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Thread: The Knapping Thread - Show your projects, Discuss techniques, Give and receive advice

  1. #1
    Voice in the Wilderness preachtheWORD's Avatar
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    Default The Knapping Thread - Show your projects, Discuss techniques, Give and receive advice

    So, there seems to be a handful of us here that are quite interested in flintknapping. Perhaps it would be good of we could roll the topic into one comprehensive thread. It might be useful for reference purposes.

    Who knows, the "great and powerful Mods" might even sticky such a thread. I am not worthy of so great an honor, but the subject may be.

    Things to do in the Knapping Thread:

    1. Discuss knapping - techniques, tools, materials, etc
    2. Show your projects, current attempts, etc.
    3. Post links to useful information relevant to knapping
    4. Ask questions and receive good advice about knapping
    5. Answer questions and give good advice about knapping

    Hopefully this thread could become a good resource.
    Last edited by preachtheWORD; 03-18-2010 at 10:06 AM.
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    Voice in the Wilderness preachtheWORD's Avatar
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    Okay, I'll make the first contribution.

    About 15 years ago my Dad started knapping. Back then I never really tried it myself, but by watching him I began to understand the basic concepts. Very recently I decided it was time for me to do it for myself.

    Yesterday I made my third point. Here it is. (material: green obsidian)
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    This sort of documents my progress so far. From left to right, an obsidian spall, my first point, my second point, and my third point.
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    I have had an incredible resource in learning to knap - my Dad. He is quite experienced, patient, and has the time to teach me. Below is some of his work, from 10+ years ago. Two obsidian points: (sorry about the pic quality)
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    And a decorative obsidian turtle that my Dad knapped. It was a decoration that went with a soapstone peace pipe. (again, bad pic quality)
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    Here are two websites that have pictures and descriptions of different kinds of historic stone points:
    http://www.dhr.virginia.gov/arch_DHR/Points/psumm.xml
    http://www.lithiccastinglab.com/


    I hope to add more as we go along. I really hope others will make contributions so we can get something like a "mini encyclopedia" on knapping going.
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    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    Default A helpful knapping technique

    this might help some. Here is a pic of the posture I was shown to use. Notice I use my legs to help squeeze. Really it's my whole body, but you can easily see how the motions progress. squeeze and curl.
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    It is also helpful to use a pencil or marker to highlight the ridges on the area you wish to remove a flake, like this:
    mark the ridge on the spall
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    now you can see the point you need to press. remember posture and angle!
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    most of the ridge came off. you can see that the flake didn't travel very far because there is no convexity to the spall yet
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    resulting debris and the ridge mark in my palm guard
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    after a few passes, I marked all the ridges. this is a really helpful technique so that you can see your progress as you go.
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    I'm definately not very good yet, but this helped me to see what needed to be done. Maybe it will help someone else too.
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    Voice in the Wilderness preachtheWORD's Avatar
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    Great pics ycc! Good ideas and a good mini tutorial. That is what I want this thread to be about - to help people learn and improve upon skills in knapping.

    My style is a little different, as are my tools. I really need to get some pics up.
    Last edited by preachtheWORD; 03-18-2010 at 03:47 PM.
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    Great idea for a thread, I will be moving the more information dense posts from mine into this one via copy/paste, and of course condense them appropriately to avoid spamming everything....

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    I decided, since glass is everywhere, I would start learning the tricks of flintknapping with just that - glass. Here's the first bottle bottom I started with:

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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...

    Later on (a couple broken projects later) I managed to reduce my first point:

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    ...and have been working a few new pieces to learn how to take longer flakes more consistently. I broke 2 in a row hitting them on a ridge. For some reason I never learn my lesson... when striking glass, striking onto what's a ridge on both sides is a terrible idea, and will break it. That said, I did get a few nice flakes. One of which made it half way across... only one, but I'll take it.

    Here's some notes I've gathered which are also found in my original thread "First Flintknapping Experiences":

    -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
    When addressing a very small area which needs to be fixed, like a shelf or a squared edge, I used to focus on it and start whapping away to solve the problem. However, just like any process of reducing material (sanding, grinding, whittling, etc.), I found that success only found me when I took my time with wider 'runs' making my way all the way across the edge until the problem was solved. When I decided to just hammer off the defects, it usually hinged or destroyed any pattern I had going. If I started from the beginning of the edge and worked my way across, providing more concentration and perhaps taking some bigger flakes at the problem area, I could rid myself of the defect and be left with a still uniform piece.

    -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. <(!this is corrected below!) -- 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 toward it. I am afraid that if I hit it toward the center, more parallel to the piece, I will simply break it, since I am using hard steel on fragile glass.)

    !-- I'm correcting some earlier notes. Indeed the more glancing the blow was, the larger the flake. However, this is because I was hitting a square edge, and a more glancing blow was just simply more appropriate of an angle. I have learned now that to achieve longer flakes, when you are striking onto bevels (which is normally what you're doing), you should strike into the piece very slightly, not away from it.

