Friday, March 09, 2012

Kurt Ohm's Website

Just to let you know, I haven't forgotten you, and am longing to find the time to finish the Favorite Floats 2011 thread. Another curve ball being pitched at me. I'm doing my best to hit it out of the park. As soon as I can, Todd the "Norsknailpounder's" favorites will be posted, and I would like to show the readers a few more of my favorites too.

Today, Kurt Ohm sent me an email directing me to the wonderful work he's been doing on his website. Kurt is presenting a fantastic array of float (and rare glass) photos on the site. If you go to the "garnkulers," you're going to be surprised by a number of never-before-seen marks. Kurt's collection of glass floats is very impressive. So go to:

Until later...

Saturday morning:

Just received another email from Kurt. He wanted to tell me that he'd just posted some additional float photos. I looked, and was wonderfully surprised to see the 2nd. Vallo float! I don't know about you, but thoughts of additional Vallo floats coming to light are always in my brain's float compartment. In many email writings to the "Raven," I've wondered when another would be found. It's happened.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"The Russians Are Coming!"

During the weekend, an email from Stu Farnsworth waited to be discovered and opened. Attached to the email were some astounding photos of his newest Russian float acquisitions, and a wonderfully rare Russian float.

Perhaps the readers are acquainted with the Hammer & Sickle float, the 2. and the 3. Russian floats? The Hammer & Sickle, and 3., are not common at all. The 2. very rare. I have heard that one collector has the 2., but have never seen a photo of one. Stu's float - described below - is not only very rare, but this is the first time that I've known of its existence.

The following are a couple of Stu's emails during our last exchange:

"Hi Tom,

Wanted to share with you my good fortune over the last several months. A purchase, then a trade, have added two very old and very hard to find Hammer & Sickle floats to my collection. I now have three, and in my life have had four. Once, I did have two at one time, but traded one, and always felt a bit haunted by that. You know how it is when you let go of a great float. Now, that is a thing in the past.

Just wanted to tell you some very good news that has come my way. I never thought that I would ever be looking at three in my collection at one time. I'm basking in float heaven!


After reading Stu's email, and having my socks knocked off by the photos, a happy reply was sent to to congratulate Stu. The next morning, another email was sent, asking Stu if he would like me to write about his good fortune on the blog? Stu wrote back to say that he would be very happy and proud to see his floats there for everyone to enjoy.

Also, Stu sent another email with a description of the very rare Russian float

"Hi Tom;

Here are a few scans of the float you asked me about. This is actually one of my very rarest floats. I have had it for about 18 years.

Traded a ROSE H float and the Ocean Fresh float during the time I had several of the West Coast Collection. This is the rarist Russian float I'll ever have as I have never seen another, and even Walt wanted to trade for it way back when. It has a Snakeskin float's texture, and a very crude "1" stamped into a circle. It was blown into a 2-piece mold like the Sickle and Hammer floats. It is my real gem, and one I would never trade. It adorns the front of my display case as its place of honor.

Thanks for asking.


Something's been going on. Unlike last year's slow start, and long waits between exciting floats appearing, this year has started off with great floats appearing regularly on the auctions and in trades. Those who live on the West Coast have been experiencing storms with onshore winds, a lot of Japanese debris washing in, large plastic Scallop floats in the drift, logs, and if those onshore winds keep coming, there will be some very fine beachcombing for glass floats soon. With an accumulation of Black Current debris crossing over and into the onshore currents, the spring could be terrific for glass balls.

I've been fortunate to have experienced a setup like the one the West Coast is now experiencing. That year's late April through May was fabulous for beachcombing. I even found a beautiful trio of glass floats after a late 24-hour onshore storm in July.

That spring, on any onshore breeze, glass balls washed in, and many Rolling Pins were hiding in the drifts of Vellela. To find the floats, one needed to look with eyes sharp and focused. It was very easy to lose one's concentration by looking too far ahead, or too quickly over the Vellela. The floats blended into the jellyfish, and in order to find them, I had to look close to me, and cover the patches of Vellela from front to back, and side to side, working slowly and carefully up the beach. Many times excited beachcombers passed me by, talking together and looking everywhere, but without the necessary focus. To the side, and sometimes right in the path they had just walked through, lay a Roller, or small round ball waiting for me to scoop up.

Good luck to all of you West Coast beachcombers, and thanks for sharing Stu.

