Making Marbles

The following information was provided by the late Hastings Shade, a Cherokee National Treasure and former Deputy Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1999-2003.

"When making marbles, one of the first steps is to find some sand stone that you can use to shape the marble with and make it round. You may have to find 2 or 3 different kinds of sand stone, some work better than others do. You need to find some that are real coarse and then use the one that works the best.

The second step is to choose the type of stone you are going to use to make the marble with. It could be a soft stone from the creek bed or a hard stone, like limestone or granite, if you can find any. Quality granite is hard to find. When you decide on the type of stone you are going to use, you need to get 1 or 2 extras, so you have one to chip the other stone with.

The third step is to find a sapling that is 12 to 18 inches long and about 3/4 to about 1-1/4 inch in diameter. Next, you split one end of the stick, 3 or 4 ways about 4 inches long so the marble you are working with can be wedged into the end and can be rotated between your hands as you shape and smooth marble.

Dennis Marbles 2

The fourth step is to rough shape the stone by chipping it until it is roughly round. This can be done by using the other rock of the same type or by using a modern steel bar. To get the feel of doing it the old way, it is best to use a stone and do it as our ancestors did. Sometimes when using a steel bar you chip more than you want to and it makes it hard to shape. So you have to be real careful and not hit it too hard.

The fifth step is to find a comfortable spot somewhere and some water and begin to shape the marble. The size of a marble depends on the individual. Usually the marble is about 1-1/4 inch in diameter. The water is used to pour into the depression the rock has formed in the sandstone as you spin the rock around. The water mixes with the particles from the sandstone and acts as an abrasive. This process takes from 6 to 8 hours.

Anyone who attempts to make a marble in this way can well appreciate the skill it takes to do this from the initial step to the final product. Especially the time involved.

The marble game was one of the games the Cherokees were playing when the white man came. When the missionaries came, they made the Cherokee men quit playing the marble game and quit the heavy betting. The game was nearly lost because of this. Lots of the rules have been lost."


Hastings Shade