Flint Knapping

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What is Flint Knapping?

Flint knapping is a technique that has been used for thousands of years to shape certain types of rock into useable tools.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knapping defines Flint Knapping like this:

“Knapping is the shaping of flintchertobsidian or other conchoidal fracturing stone through the process of lithic reductionto manufacture stone tools, strikers for flintlock firearms, or to produce flat-faced stones for building or facing walls, andflushwork decoration. The original Germanic term “knopp” meant strike, shape, or work, so it could theoretically have referred equally well to making a statue or dice…”

Flint Knapping is especially good for making cutting tools such as arrowheads, knives, animal skinners, hide scrapers, etc.  The key to being successful in flint knapping is to select the right type and shape of rock.  Flint, Obsidian, Chert and Dacite are a few favorites for knappers.  The tools required to do flint knapping are very basic.  To practice this primitive skill you will only need six basic items.

1. Thick leather knee pad – could be any thick sturdy material to keep the rock and tools from cutting you.

2. Thick leather palm pad – ditto.

3. Percussion flaker – this is basically a dowel with a thick copper end cap glued on the end. But in a survival situation you could likely use any sturdy rounded metal item such as the back of a pocket knife or tent stake, etc. It is used for rough shaping of the rock.

4. Pressure flaker – this is a dowel with a copper nail stuck in one end. I have used the sharp end of an antler with great results. This is used for fine tuning the shape and thinning the rock to a useable width.

5. A large horse shoe nail – used because of the long thin point for carving grooves and putting the final sharp edge on it.

6. A stone abrader – could be any smooth but porous and grainy stone, like granite.

The first arrowhead I did was with Dacite (the grey colored rock) and after watching a short 11 minute instruction video, I was able to knapp it out of a piece that was about 2″ x 3″ in about two hours. I have no doubt that I would be able to attach this arrowhead to a primitive arrow shaft and be able to use it to take down small game.

The second arrowhead I did was made from Obsidian (the black glass like rock) and it only took about 30 minutes to knapp from a piece that was also about 2″ x 3″.  While I would like to think that I am just a super fast learner, in reality this skill is just pretty easy to do if you have a very small bit of practice and the right tools!

While neither of the arrowheads are perfect, they are both certainly sharp enough to penetrate a small game hide and the obsidian arrowhead would easily penetrate deer hide even using a sturdy primitive bow.  I am sure  it would shatter upon contact with a bone, but if it was a well placed shot, I have little doubt that it would be able to kill a deer in the right archers hands.

What should I know about Flint Knapping?

A couple of things to consider about flint knapping is that its messy…very messy. The flakes that come off are also razor sharp, so don’t do it in an area where you walk bare foot.  The mess is similar to having broken glass all over your floor.  I put down a large piece of plastic to make cleanup a lot easier.  Also, its a bit tedious, so you don’t want to try it if your in a hurry.

I don’t recommend carrying flint knapping tools in survival kits or anything like that becasue most of the tools could be improvised from things found in nature as well as items commonly carried in backpacks and survival kits.  But buying a $35.00 introductory kit (I got mine here – Buy Here) and making a couple of arrowheads or knives in your spare time can give you a real feel for what it would take to fashion your own tools in the wild in an emergency situation.  My next project will be an Obsidian knife with antler handle…I will let you know how it turns out.

 

Have you ever made any tools using Flint Knapping? If so please let us know in the comments below!

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About JJ

As a child I grew up in the Midwest on a small farm and fell in love with the outdoors. Later, that led me to join the USAF where I became a USAF Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Instructor. As a SERE Instructor I have trained in all types of environments. Temperate, Arctic, Desert, and Rain Forest. After four years in SERE I retrained into the counterintelligence and counterterrorism field where I have worked for 11 years. I have traveled to the Far East, Asia, Southwest Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America. The combination of both careers has thought me to see two sides of a coin. I consider myself a realist and while I enjoy primitive survival living, hiking, camping, and hunting for short periods. I also have the experience & understanding to know that living primitively is NOT fun or easy for long periods. Therefore, I try to be practical and logical in an effort to build a reliable, flexible philosophy of self reliance that can be utilized in any situation. Hopefully reading this blog will help you to do the same.

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