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Flint Knapping:
Everybody's Universal Heritage


We’ve gone on and on in the knives section about knapped blades. Here's how we make them. Put simply, knapping is the art of making tools from stone. Regardless of who we are and where we came from, we all have this common thread in our collective ancestry: all of our ancestors made and used stone tools at one time or another in history. There are a few cultures today who still make and use stone tools, and the largest group is probably right here in the United States. Knapping is a very fast growing hobby, with between 5,000 and 10,000 knappers in the USA alone.

Only a few types of stone are "knappable." Flint, chert, agate and obsidian are the most common, but man-made glass and porcelain are also knappable. The common thread throughout these rock species is the ability to fracture "conchoidally." Conchoidal fracture is a big term for the characteristic breakage a BB makes when your kid shoots the front window. We all recognize this, a tiny entry hole, and a large exit. Our ancestors discovered this action in certain rock types, and were able to expand this one characteristic into mankind's first technology.

Forgotten a scant few years after the entry of metals into each stone age culture, hobbyists and archeologists are working hard to rediscover the lost secrets of the earliest of technologies.

This is a quick and dirty exposition of the basics of how we make our stone blades. The following pages are very graphic intensive, so those of you who have slow, soda straw connections to the World Wide Web, please bear with us.

Thanks, we hope you enjoy it.

Tom Sterling and Joe Higgins

Ancient Art, Modern Fun
Conchoidal fracture is the secret to knapping - the characteristic breakage of glass from a BB hit. Seen here, the conical spall broken from a piece of glass, with the edges of the cone 110 degrees from the path of the BB.

Here the BB has hit along the edge of a piece of glass. Still the same characterisic spall taken from the glass, just in half.
Here a series of BB hits carefully spaced along the edge of the glass, overlapping neighboring spalls. This is the basic method of selectively removing material to end up with the desired shape. Each action from here on is identical, simply removing a piece of the conical spall where desired. Of course, this is the theory. The actual practice takes a little more finesse.

All contents copyrighted 2002 | Tom Sterling

Tom Sterling PO Box 1621 Coupeville WA 98239

Last Updated:Monday March 24, 2008