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#132816 - 05/14/08 01:07 AM Re: First knapping class a waste [Re: ]
dweste Offline

Registered: 02/16/08
Posts: 2463
Loc: Central California
I agree knapping should begin with exposure to the wide range of possible tools that can be created. Knowing your goal is darn helpful to getting there. The sole focus on arrowheads in my first class did seem far too narrow.

I forgot to note earlier that another reason for my interest in knapping is its use of animal horn, bone, antler, teeth, and hide. My interest being the fullest use of harvested animals - as well as rocks.

#132820 - 05/14/08 01:45 AM Re: First knapping class a waste [Re: dweste]
Joseph13 Offline

Registered: 11/17/07
Posts: 88
Sorry to hear of your unenjoyable class. The book Flintknapping: Making and Understanding Stone Tools

is worth looking into. Another book I can not recall the title of mentioned using the bottom of a glass bottle for practice. It also stated obsidian and manufactured glass fracture at 100 deg angle from point of impact or during pressure flaking. As of yet my skill at making anything useful is very poor. I so recommend getting a piece of leather from a craft store as a protective surface while working the obsidian. I often get a sliver of it between my hand and the leather though. Just my 2cents worth.

You may want to look into some primitive skills type clubs whear you can go hang out/practice the stuff you are interested in learning. Just a thought.


#132841 - 05/14/08 07:21 AM Re: First knapping class a waste [Re: dweste]
past_digger Offline

Registered: 02/11/06
Posts: 26
Loc: SD, USA
For me, flintknapping is a cross between any skill requiring hand-eye coordination and an art form.

The closest thing I can relate it to is shooting pool...when I was single, I played at least six nights a week, at least an hour or two (usually more) a night, for several years. I got to a level where I could read the table, read the angles, plan the leave and several shots in advance, and I had confidence in my ability to make a shot. Fast forward, I'm married, I shoot pool maybe twice a year and it's embarassing and frustrating. No eye for the angles, no touch, no muscle memory, no confidence.

Flintknapping is the same - you've got to do it often enough to be able to read the stone, see the angles, plan several steps in advance and strike with confidence. That said, like drawing or painting, it just seems to come more naturally to some folks than others... I'm not one of them. You need to have access to A LOT of rock to get good at it. To be really good, you need that inner artist gift thing.

To get by in a survival situation, it wouldn't take much at all. Knowing what kind of rock to look for is most important - in the midwestern U.S., most creeks and rivers will have chert or quartzite cobbles - they ring or ping like glass when you tap them with another rock, rather than clunk or thud. You can make very useable choppers and flake knives with very little skill at all, with no other tools than what you find at your feet. I thought Taurus' ammo box knife was pretty cool, but given a choice (and depending on the situation), I'd personally be able to make cutting tools much faster and easier out of stone. As the saying goes, YMMV.

I don't remember exactly where you're from, but nearly every part of the country has some stone you can use. Obsidian is fun to work with, but I never thought it was very forgiving - I always like playing with quartzites best.

Use Goodsearch and look for 'knap in' for you state or region - what you spend on tuition for a class might be better spent on gas driving to a knap in. You'll meet folks with a wide range of skills and a variety of stone and tools, often times for sale or trade (especially if you have access to hides, sinew or antler).

Unless they are serious, commercial knappers, most knappers I've ever met are more than willing to give you tips, talk you through a crude biface, etc...

The best general text I've seen (disclaimer: don't know him/no financial interest, etc...) is called The Art of Flintkapping by D.C. Waldorf, his web site is here A few readings of that gave me more insight that many hours of randomly breaking rock. Bruce Bradley has a video that is pretty good at explaining the theory and thought process involved in working the stone. He's both an archeologist and a flintknapper and really understands the change in knapping technology over time and space, if you're into that kind of thing... He's also one of the best knappers in modern times. Disclaimer - he's worked with our lab in the past and teaches at a university in England we have an exchange program with.

Anyway, didn't realize I'd rambled this much. Knapping is theoretically very easy, controllable and predictable; in practice it really p*sses me off. In a good way... Hope you have better experiences with it in the future than your first class. BTW, who taught your class and where? What was the instructor's background? Just curious.

