Marble Pictures


Manufacturers Information Pages

Marble Articles
Marble Shows
Buy/Sell Marbles

Marble Photography
Marble Games


Finding His Marbles In Frederick County



The Frederick News-Post Online

Meg Bernhardt

August 05, 2007



Chuck Hulse Marble Maker

Photo by Skip Lawrence

Chuck Hulse of Hagerstown makes handmade marbles. He is showing a three-quarter inch marble made of Frederick County black rhyolite.


It takes Chuck Hulse more than two hours to shape a single handmade marble.

The time is worth it because machines that shape stones automatically rarely create perfectly round marbles, he said.


The Hagerstown man makes marbles for pros. There can be no imperfections.

He brought along trays of his marbles to sell to players at the U.S. Marble Championship in Middletown on Saturday. He expected to sell a couple dozen.

At $25 and more per marble, they aren't cheap. But he pointed out people are willing to pay hundreds for golf clubs and other athletic equipment, so marbles are relatively inexpensive.


Hulse started making marbles when his two sons began shooting them in Middletown Park's rings more than five years ago. Both went on to become national champions.


"I don't know anything about shooting, so I figured I'd learn something else about it," Hulse said.


He's the only marble maker in the area, he said. He learned from marble makers in Tennessee, where the Appalachian folk art is still alive.

The shape, weight, size, even the hardness of the stone can change the outcome of a game of marbles.


Depending on the game, a shooter might want a harder stone marble, so it doesn't chip, or a heavier one if the game is played on a rough surface.


For the competitive player, marble shooters are selected carefully, by weighing them in their hands and scrutinizing the size. And then there's the matter of aesthetic pride: Is it the bluest blue, the most speckled, a sleek black?


Hulse drives all over the country looking for the best materials for his marbles. Some are made of glass, but the shooters used in competitions to knock other marbles out of the ring are typically stones as hard as gems.


Flint, a silica-based mineral like quartz and obsidian, is popular, especially in Tennessee. Agate, a type of quartz that is softer and heavier, is popular in the Middletown game.


In Frederick County, Hulse found a distinctive flint that creates a black marble with white specks on it. The geologic deposit is found only in a handful of places in the country, he said.


Hulse is interested in creating marbles because he has studied handmade tools all his life. He is an anthropology professor at Shepherd University and is intrigued by folk arts and the skills required to create them.


After finding a chunk of rock in nature or at a gem show, Hulse will break it up with a hammer and then use a diamond saw to cut it into a 1-inch square. Then, he shapes it into a sphere on a modified bench grinder and finally uses a rock tumbler to polish it.


Hulse sets his favorites aside for a framed collection. He doesn't have any one that he loves more than the others, but a few are special.


"Once in a while I'll get a wild colored agate with spots and things," he said.


Home    E-Mail    Marble Pictures    Manufacturer Information    Marble Articles
Marble Shows    Marble Photography    Marble Games    Marble Links 
Buy/Sell Marbles