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sea folklore and conservation

Antique Japanese glass fishing floats


glass fishing floats
Glass floats have been used in the fishing industry since the 1840s to support fishing nets while in use. These floats would often break loose from the nets and drift around in the ocean until coming ashore many years later. Early floats were hand-blown by glassblowers using recycled glass. Newer floats are made of cork and aluminum came into common usage during the postwar period due to their durability.

Glass fishing float colours

The common colour for glass floats is a light sea green due to the recycled sake bottles using in the crafting process. However, other colours include amber, clear, cobalt, violet, and red (very rare) are sometimes found.

Floats of unusual colour that show no signs of wear are likely reproductions, so buyer beware if you did not collect the float yourself.

Float shapes and sizes

Floats are commonly spherical, but other rarer shapes such as tube rollers and double floats have been found. They range in size from a few inches in diameter to over 16" in diameter.

Common float markings

Japanese and Norwegian floats are frequently marked with their maker's trademark on the pontil. Russian and Korean floats are marked on the sides in addition to having side seams from the molds used when creating the floats.

Beware of imitations

The glass of authentic floats is thick to enable survival during heavy usage. Remember, these have been floating around the oceans for decades. They don't break easily. Not only do most authentic floats have bubbles, but they will also have "sandblasted" wear patterns on them from the cording which originally held them in place. Occasionally you might even find a float with its original cording intact.

Where to find glass floats

Start at your favourite local beach. The best time to search is at low tide if you want to largest area of beach available. Determine where the high tide line is to set that as the outermost point of your search. Keep in mind that glass fishing floats are among the rarest of beachcombing finds.

Glass float collecting gear

Before setting forth on your first collecting expedition, I would recommend acquiring the following gear:

Displaying your collection

Glass is best to be displayed where the light can shine through it to show the colours. Display your newfound treasures on a bright windowsill.

Further reading

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