There is one thing I do not have an answer to. If you look at the glassworks in Norway, there is one group North in the Namsos area".

From Olaf's knowledge, together with the map found in Vebjorn Fiksdel's booklet Norwegian Glass Fishing Floats comes the following:

Jossund 1854-1857;
Aasnaes 1813-1883;
Namsos 1855-1867;
Bjorum 1873-1886;
Survig 1809=1821 (Survig Glasverks is noted to have stopped production in the year 1821. We are wondering if the very old "S" marked floats were from Survig?) and Holmen 1812-1840.

There were 3 on the west coast:

Bergen Glasverks later renamed Flesland 1875-1951 and
Hestviken 1849-1857.

And many located in the southeastern part of Norway including:

Biri 1761-1880;
Gjovik 1806-1843;
Hadeland 1862-1876;
Hurdal 1755-1895;
Berger 1857-1895;
Hovik 1855-1933;
Drammen 1873-1977;
Schimmelmann 1770-1832 (where brown/amber unmarked glassballs have been found by diggers);
Moss 1898-1988;
Vallo 1874-1877 and
Larvig 1872-1926.

Olaf continues:

"I have never seen a clear "colored" glassfloat made at the glassworks north and west. We both know the clear glass floats are more difficult to make without chemical additives, because of the iron oxides present in all but the purest of sand."

"The only clear colored glass floats in Norway are the Moss floats, the Hovig Eggs, maybe Laurvig and the Teardrop or Sea Dog floats. Now, we have these Stokksunds. The only moulded made glass floats in Norway are those from Flesland, which are aquamarine colored. I wonder if the large brown eggs, and the bullets could be early Flesland/Bergen made floats? We have to research more into this."

I was very fortunate to obtain two of the Stokksund floats for my collection. One of the float's nets was damaged, which allowed me the freedom to cut it off in order to see the glass. I agonized over the cutting of the net for a few weeks, but my curiousity finally won out.

As you can see from the photo of the netted float, the net is very tight and in the net, one cannot truly see the float's complete shape, mold lines or clarity. There was a residue under the net as well. The roping used is unique. I do not have another example of that type of rope on a float. It appears to me to be Dacron, and is now, gray/white in color.

The float itself is not only differently shaped from any other egg shaped Norwegian float, it also does not have a normal seal button, or "seal bead."

The term, "seal bead," was recently described to me by Frank Wheaton, the past owner of Wheaton Glassworks (a more than 100 year old, family-owned business located in Southern New Jersey).

The float was blown into a mold, likely a 2-piece mold, although it does have a line that intersects the end-to-end mold line and circles the middle of the float. That line is not only hard to see, but on my float, is not raised enough to feel.

The float appears to have been blown into the mold, and the cut off of the glass gather at the blowpipe, was then pressed down, and perhaps heated with a torch to smooth and completely seal the float. I've never seen an authentic float with that type of seal, although the Japanese sometimes twisted and pinched as a way to seal the ball. This is different.

There is a rare variety of Japanese float that is also bullet shaped, and called a "Bullet Roller". It is larger than these little Stokksund Eggs, and has a normal seal button or "seal bead".

The Stokksund Egg Float is a new addition to the many shaped floats that were used in Norway to catch a variety of food fishes. There is news of another new shape recently found. I've been told that it is a Teardrop style of float, and am eagerly awaiting the first photos. At this time, there is only one known example of that float. There have also been a handful of new marks found during this year's Norwegian springtime. One of them is spectacularly embossed, and will be shown soon. It's good to be back on the blog. With good fortune, I'll be able to write again soon.