P.S. The photos are easily enlarged by left clicking on the photos. Enjoy!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Collectors' Favorites 2011 From Roger & Maria Brun

A Roger email is always a surprise. One never knows what he will write about. Over the last few years, we have shared many emails, collaborated on float history, enjoyed some excellent trades, and given each other float gifts and friendship. I like Roger's quiet way, as well as his enthusiasm. He embodies all of the good traits inherent in Yin and Yang philosophy. "Quietly enthusiastic," describes Roger well. His wife Maria is an accomplished linguist. Thanks to her linguistic abilities, she has been a great help translating float history from books, and helping Roger with their wonderful website:

Last fall Roger sent an email, describing the current weather. I thought the readers might be interested in reading what he wrote about the weather at home, as well as what happened to those living on the west coast of Norway.

Hi Tom,

We are doing fine. I had much to do this summer and autumn, but now I'm just waiting for the winter that did not come yet. It feels good that I'm all prepared.

Its been nice that the winter decided to come later this year than previous years. We have had some really nice days. At the west coast and north of Norway its been not so nice, with storms and waves as big as houses. much damage and even lives lost. But this is how it is each year over there when the storms are coming.

OK! That was the weather, a Norwegians favorite topic :)

A week ago, Roger surprised me with the following:

Here comes the first photos of my 2011 favorites.

The Åland floats from Sweden.

The Stokksund Egg - after a trade with olaf in the summer,

Ship's Wheel - also after a trade with Olaf in the very end of 2011.

The Grooved Egg from Todd is marked F1. I do also own a F2 marked float. So, I was thinking that it would be cool to have the F1 as well. What suprised me after receiving the F1 float was that it is smaller than the F2. I was not aware that they existed in two different sizes. 2" and 2,5" wide.

A few days passed. I was writing Jon & Maria Ramberg's post, when Roger added to his list with another email and photos.

Remember we were in Trøndelag in June 2011? I promised long time ago to send you photos of what we found. Here they comes :) These floats were found altogether in a secondhand store.

Some photos of floats that were purchased through e-bay 2011:

French L

and the beautifully netted 8" Made In Czechoslovakia

The BY5 float on the right side of the pair of floats, came from Olaf.

The HD and 7 marked float belonged to Todd, and the Asian 2 on the right hand side of the pair is an Asian float purchased on Ebay.

These floats were purchased from sellers in Sweden. The exception is the beautiful Swirled Bjorkshult. that you sent to me, Tom. That was a big surprise and for sure a favorite #1 in 2011.

The Colorless Compass Marked float is 7,5" and is made of thick solid glass, probably made as a working float.

Small Blue Compass

Cobalt Blue Albrechtsons

Roger sent another email with additional photos and text. He and Maria had quite a year of collecting!

Hello Tom,

Here comes the last photo I wanted to show you.

The Smith Kavelhund

This Kavelhund has the most common anchor - the British Naval Anchor float, two unmarked and molded British floats and one Heye Glassworks float with the older type of Clover marking.
I was thinking when looking at these floats, that all of them look like they are most likely British except for the Heye float. Smith is an English surname. We do not have many Smiths in Norway. It could be that he was an immigrant or maybe his father was? Perhaps he brought these floats with him from Britain?

Roger ended his email with the following:

You dont have to add all the floats photos that I have been sending to you, maybe some the most interesting ones would be enough. It has been a great plesure to see all the new floats from all the collectors, and to read about them.


It is so much fun for me to show the readers all of Roger and Maria's favorites from last year, and to give you a glimpse into the many sources that their floats came from. As Woody Woodward the great Japanese float hunter and collector wrote:

"The hunt is my favorite part of floats.

There is no doubt in my mind that all collectors identify in some way with Woody's sentiment. Daily, keeping the eyes and mind on the pursuit of the prize(s), drives and excites me. Perhaps one day, I will again be able to hunt beaches far removed from Ebay Beach? There are so many places in the world that call to me. To hunt for floats and their histories around the write about and photograph my meet people on the way...that is my dream.

Thank you Roger and Maria.

P.S. For readers who are not familiar with the photos posted, you can enlarge them. Simply put your browser on the photos and left click. It's great to be able to see these beautiful glass floats, and other photos in an enlarged format.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Collectors' Favorites From Jon and Maria Ramberg

A very nice and unsuspected surprise...

