Home Arts & Crafts General Arts & Crafts How to flint knap, or make tools from stone.

How to flint knap, or make tools from stone.

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Written by Hanz   

When you have spare time, you may want to try the ancient art of flint knapping, which is the craft of transforming stone into useful tools such as: axe heads, knives, arrow heads, etc. You don’t need fancy tools, or even to hunt down certain types of rocks. I often practice flint mapping on the thick bottoms of glass bottles used for beer or wine, something most hunter have an abundance of.

First thing you will need is some kind of eye protection, as you will be chipping off some small sharp chips of stone or glass that could do some damage if they end up in your eyes. Eye protection is paramount to this activity and it is not worth attempting if you don’t have your eyes protected. With that said, the rest of the supplies are cheap and readily available or you can substitute them for other items.

I often work with glass bottle bottoms because they are readily available; however, flint knapping is traditionally done with stone that is hard and chips in a circular pattern such as: flint, obsidian, chert, and jasper. If you’re not a rock hound and can’t identify types of stone, simply look for a hard stone that is very hard and that fractures in an arc that forms a dish or dome shape as it breaks called conchoidal fracturing. Stone that fractures in straight lines is not well suited for flint knapping and you won’t get anywhere but frustrated. My favorite is black obsidian, which makes the sharpest blades and has a deep glassy black luster.

Once you have a piece of ideal stone or thick glass to work with, the first thing to do is to create the overall shape of whatever you plan on making. A hand axe is probably the easiest tool to start production on. To make the shape of your tool, you want to start with a process of striking it, called direct percussion, that removes large pieces of stone by striking it at an angle to remove chips.

This is the stage of the process that removes unwanted material and gives tool its intended thickness and overall shape. I use a large piece of elk antler that is thick and blunt, almost resembling a primitive hammer. It is basically a 9 inch long thick piece of antler that has been sawed on both ends so that it has two flat ends. Many people use another stone like a hammer, but I prefer the antler billet. You will strike the antler, or whatever you use as a substitute, against your stone at an angle to chip off large flakes. Don’t try to give the stone a sharp edge with the striker or you’ll take off too much material.

Once you have a nice shape to the stone you’re working with, the next step is what gives the tool a sharp edge in a process called pressure flaking. For this process I like to use the pointed tip of an antler; however, I have seen others use metal rod with some success as well. What you will do is take the antler point and apply inward pressure on the edge of the stone. With enough pressure, you will fracture a small flake off the edge of the stone. You will repeat this many time on the edge until you have a sharpened refined cutting edge or projectile point in the case of an arrow head.

With some experience you can make notches and flutes that will help you secure the stone to a handle or shaft if making an axe, spear, knife, or arrows. If you are securing the stone to something else, notches and flutes can be used to wrap sinew (I prefer moose sinew) around the stone and wood making a durable tool of primitive construction.

This is one of the oldest forms of craftsmanship dating back millions of years, and has only been largely abandoned within the last couple hundred years. If you are like me and enjoy whittling and making tools from scratch, then you will probably enjoy the primitive craft of flint mapping.

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