    -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.

    And a disclaimer, just for you: I have only knapped about 6 pieces of glass, and 0 pieces of stone (going to put some effort into hunting stone soon, but still using up these bottles). Although all experience is genuine, this is as limited and context specific as it gets. Therefore, I don't want you to treat my notes as professional instructions, because they're far from it. Instead, these are simply my observations over a short experience with flintknapping and if you have a hard time with the advice they give, just forget about it and look it up somewhere else.

    I hope this post helps your thread!
    Last edited by Deadly Tao; 03-20-2010 at 09:57 PM.

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    reclinite automaton canid's Avatar
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    here's some stuff i happened to have handy in the same album [amazingly, i am organized from time to time].

    this is a pendant i made. i believe it was a swiller's lowlife bottle bottom:
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    these are a couple of my first beer bottle points:
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    this was porcelain from a broken sink i found by the side of a road:
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    this hawk head was made from basalt i found in oregon, which had a very clear grain, glassy ring and was hard as satan's bunions to knap. the next time i work basalt, i'm power-grinding it.
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    this is a preform for a larger point than i usually make, made from a broken ashtray i found while excavating my current garden:
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    and here it is finished:
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    here is an assortment of knapable stone from california and oregon. i keep this around as a visual aid, to show people what kinds of stone i'm talking about:
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    here is an obsidian microlith on a glowgun dart [the fur was later trimmed to a reasonable volume]:
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    not a lot of useful tips, advice, etc, but it does show a few ideas for projects.
    Last edited by canid; 03-20-2010 at 11:30 PM.
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    Voice in the Wilderness preachtheWORD's Avatar
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    Candid -

    Wow! That is some really excellent work! I especially like the first "pendant" point. I can see some really good pressure flakes that go all the way across. Looks like you really know your stuff.

    Out of curiosity, did you try to pressure flake that big chunk of basalt, or did you percussion flake it? (I think that is the right term for working the stone by striking it?)


    Deadly Tao -

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I hope to start working on knapping some glass very soon. I hear that it flakes easily but also breaks easily.


    Happy Knapping!
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    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    PTW, in all my limited experience, glass and obsidian behave the same way.
    I have a question about hawk handles: What's the best way you've found for grooving your handle to mount the stone? I tried the burning ember and straw-blowing on a piece of red-tip yesterday, but that wood doesn't burn well at all, so I'm looking for an alternative, whether it's a diff method or just diff wood.
    suggestions?
    and your bindings: how do you seal off your sinew? hide glue? pine pitch? both?

    Nice looking points btw. I broke 2 and finished 1 crappy one yesterday. no pic.. it wasn't a proud piece lol. I'm gonna throw it in somebody's driveway and let their kids find it.
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    It’s been awhile since I have banged on rocks – guess I got side tracked with steel. You guys inspired me to go out today before the rains and make a few tools. They aren’t pretty, but they are functional. I used a little flint and some coral.

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    I used a small piece of bamboo and some palmetto leaf cordage to attach this small blade and make it easier to work with. It sliced through that piece of leather as easily as any knife.

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    Voice in the Wilderness preachtheWORD's Avatar
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    Crash - I really like the blade in the handle. Nothing fancy, just functional. I have seen some "show piece" knapping work that didn't seem functional at all. Those long, thin blades look great - but will probably break under much pressure.

    YCC - I hope you were asking Candid about the tomahawk handles. I have no idea yet. With a metal bladed knife you could carve the "notch" out, but with "primative" tools I imagine it gets much harder. Could you describe the "burning ember straw-blowing" method?
    Last edited by preachtheWORD; 03-21-2010 at 01:34 PM.
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    WOW, I am impressed by all of your work.
    Keep it up guys, I'm enjoying these.
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    reclinite automaton canid's Avatar
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    preach: i used both techniques. i roughed it out from a large spall [over 12x8"] that i knocked off of a boulder.

    the thinner i had it, the worse the flake angles seemed to get, and by the end of it [you can see the last flakes taken off from the edge] i could only get decent flakes off from thin sections.

