Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Flintknapping Workshop

I'm back from my trip. I took two classes at PAST Skills wilderness school. This is a new school founded by Billy and Kristy McConnell who used to be instructors at the Tracker School where I have taken most of my other classes. There are many attractive things about this school. The staff are awesome people and practitioners of primitive skills. The class sizes are small so you get a lot of personal attention. The atmosphere is very laid back. While not learning we all hung out at the house we stayed in. The food we ate was amazing. Among other things we had fresh duck and caribou. The meal of duck was basically like a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

The first class was a four day flintknapping workshop. I learned way more than I expected. The class size was key. I had a front row seat to watch Billy break rock. One can learn a lot just from watching someone better especially that close. Each of us also got a personal session which was huge for me. Billy corrected my form which is going to have a major effect on my progress.

Here is Billy demonstrating. You can see that the piece is taking shape. He started from a big chuck like the one on the floor at the bottom right of the picture.


Another big help was the amount and type of rock available. Rock can get quite expensive not to mention hard to come by so it was great to have a huge supply of rock. I was never worried about wasting money with each strike I took like I was at home with my $25 dollar rock.

While not in lecture, we spent most of our time actually practicing. This picture shows our "knapping pit". In this picture everyone is pressure flaking on small pieces as opposed to striking them like in the first picture. Pressure flaking is used on smaller pieces for shaping, sharpening and notching.


I spent a lot of my time doing billet work since I had done a decent amount of pressure flaking before taking the class. I had almost zero experience in billet work going into this class so I chose to focus on it. Here are some of the pieces I worked on. The only one that is nearly finished is the gray piece at the bottom right. The gray rock is Dacite and the rest are Obsidian. The larger obsidian pieces on the sides are preforms that can further be reduced to become sharp points. These started as big chunks of rock. You can see I snapped one piece in half. I'm going to try to make an arrow head out of the top piece.


Another cool thing we got to learn about is cooking rocks. Some rocks are hard to work with naturally, but can be cooked to make them workable. We cooked rocks both primitively with a fire and in a kiln.

Here is rock called Ft. Hood Chert. We covered it up with about 2 inches of dirt and then built a fire over it.


The fire burned over night. When it was done we had usable rock. It was very fun to work with. It is very different from obsidian. You actually have to strike the rock hard to get it to fracture. With obsidian it is like lightly peeling off flakes of rock.


I didn't really complete any pieces at the class since I was focused on billet work, but I'll probably try to make some before the weather gets too cold. We got to split up all the cooked rock as well as a bunch of other pieces. I also bought some rock so now I now have plenty of rock to work with. I'll post pictures of any new points I make.

My next post will be about the second class I took which was a hunting class.

3 comments:

DC Pinger said...

Looking good homo habilis!

Keep practicing your rock skillz and you'll be homo erectus by Spring!

Homo habilis ("handy man", "skillful person") is a species of the genus Homo, which lived from approximately 2.5 million to 1.8 million years ago at the beginning of the Pleistocene. The definition of this species is credited to both Mary and Louis Leakey, who found fossils in Tanzania, East Africa, between 1962 and 1964. Homo habilis is arguably the first species of the Homo genus to appear. In its appearance and morphology, H. habilis was the least similar to modern humans of all species to be placed in the genus Homo (except possibly Homo rudolfensis). Homo habilis was short and had disproportionately long arms compared to modern humans, however it had a reduction in the protrusion in the face. It is thought to have descended from a species of australopithecine hominid. Its immediate ancestor may have been the more massive and ape like Homo rudolfensis. Homo habilis had a cranial capacity slightly less than half of the size of modern humans. Despite the ape-like morphology of the bodies, H. habilis remains are often accompanied by primitive stone tools (e.g. Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania and Lake Turkana, Kenya).

Homo habilis is thought to be the ancestor of the lankier and more sophisticated, Homo ergaster, which in turn gave rise to the more human-appearing species, Homo erectus. Debates continue over whether H. habilis is a direct human ancestor, and whether all of the known fossils are properly attributed to the species.

fooiemcgoo said...

I agree with the top comment on all but a few points.

what is billet work? i don't know alot of what you are talkign about here.

Sassmouth said...

A billet is what you use for percussion flaking. Percussion flaking is when you hit strike the rock. Wise up. Just kidding. :)