Glass1
Glass2
Tumbler
Craig & Cindy write in…

My whole life I’ve been fascinated with beach glass. Glass broken at the beach was eroded down by the sand, waves and time to make a smooth rounded piece of glass, as harmless as a marble. As a kid I would scour the surfline of Lake Superior for the small rounded frosty bits of glass, like little colorful gemstones found. Clear, green and brown were most common. Blue was quite rare and red even rarer. White porcelain was also hard to find. In my 20s I had a hate for beach glass when I cut my foot on a newly broken bottle. But soon after, I was back at the pebble populated surfline searching for rounded smooth ancient glass stones. Lately in the past few years, anything has been hard to find. Glass beverage containers on the beach have been replaced with aluminum & plastic. Many years and many pickers have scoured the 3’ shoreline of pebble deposit stripped clean. It’s good to know an entire generation may be free of a broken bottle accident at the beach, but it’s a shame that they will never treasure hunt the harmless colorful little glass stones at the water’s edge.

I put together a large volume tumbler for smoothing broken glass. With a hammer and brick in a basin, I break bottles into small pebble size pieces. Then I load the tumbler with the glass, some coarse sand, some lava rock and water. Three days into the tumbling process and the result is looking good. Another five to eight days and my first batch should be ready. I may have to discreetly drop the bits as I walk along the shore, as I’m sure SOMEONE will have a problem with it. But as I see it, hunting harmless colorful little glass gemstones are a fond part of being a kid at the beach.


  • harkejuice

    that’s really cool, when I was a kid, or more of one I’d be fascinated by any odd shaped or smooth and funky colored rock out there. I’ve still got a few bits of beach glass from the hidden mangrove beaches that you’ll find along the Floridian coast, I used to think they were actually gems so I hoarded them ^^

  • mother ocean

    great sentiment….BAD IDEA

  • Sleepydog

    If you’re near San Francisco you can buy this by the pound from the coolest recycled building materials please in town ($4/lb)
    http://www.buildingresources.org/redshovel

  • triangleguy

    My mother actually makes jewellery from found beach glass. (available to buy, via this despicably self promoting plug, from here) Beach glass is lovely stuff and here in Scotland we seem to have plenty of it. I’m sure there’s probably lots of uses for it that makers should surely have come up with by now. It’s a real shame if there’s none left for the children in your area (not that, of course, I’d wish cuts and injuries on them) because the hunting is a real source of fun and the recyclable crafting options are endless.

  • manoutof time

    I’ve heard tell of a beach in California that happens to have an overabundance of beach glass. Could be that it was (is?) near an area where folks dumped garbage many years ago. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

  • FB

    I grew up in Fort Bragg, CA. There’s a beach there known as glass beach (http://www.fortbragg.com/fort-bragg-attractions.php) It was an old garbage dump. There used to be tons of glass there. Now there is a fair bit but a lot less. What’s neatest about the beach now is the old metal bits. They’ve rusted into the rock or some such thing. These odd contorted rusty shapes in the rock are pretty neat. They’re almost like veins of minerals.

  • DS

    Post info on how to build the tumbler! I’ve been looking for a rock tumbler… The one you build looks awesome

  • DS

    Post info on how to build the tumbler! I’ve been looking for a rock tumbler… The one you built looks awesome

  • phlavor

    I shall share with you all the best beach glass beach ever.
    http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=40.532545,-74.15153&spn=0.000717,0.000862&t=h&z=20&om=1

    They got it all from fresh and jagged to smooth as a river stone. We had bags of the stuff until we gave it to a street jewelery maker named Wanda in San Francisco.

  • Volkemon

    @MotherOcean-

    I cannot seem to find the harm. Please enlighten us!

    Thanks!

  • TJ

    Given that glass has pretty much the same mineral components as beach sand, I can’t see the harm in leaving some, as long as it isn’t sharp!

  • Max

    I have collected Beach glass the past 35 years in both MA and FL. I too agree that it is getting harder and harder to find, however,littering and deceiving people isn’t the solution.

  • Craig

    I am the guy who is doing this; You are right, glass is MADE from sand, any glass that does not get found, erodes into it’s basic element. Is the D.N.R deceiving people when people catch released fish from a hatchery? ok, not quite the same as beach glass isn’t natural, but the real crime is sharp jagged glass broken by drunks at the beach, not what I’m doing. Besides, aside from the ‘dumping beaches’ mentioned earlier, great lakes beach glass was rare in it’s day. it truely WAS a treasure hunt. Still will be.

  • Craig

    Craig again; I am an avid recycler of discarded materials and I loved the home-made car-tire rock tumbler I found on a google search once. It was my basic design with roller bars on sleeve bearings on a wooden frame. It turned a flat truck snow tire with old hockey pucks screwed inside to help tumble the contents. (you need ribs inside like a clothes dryer to keep the contents from slipping untumbled at the bottom)I made an extra set of holes in mine to widen the spacing on the other rollerbar, in case I want to put a tire tumbler on.
    P.S. my PVC tumbler has PVC ribs glued/screwed inside to tumble contents. A 1750 RPM motor is ideal, 1″ & 5″ pulley reduction.