Happy New Year Tom!

It is a beautiful thing to see all the sharing by float collectors around the world that has been inspired by your blog.

Our favorites always seem to be changing but here are a few to share.

Best wishes, Jon & Maria

I've just begun to share with Jon and Maria. After receiving their email, and even though I wanted to go to bed, had to answer their email...

Hi Jon,

What a nice surprise! I just came to my emails to write Stu Farnsworth, to say that his favorites post was finished, and here you are. Thank you for sharing. It makes me very happy.

A question: Were any of these floats added to your collection in 2011? If not, that is just fine. Every collector should have the opportunity to see the incredible floats you have. I am totally taken by the Neversink. I knew that there was a Milk Glass Neversink, but had only seen one, 12 years ago.

Jon and Maria answered the next day...

Good evening Tom,

The 5 floats we chose were added over many different years.

Just for clarity's sake, I asked the question whether the floats had been found during the previous year, but knew after seeing the photos, and feeling very fortunate to have had Jon and Maria's willingness to share, that the answer was not going to determine whether or not I posted during this year's collectors' favorites. I sent the following email to them...

Hi Jon, Hi Maria,

I am truly amazed at the wonderful examples that you have in your collection, and can only imagine what other treasures must be with you. Thank you for sharing your history. I'm so focused on gathering as much existing glass float history...their makers, uses and users as well as collectors and collectors' stories as possible. Every contribution gives me great happiness. I truly believe we are all saving an almost lost and relatively unknown history - just in the nick of time.

A few of Jon and Maria's beautiful Glass Floats

1) Doughnut Float
In his pioneering book, BEACHCOMBING FOR JAPANESE GLASS FLOATS, Amos Woods wrote that less than a dozen of these floats were manufactured. The picture of the rare doughnut float in his book captured my imagination and was an inspiration for float collecting.

2)Twisted Spindle In the BEACHCOMBERS GUIDE TO THE NORTHWEST, page 33, author Walt Pich says “the rarity of a spindle may be measured by the number of twists that are caused by rolling prior to cooling.” One of our most unique spindle floats has a twisted spindle with 30 twists! Is anyone else counting their twists?

3) White Neversink
As we add more colors to our float collection, this white Neversink GB 6 stands out. It fits the "Sea Hermit's" latest research on the origin of Neversink floats. The history on this one is that it was found with a group of other floats that “hung in the barn of a Down East Maine fisherman.”

4) TO (Toyotomi Glass Factory)
What makes this one unique is the color contrasts. Very fine burgundy swirls throughout the clear float give the ball a lighter overall color. This is contrasted with a solid, dark burgundy seal button bearing a heavy and distinct diamond TO mark.

5) Compass and Stranne Oresten Compass Group
The blue compass trademark is amazing! Our colors include cobalt blue, dark forest green and emerald green. Our sizes range from 3 inches to 8 inches.

I wanted to show you a close up of the wonderful Stranne Oresten Compass marking.

Thank you Jon and Maria. It was a pleasure to see and share some of your remarkably beautiful floats!

I would like to end this post with something a very nice British Columbian woman wrote to me a few days ago. Her name is Marlena. We started trading emails, and learning about our shared passion for glass, after I noticed a wonderful Dog Neck float she had for sale to the highest bidder. I wrote her to find out more, and as good fortune would have it, I've chanced to meet a kind and sincere person. Marlena is a collector of glass, and especially very old Persian bottles, known by bottle collectors and bottle sellers as the "Lady Who Buys The Persian Stuff"

Marlena wrote:

"Hmmmm...I don't know what it is exactly about old glass that captivates me and others so deeply. I suppose it's many things all combined. But I know that the pleasure of caring for something that is beautiful and precious and at the same time so curious, delicate and vulnerable is a part of it. Each handblown bottle or float seems to be a self contained and unique universe all its own. When you hold it in your hand or into the light it seems complete...needing nothing more than being exactly what it is...and being enjoyed by the person who cares for it."

I enjoyed reading and identifying with her thoughts. Here are a couple of Marlena's Persian bottle photos:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Collectors' Favorites 2011 From Olaf Raabe

I have received additional submissions, and promises from other collectors to send their favorites. The next blog post will feature some amazing floats that were not necessarily found in 2011, but that are among that collector's favorites. I know that the readers and collectors will enjoy seeing the floats.

