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Thread: First Flintknapping Experiences

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    Post First Flintknapping Experiences

    I have begun learning the process of flintknapping hands-on. I have done a good amount of research, and am familiar with a handful of concepts and terms within the skill, and have decided that youtube can help me no further.

    I have also decided to start with glass. The bottom of beer bottles, to be exact. My neighbor's yard and the sidewalk parallel to it is a rich source of naturally occurring beer bottles (I haven't asked why...). I figured that I would get some of the basic learning out of the way by simply making an edge with glass and then reducing it and reducing it until there's hardly any glass left. It may seem like a waste, but I'm not in the business for making a trophy just yet, I am focusing on getting as much practice out of ever gram of material as possible.

    Here's some pictures of the piece before I finished reducing the wall of the bottle down to the bottom; along with a picture from the side to show the flaking pattern, which is crude because this part I find to be easy and like to just get it done with. Detail and careful planning will come in when I get the 'walls' off.

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    The uniform bumps in the second image are from the bottle's original shape. I wish I could make my flakes that uniform...

    At this very point in time, I have it reduced to just the bottom, and am trying to uniform the edge to make it easier to plan my strikes later on. I will post another picture when that's complete.

    A few notes:

    -Maintaining Good Form
    I found that I get a little bit worse and worse as I go and a good way to fix that is to stop knapping, take a look at the piece to determine what should be done next, and most importantly, correct my grip on my billet (which is my pocket knife's back end). Just correcting the grip improves my accuracy back to where it was and seems to give me larger more uniform flakes. Perhaps not everybody has this problem, but I loosen and loosen my grip as I go subconsciously and I pay for it, so the first thing I do when it start to get difficult is check my grip, the angle of the piece, and if that's really where I should be working on it.

    -Correcting Flukes and Problem Areas
    I found that working on larger areas and not stopping to correct any flukes has helped a lot. I used to get frustrated at overly large flakes or difficult areas to flake at all, and I would focus on solving that area, which would break the piece or ruin the pattern I have going. It's treated me much better to do large passes even when focusing on the fluke or problem area to avoid making the edge uneven. This may prove the be different when I start to shape the actual object, for now I am just removing the edge from bottom...
    Last edited by Deadly Tao; 03-09-2010 at 09:12 PM.


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    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    Looks good to me! you are definately on the right track DT. The best part of this post is you are starting from knowing basically nothing. Please keep this post updated with your progress as it may help anyone else looking to get started.

    Looks to me like you have begun to systematize (sp) your flaking and it sounds like you are taking breaks to study your piece. It's important that every flake you push be with intent. It's too easy to just start whittling on a piece and not stop to look at what you are doing. Good for you. It seems to be a habit I can't break. Can't seem to get out of "chess mode" where you are thinking 3 moves ahead. Every chip must be deliberate.

    Keep up the good work. Looks like you got a fine start. Just don't let the glass spoil you
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    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    Also, you are correct in not worrying about shape yet. Better to practice on angles, pressure, and posture.

    Again, Good Job!
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    Once the walls were removed, I started to uniform the edges by making a bevel that removes those bumps from the bottom of the bottle's original shape. I figure that they will screw up everything if I land my blows on them, so I am removing them as flakes. The first images shows the bottom where you can see some flakes I left on for the image to show what I'm talking about. The second image is the other side to demonstrate how well it's been working out in terms of making a uniform and round piece.

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    Notes:

    -Angle of strike
    I have been paying attention to what angles make what flakes, to learn how to properly hit it before I start shaping the piece. So far it's taught me that a more glancing blow, or shallower angle, creates a much larger flake. It's also wider, but I will keep in mind that it may be wider simply because of how steep the edge is. I am still hitting the original face to create a bevel, I haven't yet begun to strike onto a bevel yet. This is contradictory to what I have read and I assume it's only true for striking at square edges. But I can't deny the results, so I will have to say that, when dealing with square edges, I can make quick work of them by striking with more glancing blows. (Just to clarify, the shallow of glancing blows hit the piece at an angle that moves down and away from the center of the piece, not towards it. I am affriad that if I hit it towards the center, more parallel to the piece, I will simply break it, since I am using hard steel on fragile glass.)

    -Follow Through
    It occurred to me from the very beginning that I should follow through with my strikes. As with anything you swing or strike, it makes sense to follow through. However, I have noticed that the benefit and consistency gained from properly following through with my strikes is amplified when I am hitting it properly and at the correct angle. Therefore, I can assume that it's easier to find the correct angle and proper hit when you are following through as well. So from now on, I think I will make sure to follow through with every strike.

