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Flint Knapping

Updated on May 21, 2012

What Is Flint Knapping?

Flint Knapping- is the manufacture of stone tools from flint, chert, or obsidian by the process of lithic reduction.

Sounds boring, but what is flint knapping really? Flint knapping is an addiction one acquires attempting create to a tool by smacking one stone with another.

Ancient people knapped flint to create all sorts of tools for cutting, scraping, or for use as projectile points. Later knappers made flints for flintlock firearms. Today surgeons are experimenting with obsidian scalpels which are many time sharper than those made of steel. Early results from these experiments are quite positive, with wounds healing more quickly due to finer incisions.

As a hobby flint knapping is growing in popularity with many Indian artifact collectors and history buffs. Continue reading to learn a little more about flintknapping...

 

 

 

Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Tip #1 For Beginning Flint Knappers

If you are interested in trying your hand at flint knapping stock up on Band Aids.

Flint Knapping For Beginners

The Flint Knappers Tool Kit

The Hammerstone is the most basic tool in the flint knappers tool kit. Often made of limestone or quartzite, a suitable hammerstone is oval in shape and fits comfortably in your hand. Excellent hammerstones can easily be found in your local river or stream. Hammerstones are used in the initial process of lithic reduction, removing useable pieces from larger core.

 

The Antler Billet was an integral piece of the ancient flint knappers tool kit and is still commonly used by modern knappers. The tough yet elastic properties of the antler billet allows for more controlled percussion flaking. The pedicle end of moose and elk antlers are most commonly used for billets.

  

Pressure Flakers made of antler tines were used by early knappers. Modern flint knappers use antler flakers or flakers made of copper nails mounted in wooden handles. Pressure flaking was used to remove tiny flakes while finishing blade edges and for making notches in blades and projectile points for hafting. Pressure flaking was also used to resharpen blades throughout the course of their lifetime.

Purchase Flint Knapping Tools - Flint Knappers Supplies

These low cost flint knapping supplies on EBay offer a great value for the beginning knapper. All of the supplies list here are Buy It Now auctions.

 

Public Domain Image, via WikiMedia Commons Obsidian_Core_Flintknapping
Public Domain Image, via WikiMedia Commons Obsidian_Core_Flintknapping

Flint Knapping Materials

What kind of stone is suitable for knapping? Any conchoidal fracturing stone may be used by knappers to create tools. Flint, chert, obsidian, chalcedony, and novaculite are all commonly used by flintknappers.

Modern knappers are taking advantage of many rare and exotic materials available today in order to craft beautiful colorful points. Some of these exotic materials include agatized coral, dinosaur coprolites (poo), and fossilized dinosaur bone.

See photos of an arrowhead made of dinosaur poo.

Image Courtesy Of: Childrens Museum of Indianapolis, via WikiMedia Commons

A Beautiful Wyandotte Chert Nodule

Two more inexpensive, readily available, and easily knapped materials are john stone and bottle glass.

John Stone is porcelain from an old toilet tank. Although the result of knapping porcelain will not be beautiful the soft but brittle properties of porcelain make it very easy to knap. Porcelain is excellent material for beginning knappers who want to practice their technique.

Bottle Glass or more specifically the bottom of a glass bottle is another excellent inexpensive source of knappable material. The results of knapping bottle glass can be quite stunning (see photo below) and useful as a tool. Keep in mind however if you are emptying the bottles as you go the dangers of knapping grow exponentially. I do not recommend sitting down and trying to knap 24 arrowheads out of bottle glass on one Saturday afternoon.

Flintknapping Techniques: Spalling - Spalling Video Demonstration

Lithic reduction is the process flintknappers use to create stone tools such as knives, spear points, arrowheads, or scrapers. Ancient flintknappers began this process by using a hard hammer stone to drive large flakes or spalls off a core (a large lump of flint, or other stone suitable for knapping). These large flakes or spalls could be used as tools in their own right, or worked into blanks for easy transport and refinement into tools at a later date.

Flintknapping Techniques: Percussion Flaking - Percussion Flaking Video Demonstration

Percussion Flaking is the process of removing small thin flakes from a blank or a preform by striking with a hammer stone or antler billet. The removal of these thin flakes allows the knapper to thin and refine the shape of a preform or blank to the desired shape. A skilled flintknapper can produce a fine quality arrowhead or spear point simply through the use of percussion flaking techniques.

Flintknapping Techniques: Pressure Flaking - Pressure Flaking Video Demonstration

Pressure Flaking is the technique of pushing very small flakes off a preform using an antler tine or other pressure flaking tool. Pressure flaking is used to make the final refinements to a stone tools shape, adding notches, or sharpening a blade dulled by use.

Help Reading On Flintknapping And Stone Tool Manufacture

Further Reading On Flint Knapping and Stone Tool Manufacturing

Flintknapping:

Making and Understanding Stone Tools

Flintknapping With Dr Bruce Bradley

(Plays World Wide)

 

Primitive Technology:

A Book of Earth Skills

 

 

Primitive Technology II:

Primitive Technology

 

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Did I miss something? Is there something you would like to see added? Did I hit the nail on the head? Have you tried knapping? Are You planning to try flintknapping? Let me know.

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    • IanTease profile image

      IanTease 3 years ago

      I always enjoy reading about anyone who has worked with stone and this lens was no exception. I live high in the Yorkshire Pennines and knapped flints are often uncovered here

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have several pieces of flint that have been found, and were knapped long ago by someone. I really treasure them. I have not tried knapping flint, but I might one day. - These is such a cool and unique lens, as always. :)

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      You really sound like you know your stuff. I was thinking "flint - fire" for some reason and not thinking at all of making arrowheads. Now I know.

    • Commandrix profile image

      Heidi 5 years ago from Benson, IL

      This is interesting. I once saw a demonstration of flint knapping at a museum in Ohio. Looks like it really takes a lot of patience just to get one useful item.

    • AnnaMKB profile image

      AnnaMKB 5 years ago

      Yes, I found it fascinating!

    • thesuccess2 profile image

      thesuccess2 5 years ago

      I guess not for impatient people like me!

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • profile image

      Edutopia 5 years ago

      Flint knapping is definitely a niche skill to have on hand but learning the rudiments of this skill can actually be a life saver for any of our outdoorsy readers. On an extended camping trip as a child we found ourselves short a blade after our canoe capsized. Luckily one of the adults with us knew some about knapping and was able to teach us all how to make some basic stone tools to use. Practical and educational!

    • BuddyBink profile image

      BuddyBink 5 years ago

      A fascinating lens. I always wondered how they made flint tools. Thanks

    • OldStones LM profile image
      Author

      OldStones LM 5 years ago

      @FireAndHammers: My #1 tip for beginning flintknappers is one that came from bitter experience. :) Those little bits are very very sharp.

    • FireAndHammers profile image

      FireAndHammers 5 years ago

      Love this lens! I studied prehistory at university and when the lecturer gave us a demonstration of knapping he cut his thumb open...

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Fascinating. Thanks.

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      I've always been interested in stones. Once-upon-a-time I had a tumbler but wore it out. I have never tried knapping. It looks interesting.

    • TheLittleCardShop profile image

      Malu Couttolenc 5 years ago

      This is so interesting. There is a lot of tradition and work on flint knapping. I enjoyed reading this article :)

    • Richard-H profile image

      Richard 5 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      I learnt something new today as I had never heard of flint knapping before. Great resource!