For today, I want to feature a very special collector's floats, which were added to his collection during the last year.

Olaf Raabe is the "Float Collector Extraordinaire". There has been no one like him collecting both European and Scandinavian floats. When I first met Olaf, he told me that he specialized in Norwegian (Scandinavian) floats, and that he liked the very old Norwegian letter floats. I wrote that my passion was European floats, but that I also enjoyed my collection of American, Scandinavian and Asian floats. We began sharing photos of our favorite floats, and descriptions of our passion for them. That led into our first trade, which led into more trades, sharing of our lives, and a great over the Atlantic friendship.

When I write that there is no Scandinavian/Euro collector like him, you can take that description verbatim. Olaf has built the finest collection of rare marks, shapes, and variety of not only the Scandinavian, but also the European floats - in the world. I have been privileged to have his stories and photos sent to me on a regular basis. There is a constant stream of glass balls floating into Olaf's collection, and vicariously, into my awareness. Not sure if this metaphor works, but here goes: It's kind of like watching a field of corn quickly grow. Where once there was bare plowed ground, in a very short time there are green shoots popping up out of the soil, then one day, you suddenly notice that those shoots have quickly grown into tall verdant plants, who's every node has a large perfect ear of corn reaching up to the sun's light.

His collection has grown beautifully in short time, and the quality is absolutely wonderful. In my replies to the steady stream of float photos, float stories of finds, upcoming appointments with old fishermen in their boathouses, answers to advertisements, auctions...from every source imaginable, I kid him about his prowess, and the wonder of it all. My kidding, is reverse tongue in cheek. I really am serious. There is another side of the Float Collector Extraordinaire, that readers may have already recognized.

Olaf gives as good as he gets. Via this blog, and emails shared between myself and other collectors, together with the desire of Olaf to meet others, introductions have been made. Those introductions have resulted in many purchases and trades. There are very few recognized European and Scandinavian float collectors who have not had their collections measurably enlarged because of Olaf's ability to find floats in his native country, but also his willingness to help other collectors. No one can ever say that trading with or selling to Olaf was anything but a pleasure, and how thankful they are to have had the opportunities. I'll let Olaf take it from here.

"Hi Tom,

2011 was a very good year for both hunting and trading glass floats. Being a collector of Euro and Scandinavian floats only, I am first of all thankful to all my friends for giving me the chance to improve my collection through trading."

My favorites last year were the following:

1) Raised Neck floats - A special trade was made with a very special friend, that will always remind me of our good friendship. Here a photo of the Heye Clover Neck float,
together with another German S Neck float and two British Neck floats. Thank you Tom for being so generous.

2) Doorknob - A Swedish lady with a summerhouse at Aaland found 3 beautiful doorknobs. The trio was won on a Swedish auction site, and thereafter shared with two friends. This one is a small beauty, with a very special color. I call this one the Aaland Doorknob. Hanging with the Aaland Doorknob is a small, yellow Torvald Stranne that was also added this year.

3) Norwegian "Eggs"- These small eggs were all found in the Namsos area and represent glassverks at Aasnaes, Moss and an unknown glasswork.

4)HFC - Both of these two Swedish HFC-embossed floats are quite heavy and no doubt used as fishing glass floats. Both were originally found in Sweden. One was purchased from the U.S.A., and one from Germany.

From the author: The first one of these I had seen was a colorless example. My German bottle collecting friend sent the photo, and later, an opportunity to add one to my collection.

5) Russian floats - The small float on top of the big Estonian Teardrop float is a 2-piece molded float that is marked with the number 3 followed by a Dot on the side of the float. I hope I will be able to to find a Russian Hammer & Sickle marked float in 2012.

6) Colored floats - The red one came from France. Its seal is embossed with snails, whilst the blue float is British-made. They are both Contemporaries. They are together in the photo with an old and heavy and unmarked British glass float.

7) BIOT - These beautiful colored floats were purchased from France. These are probably made for decoration only. Biot's floats do look like they were made as original glass fishing floats.

8)The S.A.P.R.I., and the brown/amber Italian Societa Altare.

9)Marks with unknown origin: the Janson Import;

Relsky and

Vigo. These all came to me thanks to good collector friends in the U.S.A.

10)From France, The Cameleyre Freres Aracachon.