    I have the disadvantage of being spoiled not only by the material but it's shape. I don't have to thin anything, it's already very thin. Because of this, I won't be able to experiment with striking to remove long flakes or even flutes that can travel, in some cases, all the way across the piece. I suppose I could try with the glass, but I only have one piece for tonight, so I will stick with basic techniques.
    Last edited by Deadly Tao; 03-09-2010 at 11:14 PM.

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    Cool, I hope to learn this myself. Glad you're sharing!
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    At this point in time I am confident that the edges are sharp enough to use this piece of glass as a survival tool. Being glass, and having rather crude edges and a round shape, it would probably only be good for cutting rope, skinning animals, or gutting fish. If you felt so inclined to use a piece of glass for scraping hide, the edges of this piece could easily be smoothed out and used for that, or something like that, too.

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    I managed to make it more rectangular in an attempt to remove the curve from the piece... this is where I make one key mistake... I didn't bother looking up some information to confirm if my idea was correct. This is the idea that by striking slightly inward, past perpendicular, I would get longer flakes. The pictures do the rest of the explaining.

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    So only one note this time: If the information is available, find it before continuing.

    I will get another bottle bottom to this step, hopefully much faster than the first time, and continue adding images of my progress along with some of my notes. That may take until the end of tomorrow, so stay tuned.

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    Progression!

    I learned a few short weeks ago that you have to PROGRESSIVELY angle your blows (or pressure flakes) toward the center of the piece GRADUALLY. Too much angle and you'll snap it, as you found out.
    Looks to me like you are making some really nice progress and teaching yourself along the way!
    the only pointer I can give you at this stage is Keep up the good work! You are definately learning and heck, before long, you may be teaching US how to knap

    If that were my bottle bottom, I'd continue flaking on each half. You'll need a glove to protect your hands.. I drove a flake into my hand a few weeks ago and had to have my wife dig it out with a razor. I think it's finally about to heal. Safety First!! don't be a dumb*** like me!!
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    In addition to gloves, I would recommend safety glasses.
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    The little shards of glass all over is what I didn't like about knapping it. It looked like trouble in the making. BTW Deadly Tao, nice work!

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    I have pricked myself in the knuckles with tiny shards of glass a few times now, because I get lazy and forget to brush off the dust and flakes after every successful couple of strikes. I am wearing fingerless gloves, which protect everything except the important parts.

    I don't have safety glasses, because I don't own a pair of glasses. However, a quick trip to the hardware store earned me 3 billets for 13 dollars, made out of copper pipe caps pressure fitted onto an improvised electrical tape fitting which is on the end of a 4 inch piece of dowel rod. Some images and details on their construction will be included when I post more progress. I also used the opposite end of the smallest billet to attach a nail which may be used for pressure flaking glass, but it seems like they need a lot more leverage with a longer handle to press flake stone in all the videos. Good thing I saved a lot of dowel rod!

    I guess teh hardware store trip would have been a great chance to get glasses... but that's my memory for ya'.

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    Here are a few tools of the trade that I use that may give you some ideas.

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    From the left - safety glasses
    Elk antler billet at the bottom and to the right. Above that -
    Lead weighted wood with copper cap. Above that -
    Rock that I sometimes use as a percussion device
    Extra copper cap. Above that -
    Small piece of automobile tire with a 1/2" wide, 1/4" deep groove cut to aid in pressure flaking.
    Small piece of copper pipe with end crimped to "slice" thin edges while shaping
    Dowel with copper ground wire inserted for pressure flaking
    Piece of grinding wheel for abrading edges of stone
    Extra ground wire (makes good pins of knives too)
    Leather pads.

    You can also use a good sized nail for your pressure flaking if that is all you have.
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    The tools I have:

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    The billets are short pieces of dowel and copper pipe caps. I didn't know what size to get, but using my method for adding weight, the large the cap, the more weight, so I decided to get several sizes. The method I used to add weight is simple: Put some change (quarters for the large one, nickles for the medium one) on top of the dowel before fitting the cap. To keep the cap on, I simply taped over top of the change with electrical tape with enough layers that the cap wouldn't go on with my persuasion alone. Then I hammered the cap over the change and tape, and had some nice press-fitted billets. The smallest one has a nail running most of the way through it for weight, and another nail sticking out of the back for pressure flaking. Unfortunately, I found pressure flaking to be very difficult with only the force of my wrist.

