Thursday, March 26, 2009

Post 2 -- Making A Plan Of Action To Make An Arrowhead

For the beginning knapper (person who makes tools out of stone by breaking stone -- knapping), making an arrowhead usually begins with a flake or chip of stone.

What Kind Of Stone Is Useful For Making An Arrowhead?

Usually we will need to use a type of stone which can break fairly easily, is brittle; yet it is hard enough to be useful and endure as a tool; it usually breaks with a sharp edge, so it can be a cutting tool; and, for any repeated manufacturing benefit, it should be a kind of stone which breaks in a manner which can be controlled and repeated.

Over the millennia, our ancestors learned, by trial and error, that many varieties of the stone material which we call quartz will fit these requirements. They found that particularly fine grained forms such as flint, chert and jasper worked best. These materials brake in a cone-like fracture pattern. They are tough, so they endure as a tool in use. They are hard, so they stay sharp enough to be useful. And they break in a way which can be planned and repeated, so that a skilled knapper can create a new tool according to the plan which he has in mind.

They also found that some kinds of volcanic rock also meet these requirements to make useful, sharp tools. In particular, obsidian and other similar volcanic rock, which is high in silica, are especially useful for knapping purposes. Obsidian is not as hard as quartz type stones like flint and jasper, but it makes up for that with its sharp edges and excellent knapping characteristics.

In the knapping kits which I prepare for new students of making arrowheads, I include both flint type stone and obsidian materials. These make an excellent starting place for a new knapper.

These chip or flake pieces are broken off from a larger chunk of the same material. This can be done by striking a corner or edge of the larger chunk with a hammer stone or a large, heavy piece of a deer antler, from the base or trunk of the antler, called a billet.

Safety First & Safety Always!

Remember always, that when you are working with this kind of stone, it is very sharp. So you must wear leather gloves to protect your hands, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes, and use a leather pad to protect your legs if you are resting the stone on your leg when you knock off small pieces for pressure flaking into arrowheads. Safety practices are always mandatory. In addition, make sure you work in a well ventilated, well lighted area, preferably outside. Also it is a good idea to have a ground or floor cover like a tarp or similar sheet of material to capture the small pieces of stone, so that you can gather them together when you are finished. You do not want your pets or children or any one else to step on the sharp remnants.

What Kind Of Tools Do You Knap With?

The next part of the plan is to select a tool to use to trim the stone piece into the shape of the arrowhead which you want to make. In the next posting we will discuss several types of tools which are useful in making arrowheads.

... coming next ... Selecting And Using The Tools To Break Stone To Create An Arrowhead

You are invited to visit my web site for more background information and photographs related to the making of arrowheads:

For fully photo-illustrated process information related to the making of an obsidian Gunther style arrowhead, plus photographs of a number of ancient and authentic Gunther type arrowheads, you are invited to visit my other web site: