What Do You Really Need To Start Flintknapping?
  Copyright ©2003 by Wyatt R. Knapp



I've been involved with flintknapping for some time now.  I've been through a lot of searching and tool testing.  If I've learned one thing it's that there is no magic tool.   Don't fool yourself by thinking, "Oh, if I only had the tool that so and so uses I'd be able to flintknap."  Or, "there must be some tool that makes this simple."  Let me tell you, if there was a trick to it that made it easy then everyone would be doing it and it wouldn't be a big deal.  Now, come over here and let me whisper the secret of flintknapping success into your ear.  Ready?  Okay ... you have to do it a lot.  You have to practice and go through lots of material.  And keep trying.  You will learn and get better.  I promise.

Now, after all these years I feel confident that I can give some good advice on what tools you absolutely need to be a good traditional style knapper.  Don't collect a big old bucket of expensive tools and gadgets unless you like that sort of thing.  Here's all you really need:

1. A leather pad of thick leather to protect your hand when pressure flaking.

2. A deer antler tine pressure flaker (or a copper tipped one as shown below).  Antler tines work very nicely.  They wear faster than copper but you get great pressure flakes.  If you learn percussion work well, you will only need the pressure flakers for final edge sharpening and retouch anyway.

3. A medium sized antler baton, about 8 inches or so long and about 2 inches across at the business end.  Make sure it is a good dense one. Antler is NOT harder to use than copper boppers.  Knapping is not easier with copper. It is just as easy to learn to knap with traditional tools than it is with copper billets and such.  Try the abo way.

4. A few hammerstones of various sizes.  Quartzite  or some other hard stone of a nice egg shape.  One about 1 1/2 inches long, one about 2 1/2 inches.  Also you can add a couple of sandstone ones that will be able to be used on easier material like obsidian or glass.  You can usually find hammerstones by gravel pits, the lake shore, etc.

5. An abrader.  Either of hard sandstone or a manufactured one.

6. A large thick leather pad to protect your leg while knapping.

7. A notcher.  Make it from a cow rib bone, or an antler tine, or make a copper tipped one.

Now you will notice that of all those things, there is only one that would probably constitute a major purchase.  That would be the moose antler baton.  Prices for good antler batons can vary and there are deals out there.  Just make sure the one you choose is good and hard, and dense.

The rest of the stuff on our list can be obtained cheaply, made yourself, or found for free.

These are the only tools you really need in order to flintknap and I have found that these are the ones I rely on over and over again.  They could fit in a shaving bag or could be rolled up into a small leather parfleche and take up hardly any room at all.

Later on you may find that once in a long while you'll have need of a larger billet for spalling or something, but hey -- try a rock.  They're free and lots of abo knappers used them.  I think there was probably a lot more hammerstone knappers than we realize in prehistoric times.  With practice you'll be surprised how well you can remove flakes with stone tools.

Bottom line:  You don't have to break your bank account trying to buy every new tool under the sun in order to turn out beautiful points.  Do it the abo way!

A Broomhandle Pressure flaker

Take an old broom or shovel handle and cut off a piece that is a comfortable length for your tool handle. Drill into one end of it to a depth of about 2 inches. The diameter of the hole should match the size of your copper wire (Something about 3/16" diameter is nice, but make all different sizes). Cut the wire so that it when it is put in the hole it extends out about 1 1/2". Hammer the wire to a point at the end. I would also suggest that you hammer some flats into it as shown in the illustration. You may want to add a set screw to hold the copper tip in place.

pressure flaker

If you want you can make the handle a couple feet long and turn this into an Ishi stick.  Many people can get better leverage using the longer handle and bracing it under their arm or against their side.


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 This page was last updated on 07 March 2012.

Copyright © 1998 & 2012 by Wyatt R. Knapp

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