    the edge was finished by flaking. the basal end was basically clumsily bashed it into shape. this stuff does not behave terribly predictably, and it chews copper to pieces.
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    Senior Member Ted's Avatar
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    GREAT, GREAT STUFF!!!!! Thank you gentleman!
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    Default The burning ember method

    basically it's just like it sounds. you put a hot coal on top of whatever you want a hole in, and use a straw to blow the heat down onto the surface. any plant with a hollow center will work, bamboo comes to mind as an easy one, but I had a plastic straw handy.
    after a few minutes of burning and blowing, normally you would chip / grind / scrape out the char, drop another coal in, and blow some more. kind of tedious, but would probably work well on a wood that's a little less dense. Red Tips hardly burn in a bonfire, so not really a suitable wood for this method. I tried to find a nice piece of hickory or cedar today, but kinda got sidetracked with wildflowers lol.
    of course it takes a bigger coal than this, but you'll get the idea.
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    I think with this wood i'd fare better getting a different wood lol. really hard stuff though so there ought to be some good uses for it. Naturally this could be more easily accomplished with modern tools, but you know me, I like doing stuff the hard way I read about this hafting method in "Naked Into the Wilderness" and have done it on some soft stuff that wasn't good for anything, but just thought about trying it again.
    I went as far as to line the area I didn't want to burn with clay and piling coals into the "pit" and blowing. this wood is just too hard. I have a couple pieces of other stuff to try, maybe with some pics with results
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    Voice in the Wilderness preachtheWORD's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by canid View Post
    the edge was finished by flaking. the basalt end was basically clumsily bashed it into shape. this stuff does not behave terribly predictably, and it chews copper to pieces.
    Man, it looks good to me, I bet it would make a very functional stone axe. I have always had my doubts about how useful a stone axe would be, but from the looks of that it would work very well.
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    Voice in the Wilderness preachtheWORD's Avatar
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    ycc - Okay, now I get the "straw and coal" thing. I thought you meant the other kind of straw - dried grass.

    Desire to be "primitive" aside, that method seems painfully tedious. I could see using it to drill a hole, but to hollow out a haft seems like an extreme amount of work compared to the end result. But I don't know that I have a better method that does not emply modern tools.

    I have mounted "heads" to "handles" before by splitting a green stick, wedging the head between the splits, and lashing it all together to keep it from splitting further. But it only works well if you have a very flat head to mount in the handle. I suppose you could scrape down the wood after you have split it to make room for the head.

    Do you suppose that a stone axehead could be hafted by scraping down a long green stick in the middle, heating and bending it until you have basically folded it in half, putting the head in and lashing it down? Sounds like it would work to me. The green wood should shrink up and tighten down on the head. Just a thought.
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    reclinite automaton canid's Avatar
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    I have always had my doubts about how useful a stone axe would be, but from the looks of that it would work very well.
    some materials are better suited than others [the obsidian axe was more of a decorative item], but basalt is hard as all get out. stone axes are generally used much more gingerly, to to make smaller cuts per stroke than metal ones.

    I thought you meant the other kind of straw - dried grass.
    that's exactly where the word comes from, and grass/reed stalks have been used for all sorts of things from pipe stems to drinking straws.

    Do you suppose that a stone axehead could be hafted by scraping down a long green stick in the middle, heating and bending it until you have basically folded it in half, putting the head in and lashing it down?
    it's been done historically, so yes, i'm sure it could.
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    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    the straw and coal works really well on soft wood, but you dont really want soft wood for a tool handle. I gotta try some other materials. Like many things primitive, it is rather tedious, but when you're talking about burning calories, this is far less taxing than say, drilling enough holes with a hand or bow drill, provided you have time.
    Like I say, I read about it, but have yet to see it prove to be a useful method with hard wood. works good on soft stuff.
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    Voice in the Wilderness preachtheWORD's Avatar
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    Default A half dozen new points

    I sat down yesterday and knapped a half-dozen points, and boy is my left hand and wrist sore! I'm still getting used to the awkward way you have to hold your wrist. And even with a doubled layer of leather I have put a sore spot on my palm from jamming my flaker into it. But that's the price you pay. My hands will toughen up sooner or later.

    Here are the points I knapped yesterday. Most of them came from very small pieces of material. Some of them are really a little small for practical use, but they made good practice.
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    FIRST ROW: The first two are white quartz. This is the stone that the natives in my area most commonly used for knapping until they obtained better stone through trade. It knaps okay, but the flakes are really short. You typically end up with a much thicker point. Some of the original points that I have found were almost cylindrical. Second is a point made of glass from a bottle bottom. This was my first attempt at knapping glass. It was definitely easier than stone. I am just glad I didn't break it.
    SECOND ROW: First, another white quartz piece. It doesn't look very nice, but it looks a lot like many of the original points I have found in my area. Second is a piece of gray obsidian. It was very small, but I was happy with it. As for the final point, I have no idea what the material is, except that it is a nightmare to work with! It reminded me of a gravel. It was exceedingly hard, but tended to crumble rather than flake. As you can see, I never even got the stone "cleaned up." I couldn't get it notched out like I wanted either. Maybe somebody can clue me in to what the material is. But I do know what kind of material it is - bad.


    Here is a closer shot of the only two points I knapped yesterday that I was really satisfied with (despite their size.)
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    Here is a picture of all the points that I have knapped so far. Nothing impressive, but I am pretty happy with my progress. I know I can make a good point out of good material. Now I want to learn to make a good point out of bad material.
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    I look forward to some more posts and pics!
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