From the author:
Cameleyre Freres was a French fishing company founded approximately 1889, and Aracachon is a French fishing village. I have been searching for one of these for my collection for a long time. This float was offered for sale on Ebay. I did not win it, but something interesting happened during the auction. I had purchased a float from a French woman. During our correspondence, I asked her to help me find a Cameleyre. She wrote back to say that a friend of her's had seen one at an outdoor sale, but considered the price too high, so passed it up. I sent the auction to the French woman to inquire if this Cameleyre might have been the same float. She assured me that it was not, that the other example was marked differently. Where is that float? Will one come to me someday?

I know that Olaf took great pleasure in sharing these floats with the readers, and I wish to say, "Thank you," to Olaf for sharing his floats with us. I would also like to continue Olaf's submission with a brief discussion of Biot, its location and glass.

In an end-of-2011 trade with Olaf, a beautiful straw colored green Biot was part of our deal. Years ago, a brown example was sold on a French auction. I did not win that float, but my interest in the Biot floats started. Roger and Maria Brun, on the website:, have a short history and photos of the Biot Glassworks in France. After receiving my first example, I began to research the company, and found a book, written in French and English, called: REVE DE VERRE - DREAMS OF GLASS A Half Century of Glassware in Biot. Eloi Monod and After...

The book begins with a discussion of the geology of France's Biot region. Here is a short paragraph written at the end of the discussion:

"As has been pointed out, the Biot area is rich in almost all the raw materials used in the making of glass, namely silica, aluminum, calcium oxide obtained through the calcination of calcareous rock, and manganese. Furthermore, the ash tuft is used for making glass ovens."

Hmm...manganese - a discussion of manganese, which was added to glass mixtures to counteract the aqua to green coloration in glass, was written about in an earlier post. The addition of manganese to the glass mix produced colorless glass, which together with the ultraviolet waves of sunlight, turned found European glass floats various shades of lavender. I have been postulating that the lettered sun turned floats were made in France. The information above gives me a bit of a lift to the postulation.

If the reader recalls, Richard Carlson brought up the use of Selenium taking the place of manganese. I have learned that Selenium imparts a yellow/straw coloration to glass. That left me with the question..."If manganese use mostly ended early in the 20th. Century, then why were floats made later, sun turning lavender? Recently, I've wondered if the use of recycled glass might be the answer? There is no doubt that glass fishing floats were produced as cheaply as possible. Is it possible, that like the Japanese float makers, glassworks in other countries, and in this case - France, may have used large amounts of recycled glass in their float mixtures too?

In the next chapter titled, "An Impressionist Saga," the birth of La Verrerie De Biot is discussed. Biot Glass is known for the beauty of it's suspended bubbles. Bubbles in glass mixtures are normally a sign of inadequate heating of the furnace, and is not something positive in quality glassware. To the glass float collector, bubbles in glass add to the beauty of the ball, and in some instances, the number of bubbles adds to a float's monetary and/or trade value. I found some very interesting paragraphs in the chapter:

"For centuries glassmakers had known bubbles well - and had bad dreams about them - just as they detested the "strings" and "stones" and other imperfections that result when glassmaking goes wrong. The temperature must be kept high long enough, that the gas generated by the fusion of the ingredients can escape. If the bubbles do not have time to rise up and break through the surface of the molten glass, they become trapped there and ruin its appearance."

Some glassmakers in the early twentieth century, made use of this kind of flaw to create special effects (think Japanese Spindle floats). But, there was also another very old and widespread technique long employed in this trade from Scandinavia to Bohemia and Venice. Bubbles are deliberately created by sprinkling sodium bicarbonate on the "gob" of glass before it is plunged back into the melting pot for a second gathering. Thus the particles are imprisoned between two layers of hot glass and break down, producing tiny uniform carbon dioxide bubbles which catch and refract the light like miniature magnifying glasses.

The Biot glassmakers borrowed this well-known effect and based their style on it.

After reading this, I understood more about glass float bubbles, and speculated to Olaf, that the bubbles and other imperfections found in the Norwegian S-embossed floats could point to a smaller, and much older glassworks. Perhaps the discussion about bubbles in poorly heated glass furnaces gives us insight into the possiblity that the old lettered "S" floats were made at Sauvig Glassverk, and were made prior to 1840/41?

As you can see in the photo of my hay colored green Biot float, the bubbles are the focus - one of the company's trademarks.