Industrial Glass Marbles

I remember playing with glass marbles as a child’s toy. I also remember mom being not terribly pleased when she would find them in various corners of the house, and definitely unhappy when some were on the floor where an adult might step on one and fall.

I also remember the swirls of color that were added to the glass to make them look prettier, and those are absent from industrial glass marbles. They have a job to do, and they don’t need to look pretty doing it. Not only do they lack the colorful swirl, they don’t even necessarily need to be perfectly spherical or have smooth exterior surfaces. I hadn’t known about these glass marbles with jobs until I learned of an overturned truck accident that was very difficult to clean up because its cargo were a full load of industrial marbles.

Curious, I read up on industrial glass marbles and how they are employed. I was excited when I learned that they are commonly used inside aerosol spray cans to stir its contents. They are what rattles when we shake up a can before spraying. I consumed several spray cans of Plasti-Dip for my RX-BB-8 project and saved the cans planning to cut into them to look at some industrial marbles up close. I finally got around to that particular project.

Clamp to release remaining pressure

Even though they’ve stopped delivering dip, these cans still had some propellent inside delivering pressure. It seemed wise to relieve that pressure before we cut into the can, so I used a clamp to keep the top pressed and waited until the hissing stopped.

Drill into can for industrial glass marble

A hole is then drilled in the can for a starting spot, where pliers can dig in and start tearing up the thin metal shell. It only takes a few rips to open a hole large enough for the marble to see the light of day.

Industrial glass marble extracted

A little cleanup later, I had my first look at a cosmetically imperfect but still fascinating industrial glass marble.

Industrial glass marble x3

I had several other empty spray cans which underwent the same procedure for marble extraction. I was fascinated by the surface texture of the first one I extracted, it gave the glass sphere more character than a perfectly smoothly counterpart. I plan to explore putting them in front of LEDs so their flaws can be part of a distinctive light diffuser.

I do not consider those glass imperfections of industrial glass marbles to be bug — I believe they have potential to be very unique features!

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