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Dave’s Appalachian Swirl vintage machine-made marbles

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“West Virginia Swirl production is alive and well in Pennsboro, West Virginia,” notes vintage marble machine enthusiast and YouTuber Stephen Bahr in the caption of this 2021 video visit to Dave’s Appalachian Swirl (D.A.S) Marbles Factory.

That D in D.A.S. is glass master Dave McCullough, who began as a glass blower and machinist in marble-making factories in the early 1980s. He’s still making marbles the old-fashioned way with help from David Tamulevichich, Linda Moore Simmons, Dave Matheny, and a team of artisans, sorters, and packers.

See how colorful, swirly glass marbles are made on vintage machines, from cullet to furnace, through a cutter, and then onto Archimedes-style forming screw conveyors that shape the glass spheres as they cool.

molten glass cut into chunks and formed on forming screws
forming screws
In an April 2000 Washington Post article featuring McCullough, rural West Virginia was called “ground zero for the U.S. marbles industry.”

“Though it may seem like ancient history now — like something out of a sappy Norman Rockwell daydream that includes slingshots, hopscotch and stickball — it wasn’t all that long ago when kids were crazy about marbles. In the years following World War II, more than 4 million children played in organized marbles tournaments, and West Virginia, with its glassware factories and easy access to cheap natural gas, was home to roughly a dozen marbles factories.”

rods and cullet

“But even in the industry’s heyday, the end was near. The United States lifted its postwar tariffs on Japanese toys, and lower-priced foreign marbles flooded the market… That year, following a disastrous 1954 Christmas season when business dropped off 60 percent, was a monumental blow…

“When marbles enthusiasts discovered the power of the Internet, however, the landscape of the industry took a dramatic, and almost unimaginable, turn. Just as they have for any number of other collectibles, electronic bulletin boards, chat rooms and Web sites now connect small groups of hard-core marbles collectors who had been previously isolated. This sudden online community has fueled an explosion in both demand and prices…”

cooling marbles
up close on the marble run
Watch more marbles videos on TKSST, including:
• Glass Marbles – The Magic of Making
Marble Tsunami marble run machine: 11,000 marbles
• Murmiland Marble Run Fun
Steel track rolling ball sculptures by kinetic artist Tom Harold
• Which marble will win the Longest Sand Marble Run Ever?

Bonus: How to make a steel track marble run, a step-by-step guide that includes an Archimedes’ screw marble lift.

h/t The Awesomer.

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