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Lithic Reduction (aka Knapping)

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#1 ChimX


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Posted 18 November 2009 - 05:28 PM

When I was a kid I chanced upon an arrowhead on a river bank in Texas. I was instantly enthralled and soon started spending every waking moment searching for more. By the time I was 18 I had a great collection but it wasn't enough, so I set out reservation hopping to find someone that would teach me how to make one. I finally met an old indian that agreed to teach me in return for a quarter of bake on a weekly basis. The only catch was that he insisted I toke some up with him before each class. In retrospect it was brilliant 'cause it took me forever to learn and he ended up with more smoke than a holliday weekend in Cuidad Juarez.
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I started with small arrowheads which are easy and fun for a lot of reasons. Mainly, there's a lot less heartache when you snap a small piece in two.
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Ceremonial hollow bone handled knife secured with rawhide instead of sinew and waterproofed with beeswax.
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I must have shattered a good 15 blades before making this one I felt was worth mounting.
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I'd learned working with flint, chert and obsidian but down here I've had a hard time finding any of those. Now I use transparent and colored glass which produce conchoidal fractures much like obsidian.
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To give you an idea how sharp this stuff can be, obsidian is sometimes preferred over steel in some medical procedures and has even been used in cardiac surgery. Its cutting edge is many times sharper than modern surgical scalpels and has been measured at 3 nanometers wide.
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If anyone read the trip report 'Four of Nine Cups', I ended up giving this knife as a gift to the old brown man in feathers that introduced me to Ayahuasca, God bless him. The kicker? The hollow bone handle was stuffed with 20g of dried sacred Cubes. I can't wait to hear about his experience and I'm sure we'll have a lot to talk about when next weekend rolls around.

So, if you made it this far, thanx for reading. The pieces I make are really amateurish compared to people born with the gift. Are there any other knappers out there? I never tire of seeing new pieces.

A warm embrace to all my fellow Topiates.

#2 Danko



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Posted 18 November 2009 - 06:18 PM

Very impressive, i love to go arrowhead hunting. About a year ago a friend took me to this redneck woman's house to buy some dope, and she had her kitchen walls completely covered in arrowheads. I was in awe. She showed me her secret stash, which had an eagle carving, some special points one was made out of agate possibly, and some pottery along with two different pipe bowls.

Your knife is very cool, looks like a lot of work.

#3 copelandiaKidd


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Posted 19 November 2009 - 11:16 AM

those look amazing, thanx Chim

#4 TVCasualty


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Posted 19 November 2009 - 05:01 PM

Very nice!

I've done a little bit of knapping, and I was taught to make bird points out of the bottoms of beer bottles at the Tracker School in New Jersey of all places. And for those unfamiliar with knapping, "bird" points are really for arrows to take deer with, not birds.

One of the instructors at the Tracker school made a nice income on the side knapping tiny obsidian scalpels for eye surgery since (like you mentioned) glass is exponentially sharper than steel, so it's not such a 'primitive' skill after all IMO.

One friend of mine drives across the country to Idaho to gather big chunks of obsidian to haul back to New Jersey every couple of years or so, and it about killed his little Ford Escort last time, lol. Then he and a bunch of other lunatics all gather to swap techniques and show off their creations at meetings like Rabbitstick or the many other primitive skills groups that exist around the country. It's a great group to hang out with for a few days.:headbang:

Rabbitstick/Primitive living skills conferences:

Tom Brown jr's. Tracking, Nature, and Wilderness Survival School:
(Active-duty Navy SEALs and other Special Ops guys take a lot of his classes, which is a pretty good endorsement of the school's credibility IMO).

#5 kcmoxtractor


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Posted 19 November 2009 - 06:03 PM

This is some cool stuff, I have a friend who is into it and he makes his from the bottoms of bottles using a deer antler. I will share those links with him TV, thanks!

#6 Foster



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Posted 19 November 2009 - 07:45 PM

Very nicely done. Knapping is a beautiful artform. Looks like you have learned well. Thank you for sharing.

I dont knap, but have a few friends who can. I am a creek hunter/collector of authentic artifacts. Thats where my only issue with flint knappers comes in. In recent years artifacts have become so valuable, many folks try to pass off modern artifacts as authentic. Tis why I dont sell or buy artifacts except from a select few friends/relatives who I hunt with. Guys who dont knap and I can be sure found the artifacts.

As a group we have many published pictures in artifact books and magazines.
I would be interested in seeing some of your finds too!

Anyway, very cool stuff!:bow: Thanks for sharing.

#7 ChimX


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Posted 20 November 2009 - 09:47 AM

Thanx for all the good vibes Cope, KC, TV, Danko, & Foster. Glad to hear there are more of you knapping out there. It's an uncommon hobby so I wasn't sure what kind of feedback I'd get if any at all.

I couldn't agree more about people passing off contemporary pieces as the real deal. I wouldn't buy or sell artifacts regardless. They mean too much to me when I find one. When you unearth something that's been in the ground for very possibly well over 200 hundred years or more, it feels like fate. I couldn't part with any I've come across.

#8 TVCasualty


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Posted 20 November 2009 - 01:58 PM

I was instructed to toss some pennies or bottle caps into the pile of debitage if I was knapping outside and intended to bury the pile just in case some archeologist found the pile and thought it was a historical site. So with knapping, even the trash pile can be passed off as having archeological significance.

Oh,and a neat trick I learned at the Tracker school was to pick out the larger flakes from the pile and 'cement' them into a deer's jawbone where the teeth used to be which gives you a decent cross-cut saw. A mixture of pine pitch and burnt eggshells will harden up as well as any store-bought two-part epoxy and is perfect for making the saw and hafting points on arrows or spears (among a million other uses in wilderness survival situations).

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