Saturday, September 27, 2008

Flintknappng 101: Tools

Flintknapping is a process of reduction, and different tools are needed at different stages. Hammerstones are used with large nodules of stone to fracture off spalls, or smaller flakes. They have a coarse surface and ideally are egg-shaped. The spalls can further be thinned down with hammerstones, or billets. Billets are antler of deer, moose, or elk - where the antler joins the skull. The material is denser there. Modern knappers use copper headed billets. Antler and copper are used because they give a little on impact, not putting as much shock into the stone.

Spalls and flakes are thinned down with billets till they are considered thin enough to procede to the next stage which is pressure flaking. Again, pressure flakers can be of antler or copper. In my opinion, antler might be too slick for beginners and might slip more easily leading to injury. This is usually the stage most people are introduced to flintknapping, chipping small flakes into arrowheads. Also needed are an abrading stone to grind the edges of the piece you are working. This can be a broken grinding wheel, or a stone with an abrasive surface. Edges are abraded throughout the stages to strengthen the area worked on. This strengthens the edge to be able to take more pressure, or impact, and remove better flakes. Thin weak edges crumble. During the process of knapping you will want to protect your hand, and leg during percussion, with a leather pad to avoid injury. You can find and make your own tools, or purchase them from a flintknapping supplier. The small picture is some of the tools Rick Hamilton uses to demonstrate traditional knapping - hammerstones, abrading stones, antler billets and flakers. Also, pictured is a box of bandaids. We'll talk about that next.

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