#132842 - 05/14/08 07:29 AM Re: First knapping class a waste [Re: past_digger]
katarin Offline

Registered: 06/29/06
Posts: 122
Loc: Ca, usa
I took the same class as Dweste did and throughly enjoyed myself..then again i wasn't expecting to make an arrowhead my first time out. I like how the stone feels in my hands. So maybe it's just that we have two different ways of looking at it. I would actually like to make me some tools and get some glass, and other materials to just play with to see what i can do with it. I also thought i was going to bruise from it but didn't. Maybe just different touch with the stone, but i don't know. I could see useful things that could be made out of odd shaped bits.

#132843 - 05/14/08 11:00 AM Re: First knapping class a waste [Re: katarin]
dweste Offline

Registered: 02/16/08
Posts: 2463
Loc: Central California
I enjoyed the company and didn't care whether or not I made an arrowhead, so long as I got a good start on understanding knapping - for me that didn't happen. My fault, the instuctor's fault - at this point, who cares.

I did learn from the comments of a couple friends in the class who had participated in a knap-in a few weeks earlier. Their clear, concise tips, and quick demonstrations pointed me in a different direction from the little formal instruction, especially in how to initially "break" the rock.

The combination of my frustration and the apparent waste of material just did not sit well. My interest in knapping remains strong, my experience in the class did not dimish that, and I will just move on.

Edited by dweste (05/14/08 11:17 AM)

#132888 - 05/14/08 04:53 PM Re: First knapping class a waste [Re: dweste]
Nicodemus Offline

Registered: 10/30/05
Posts: 1341
Loc: Virginia, US
I think it's kind of a bummer that you had to start off with obsidian before you learned to visualize a piece of stone and see the possibilities within.

When I started flint knapping I took a course from a local primitive skills group. The instructor started the group off with glass, johnstone (porcelain HAHA), chert and some other types of stone that he provided. However, before even getting that far we learned about theory, terminology, different ways of flaking and abrading, and more, so there was a basis for understanding and knowledge for learning to build upon.

It sounds like you were in a class where the teacher didn't understand teaching.

Also, starting to learn flint knapping with obsidian that you had to pay for strikes me as similar to learning to drive with a Lamborghini. I know it would make me apprehensive.

Well... Maybe that comparison is extreme, but we don't have obsidian locally and it costs a bit to get a decent amount of good sized quality knappable stones shipped here. Chert is somewhat less expensive because there's a small supply within the state, but we have a number of glass workers that will give us slag for free or very cheaply, and we can go to a number of places and pick up porcelain for free as well. When it's free, you don't mind whacking it with a hammer stone just to get a feel for what's going to happen when you strike a platform a certain way.
"Learn survival skills when your life doesn't depend on it."

#132899 - 05/14/08 06:36 PM Re: First knapping class a waste [Re: Nicodemus]
Mike_H Offline

Registered: 04/04/07
Posts: 612
Loc: SE PA

I must thank you for quite the humorous post! Seems that there may be some trouble in the Og family.

I don't think you are off the base tho in what you are asking for. Talk to the instructor to see if more info can be forthcoming.

"I reject your reality and substitute my own..." - Adam Savage / Mythbusters

#133138 - 05/17/08 04:35 PM Re: First knapping class a waste [Re: Mike_H]
dweste Offline

Registered: 02/16/08
Posts: 2463
Loc: Central California
Thanks, everyone!

I have added your suggestions to others made by some other equally generous knappers. I am assembling YouTube and other video-type resources and hope to add those you recommend.

Being a stubborn guy, I used my frustration with the class as motivation to use the Internet to spend many hours trying to figure out knapping. I wish I had done that before the class!

I have just heard from my instructor and it is my hope our failure of communication will just become a funny story to tell in the future. I suggested we start over and, with some more personal instruction, I think there will be a happy ending to this story.

#133178 - 05/18/08 09:21 AM Re: First knapping class a waste [Re: dweste]
Nicodemus Offline

Registered: 10/30/05
Posts: 1341
Loc: Virginia, US
I hope that you two can work it out.

Keep us informed.
"Learn survival skills when your life doesn't depend on it."

#133528 - 05/22/08 03:56 PM Re: First knapping class a waste [Re: dweste]
Am_Fear_Liath_Mor Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/03/07
Posts: 3077
Hi dweste,


It takes quite a bit of skill, practice and a lot and lots of obsidian and luck to knock out something like a clovis point. There must of been lots of 'swearing' and 'pass me another new bit over, this one is just going to have to be an arrowhead' 15,000 years ago. wink

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