    The glass tool you see is what I call a thumb blade. Maybe they are really called thumb blades, I wouldn't know. Whatever the case, you simply grasp the blade's miniature handle with your thumb and index finger, and you have a broad cutting edge and a firm grip. It would only be good for cutting into flesh, or scraping things. It does NOT replace the pocket knife... not even close. However, it's a handy tool if you don't want to bloody your knife as you skin the rabbit you caught for survival dinner.

    Here's how it's held:
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    The left image would be for cutting, the right for scraping, and the middle is just for display of the shape. The "handle" is appropriately abraded and ground down to be nothing close to sharp.

    It really seems like a suitable alternative if you happen to bust your flint knife, or can't find a rock big enough to make a full knife. As long as there aren't any heavy duty jobs you need done...

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    Good deal. You're getting there.
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    I'm enjoying seeing your progress. You will do much better with the softer metals I'm sure. Keep at it. you're getting there!
    I started on a hawk head today.. then the wife came out to the shop and made me stop because my back is still out of whack... a project for another day. Making it out of the Serpentenite I found and posted a pic of in your other thread.
    so I smoked a squirrel hide instead with pecan punk.
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    Thanks a lot for this post! I learned a good bit about something I was very curious about!
    Keep in mind the problem may be extremely complicated, though the "Fix" is often simple...

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    Unfortunately, I found pressure flaking to be very difficult with only the force of my wrist.
    DT, pressure flaking takes the whole body. I use my legs as well as my chest and back to pop longer flakes, not that I'm all that good at it, but if you follow ridges that you make in your initial pecking, you can transfer that energy further down the ridge, and into the piece. just using your wrists alone won't do it on most materials. If you think it's hard pushing flakes on glass, wait till you get hold of some rock, lol!
    I think you got the bug.. show us some more pics when you can. I bet you're out there knapping right now aren't you..

    The glass tool you see is what I call a thumb blade. Maybe they are really called thumb blades, I wouldn't know.
    I don't know what any of them are called either. The rock turns into whatever shape it wants to be. some knappers are in control of their rocks. I'm kinda freeform, I go with the feel of the rock. I recognize a clovis when I see one, I don't know any of the rest. I don't worry about that stuff. the important thing is making a rock in some shape that will stick in something or cut. Style is for fashion designers and interior decorators. I'm neither of those lol. if it's functional, it's perfect.

    and it looks like you taught cowboy something
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    Yeah, I am knapping a bit more... nothing with any long term vision, though. I decided to practice some shaping and turn that blade into a rough draft of an arrow point. As I said before, I'm not in this for trophies yet, so everything is going to be made, and then unmade into something else for the sake of practice. I got the shape down, as long as a triangle has three sides. If not, I have some stuff to research.

    On a negative note... It's official: pressure flaking is impossible with the force of my wrist, considering my level of experience. As I put in one of my notes, proper technique amplifies the affect of following through with my strikes, and therefore following through can help me identify proper technique. Well that carries over here, but I lack something... proper technique amplifies the affect of proper tools, so proper tools will help me find proper technique. Time to make a real tool for pressure flaking. The nail I am using now has a flat top, because I nailed it into the rod and then cut it off at a certain length. This doesn't feel like it's helping, so I might grind it down or find a way to reverse the nail so I have a real tip.

    Here's a picture of what I have so far...
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    The little nick on the bottom is my attempt at starting a notch. Unfortunately, with pressure flaking hardly grasped and no educated understanding of how to use abrasion in this application, I didn't try to go any further. If I have one complaint about the basic skills that I have learned so far, it's that the length of my flakes is too short. Also, perhaps, the consistency of their length and shape but I assume that will come in time... One thing I like about my experience is how fast I learned to 'cheat with angles'. I read an article that said to ONLY strike a platform below the center line, but later on you will learn to cheat this with angles. Well I seem to have picked up the concept of angling my strikes rather fast, and discovered that I have been cheating with angles this whole time, especially on square edges. Maybe that's not a really good thing, but it's some contrast to how slowly I have been getting the hang of pressure flaking and lengthening my flakes.
    Last edited by Deadly Tao; 03-11-2010 at 01:28 AM.

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    It looks like you're coming along quite well. Very nice!!!

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    That's about as good a first point as anyone can ask for!

    This really makes we want to get back into knapping.
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