  • NoName

    While you can argue that glass is made from sand, the fact still stands that glass is man-made. Therefore dumping on beaches (although well intentioned) would be littering. Just because you use to be able to find it on the beach, does not mean that it should have ever been on the beach, then or now. A beach without the “beach glass” is a more natural beach, free from peoples garbage dumped in the sand. That is why many people have a problem with you idea.

    That being said I like the tumbler.

  • SDMike

    Only God can make a tree and, possibly clean sand. However Man occasionally makes beautiful things – even by accident. Beach glass, weathered and smooth, is one of those beautiful things.
    PS I hug trees – even those I plant.

  • Craig

    DUMPING, like I have wheelbarrows of it!
    In that case, every Geo-Cacher is wrong for putting TONS of garbage in our woods & parks. Get real, it’s fun and mindsparks our youngsters. A million stones on the waterline, and ONE tiny piece of beachglass amongst it sparks a young mind. “wow, erosion smoothed this so nice” He/She hunts for more, it gets taken off the beach in one season. People have a problem with THIS project, when 1 in 4 who smoke combined will leave 100,000 butts in the sand for every 1 piece of beach glass. PLLLEEEAAASSSEEE! If you know what beach glass is, you know you have to scour for it to see/find it hidden invisible amongst the pebbles. Oh, for years I was a leading Eau Claire neighborhood cleanup guru, how much garbage did you all individually pick up this decade?
    relax, lighten up.

  • jordan leighton

    i live on a small island in the middle of the bay of fundy, new brunswick ,canada i have enjoyed for years the pleasure of hunting beach glass.a really cool way to display it for all your friends to enjoy is to make a centerpiece for your dining table . use a large porclin serving tray.lay mini lites on the bottom and smother with sea glass.awsome when lit up.(battery powered strings of lites)

  • jordan leighton

    i live on a small island in the middle of the bay of fundy, new brunswick ,canada i have enjoyed for years the pleasure of hunting beach glass.a really cool way to display it for all your friends to enjoy is to make a centerpiece for your dining table . use a large porclin serving tray.lay mini lites on the bottom and smother with sea glass.awsome when lit up.(battery powered strings of lites)

  • jordan leighton

    i live on a small island in the middle of the bay of fundy, new brunswick ,canada i have enjoyed for years the pleasure of hunting beach glass.a really cool way to display it for all your friends to enjoy is to make a centerpiece for your dining table . use a large porclin serving tray.lay mini lites on the bottom and smother with sea glass.awsome when lit up.(battery powered strings of lites)

  • jordan leighton

    i live on a small island in the middle of the bay of fundy, new brunswick ,canada i have enjoyed for years the pleasure of hunting beach glass.a really cool way to display it for all your friends to enjoy is to make a centerpiece for your dining table . use a large porclin serving tray.lay mini lites on the bottom and smother with sea glass.awsome when lit up.(battery powered strings of lites)

  • jordan leighton

    great idea

  • jordan leighton

    great idea

  • NoNameAgain

    So you are saying that just because you have cleaned up garbage in the past that it is ok to dump garbage again? Yeah beach glass looks nice. I’ll admit that. You know what else looks nice? A beach that hasn’t been tampered with by people. A beach that looks just like it did 500 years ago before man did anything to it. There is a idea in Scouting called “Leave No Trace.” Take some time and check this site out and educate yourself. http://www.scouting.org/boyscouts/resources/21-105/ Now; sure the guy throwing his cigarette in the sand is wrong…but face it…YOU ARE TOO.

  • Geejay Beasey

    I see the point of leaving the beach untouched. I was a Boy Scout. But we’re so past ever being able to see a beach as it was 500 years ago. If I’m going to find something, I hope it’s a beautiful piece of beach glass. And some trilobite fossils.
    When I was a kid, growing up in Cleveland, the ultimate find was a shark’s tooth on the Lake Erie shore. Of course, we never actually found any. But we did convince ourselves that various triangular pebbles were in fact shark’s teeth.
    Maybe I should get a handful of sharks teeth and drop those around the Great Lakes beaches!

  • Tisi

    It’s a great idea. Unnatural? It turns back into sand, which is natural. So chill out. It’s beautiful, not sharp, not dangerous, and if unfound, will turn into sand. No big deal. Find something worse for the environment to complain about. Like the fact that we’re all on computers arguing this, wasting electricity ;P

  • Tisi

    And to add, something beautiful that turns back into the ground it is dumped in is not garbage.

  • Geo

    I think it’s a lovely idea. Wish I could visit Lake Superior and find some bits of your magical glass.

  • capenana

    Are there any beaches in the Caribbean where beach glass is abundant other than Puerto Rico?

  • Suzie

    I decided after reading about Fort Bragg etcand how many people lamented the loss of sea glass due to pc types and recycling to re-stock the beaches with new broken glass. cobalt art glass wine bottles- I break it up and smash – conceal it in a paper bag and throw it into low tide.
    so why cant we restock the beaches? how long would it take to become real sea glass.
    don’t go pc on me about this!
    If you know a rocky beach that is a good place to start

  • Kaharoa

    A much as some would like it, the earth is NOT a closed system… A rock from space could hit us tomorrow and split the planet in two… And that would be OK…

    life happens in the mix

    The trick is to balance the reverence with the letting go…

    Children looking for sea glass are doing just this.

    Side note: to make a tumbler go to the dump and find a trashed printer, everything you need is inside.