Moon Marble

February 5th, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:

 

MOON MARBLE
“Do you guys mind if I turn on the big rocket flame for a minute?” Bruce Breslow asked the group of about 20 gathered in his marble-making studio.

“Yes,” shouted the dozen or so Cub Scouts in the bleachers. With encouragement from Breslow they changed their chorus to the more appropriate response: “No.”

“I have a foot pedal. I step on it and it opens up the solenoid and adds more oxygen and propane,” Breslow explained as the flame intensified and a yellow flare lit up around the marble.

“I can only use the rocket flame so much,” he said. “If things get too hot, glass is dripping everywhere.”

On a Saturday morning at Moon Marble in Bonner Springs, shop owner Bruce Breslow was the man behind the flame. He held a blue marble on a wand, turning it, always turning it.

“I don’t know if you notice, but I keep this spinning all of the time,” Breslow said. “That’s how I keep this centered on the rod, and gravity does all of the work.”

He’s been making marbles for 16 years. Before that, Breslow made, repaired, and restored furniture in his shop.

One of the scouts asked about the wooden swords standing in a nearby box. “We’ve made those for the Renaissance Festival for 32 years,” Breslow said. “If anybody has a sword and shield like that, thank you.”

With scraps of wood from his woodworking business, he made toys and board games. For some of those board games, he needed marbles. The local dime store only had one color, so he ordered a bunch of marbles from a factory. And then he started making his own.

On the days Breslow does demonstrations, he’ll make 6-8 marbles in front of an audience, and then before he goes home he’ll make another 4-5 for inventory. His store also sells marbles made by other glass artists from around the country.

Plus they sell huge quantities of the machine-made marbles. Thousands of marbles in clear bins brighten the front room in the store. You can choose from iguana which has a green base with yellow swirls, or the triceratops, a green-yellow base with red and black streaks. The Neptune is a transparent blue base with opaque white swirls. The names of marbles are colorful themselves: swamp thing, Bengal tigers, soap bubbles, tiger sharks and bumblebees.

The store is fun for anyone who has ever been a kid. There are current-day and retro toys. If you’re looking for a Slinky, a gyroscope, Fiddle Sticks, a bendable Gumby or Pokey, or even Mr. Bill, you can find them here.

There were items in the store that took me back to my childhood, for example, an inflatable punching toy about 3-feet high that is weighted on the bottom and inflated on the top; you box it or punch it down and it springs back upright.

And Super Balls. I haven’t thought of the Super Ball since mine took a wrong bounce and disappeared when I about was 12. I had one of the early Super Balls in the ‘60s. It was about the size of a racquet ball. I’d bounce it on the sidewalk and it would fly as high as the full-grown elm trees in our yard.

Breslow walked around in front of his work stand to give the audience a close-up view of the marble-in-progress.

“If this falls off, do not pick it up and hand it to me,” he warned us. “It’s very hot.”

Then he tapped the marble off of the glass rod it was attached to, repaired that connecting spot, the marble’s “belly button,” then placed the marble into a nearby kiln, set at 960 degrees, a cool-down temperature, for overnight.

Breslow barely finished with one demonstration before he started the next one. As I looked at some of the antique toys in his studio, I heard him talking to a man who was there for the next show.

“I’m ready to get started,” Breslow told the man. “This never gets old.”

*Moon Marble is one of the Kansas Sampler Foundation’s 8 Wonders of Kansas Commerce and is located at 600 E. Front Street in Bonner Springs. For demonstration hours or to schedule a group tour, visit www.moonmarble.com or call 913-441-1432.

Copyright 2012 ~ Cheryl Unruh

columns, commerce, Kansans, life on the ground, other people's stuff

  1. Janet Fish
    February 5th, 2013 at 19:17 | #1

    I have wanted to go visit this place for years! I think we’ll go do that this summer. That must have been a fun day. Thanks Cheryl.

  2. Chuck Buerki
    February 6th, 2013 at 12:17 | #2

    Amazing story.

  3. Greenseeds
    February 7th, 2013 at 15:48 | #3

    This is one of my family’s favorite places. And we’re always thrilled when we actually time our visits so we can catch marble making in the process.

  4. February 9th, 2013 at 13:53 | #4

    …been there…watched it…bought his marbles and a yoyo…left happy!

  5. Ralph Gillispie
    February 9th, 2013 at 14:26 | #5

    Sorely missed. The many scenes photographed by Dave, allsesmostest daily.. LOL. Now, the Prairie Dust has been blown away with Kansas breezes, and in its place is a very nice collection. I dare say, the Collection, while very nice… does not seem to have the character of the old Dust. Sorta like the marbles of old times, circa 1937… not the same as created today by the Marble Master, Bruce. Again, thank you both for allowing this ol’Kansas boy in Idaho to kick up the dust from Pawnee Rock and beyond. You are appreciated.

  6. February 9th, 2013 at 17:00 | #6

    That was a wonderful trip and we really enjoyed Bruce.
    Ralph, thank you for the kind words. I switched to the “collections” site for a couple reasons. I’ve often had the naggy feeling that a daily photo type blog makes photos seem so perishable – like here’s the new fresh image while the others become stale or expired. I wanted something with a more enduring feel. Also the new site is better adapted to new mobile devices and will adjust to the screen size of different devices. It also supports a wider variety of media so I can embed audio, video, slideshows, etc. which is very difficult on the old site.
    Nevertheless, after reading your words I realized I miss the old Prairie Dust too so I put it back up. Collections will continue as something of a “best of” site (at least my personal favorites) and Prairie Dust will serve as the work horse what-am-I-up-to-now sort of site.
    Thanks again for your visits and encouragement.