Knives of Flint
Primitive knives for the modern hunter.

So you want to learn flintknapping...


I was recently asked "what's the best way to get started with flintknapping?". Here's my reply that I wanted to share with anyone with the same desire:

#1: Go to a knap-in near you. (see Links below) The knappers there will gladly teach you how at no cost, and also supply you with rocks and tools (vendors are always present). Costs can be adverted if you know where to find local knappable rock, and the tools are easily made if you are handy. I bought a ton of "bull rocks" (large chert nodules from central Texas) from a local landscape business for about $12. They were low quality and tough rocks, but perfect for my basic learning. Don't waste money on expensive exotic material to learn on. Some people learned knapping on the bottoms of beer bottles, but these days they are too thin and are not flat. Any glass that's 1/4" or thicker, or even toilet tank tops, are good to learn on. The people at knap-ins will supply you with endless suggestions and seeing their abilities will be an encouragement. Not all of them are master knappers with years of experience. Some have been at it for only a short time yet turn out great work. Those are the ones that encouraged me the most when I was starting to learn.

#2: Buy a video... I suggest "The Art of Flintknapping" by DC Waldorf for the basics. There's a few who sell it on-line. Waldorf doesn't primarily use an ishi stick for pressure flaking, but I highly suggest it because it can prevent damage to your hands and shoulders. I can't stress that enough. I believe it will also improve your knapping because you are using your more powerful leg muscles to pry off flakes instead of the arms and shoulders. Get (or make) one at least 20" long, or longer depending on your arm length. There are some on the market that are 18" and are a waste of money... unless you're a small child. They don't have to be of space-age Delrin plastic either. A broom handle is fine. If you don't want to invest in a DVD, then the next best thing is to see what's on, specifically watch Paleomanjim's videos.

#3: Decide what style(s) of knapping you want to use. Waldorf covers most all the methods and types of knapping. You don't necessarily have to bust rocks to make arrowheads but you could work with rock that's already cut into thin slabs and use the pressure flaking method alone to make a beautiful point. I personally wanted to learn it all and especially how the Indians did it using rock in its natural state with simple tools. So I learned how to initially break rock using the percussion method and then using pressure flaking to complete the arrowhead. I eventually learned how to work slabs, and later still I learned how to use the flake-over-grinding (FOG) method. There's no real progression to which method you use first but some factors may determine it for you. To work slabs or FOG could be cost prohibitive with acquiring cut rock or getting the equipment to do it yourself. Working slabs or FOG with pressure flaking are the easiest methods and you get very nice results but I personally recommend learning percussion first. It's more difficult but the reward of personal achievement is far greater. You need to decide what it is that you want to achieve: master ability, or just some mediocre points to fill a frame or two.

#4: If possible find someone who will be your mentor or co-learner. The first ton of rocks you break up can be discouraging but you WILL get better... and it's all in relationship to how many hours you devote to it. When you hit plateaus of ability then it's time to go to a knap-in or buy an advanced video. If you have someone who is your knapping buddy then you may get the encouragement to make it past the learning barriers. Most people who want to learn never make it past a couple of attempts at making an arrowhead because they get discouraged. You must have a strong inner desire to stick with it and take it all the way. I didn't have a mentor but what made me continue was seeing a guy at a knap-in knock out a beautiful spear point. I found out that he had only been doing it a year with about an hour of practice on each weekend. I figured that he was no more gifted than me and if he could do it, then I could as well. I'm glad I toughed it out.

My experiences with flintknapping have far greater applications to life in general. I learned that I can do anything that I set my mind to. Learning to flintknap was not as great and overwhelming feat I had expected. That's because I learned it one small step at a time. Someone once asked me, "How do you eat an elephant?" The answer is simple, "One bite at a time!" The same attitude it takes to eat an elephant (or to becomiing a flintknapper) can be applied to anything else that you want to accomplish in your life.

Good luck!

>>>>-------------->   Stacy Reeves   <--------------<<<<


Paleomanjim on YouTube.  A great video instructional resource
for flintknappers, for the novice and any level of experience.

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