It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


Flintknapping on the tightest of budgets

page: 1

log in


posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 12:34 PM

i love to make things, and one of the crafts i find the most absorbing and challenging is Flintknapping and stone blade making.
i'm not suggesting that making stone tools is the most essential of survival skills - steel blades are far more durable and easily attained afterall, and i dont feel that we would ever find ourselves blown back to the stone age, knowing what we do of recycling metals and the use heat and hammers etc.
however, if one were stranded without any tools it could certainly be a lifesaving skill, and regardless - it is a supremely fascinating and rewarding passtime... i felt that this forum was the best fit

To the beginner and outsider it can be difficult to know where to start... many knappers love to show off their kit, which can often include specialised copper tipped hammers, large and expensive batons made of moose antler and so forth. Not everyone has access to these materials and this can dissuade the beginner.

When i started to knap i had pretty much nothing in the way of funds to get underway and had to be a bit creative in both finding both raw materials and equipment... besides this i knew no knappers to get 1-1 tuition from. I'm making this thread to share a little of how i got started, maybe someone here will find this of help

i did take a bunch of camera shots of my gear then encountered sizing problems etc for the uploads, so i'm using old camera phone pics hence the slight lack of quality, but they work well enough.

first off, a vid on knapping points from the bottom of glass bottles, just to reassure folks that it's easy to get started:

Now a little about my budget kit... first off, dont ever, ever knap any material without protection. you are making razor sharp edges, tiny flakes can go all over the place - they can and do flick up towards youe eyes (it's a dreadful sensation when a glass flake hits your eye), and flakes can be driven into your hands quite easily. people go blind and sever nerves by not following this advice.

Protective Gear

The only cost here was the goggles, price £1 from a general goods store. Spectacles work fine, even shades as long as they aint too dark and you have a good light source.
Due to the fine dust generated from knapping always knap in a well ventilated area with a through draft - Silicosis (a nasty lung condition) is no fun, so dont breathe in flint or glass dust.
Some folk use leather gardener's gloves for hand protection (which many folk already own and are very cheap), though i find them a bit of a hindrance and i simply hold the raw materials in folded pieces of leather (at least 2 layers deep). I get leather from old sofas/setees in skips and junk yards - even bags and jackets in thriftstores, from old car seats etc. no need to shell out any cash here.

Hammerstones and stuff to bash with

For beginners, i think it best to start with stones for use as hammers.. here is a pic of the larger stones i use for breaking up larger pieces of raw materials for making blanks, to reduce further into the finished article:

you simply need stones that are fist sized or larger.. quartzite river pebbles work well, and while they start of smooth, they quickly gain a rough texture from use which helps them to grip the flint better on impact and gain better results. Hard Sandstones are even better due to texture. Avoid stuff with obvious cracks and flaws as these can shatter and break on impact - this had happened to me many times and i have personally found no danger of injury in this, but it's a PITA and better safe than sorry. The comedic shaped rock in the background is what's known as a finger flint - more info on finding raw materials later..

Next some smaller stones for shaping your blanks (typically referred to as Spalls)

again, quartize and sandstone is great, just smaller ones.. less than fist sized, down to stuff that fits into your palm - flattish ones that would make large skimming stones can be great as they allow you to be more precise with your aims when striking your blanks. Just look for these when walking in the country, simples. Railway ballast is a great source of granite hammerstones, my absolute favourite.

you can make cheap copper tipped light hammers by using copper end caps for plumbing (standard 25mm is fine), and just fitting them over a hardwood stick (eg oak, holly, hawthorn, hickory etc), where i live 2 of these cost about £3. they work a treat for light work such as reducing bottle bottoms in the first vid.

For "pressure flaking", ie finer, final stage work and sharpening, a length of bone is fine. preferably uncooked as then it's a lot stronger - just hacksaw it down to the shape shown and test it for rigidity and strength.. if you have non from the kitchen, be nice to a butcher - i have never had to pay.
also a length of 2mm copper wire can be fixed into a stick (if anyone needs more detail on method please ask) for a superb flaking tool. i find copper wire in skips and on workshop floors etc. no need to shell out cash here either

so thats the kit, all found on the cheap or for free..

Finding Raw Materials

Expert knappers often buy really pretty Flint, Chert, Obsidian and Agate etc, but with research you can get raw materials for nowt easily enough.
Old TV screens are superb material and again skips and junk yards are great for this. Take a lump hammer (or large stone), goggles and make sure all arteries are covered

Its best to open the TV up, and break off the back of the Cathode Ray Tube, releasing the vacuum. If you just whack the front of the screen it can explode in your face. It happened to me and i was damn lucky not to get covered in my own blood.
Milk and beer bottles are obviously easy to come by, and window glass over about 5mm is fine too. Glass for indoor use (such as coffee tables) is useless as it is designed to harmlessly fragment into tiny bits for safety's sake - dont bother with it.

Here is a list of often used Cherts/Flint in the USA:

This link has a list of knappable rocks that you can seek out:

the only natural material that i think is missing from here is Mudstone:

I found geological maps invaluable when foraging while on my travels - Flint is found in chalk deposits, and the very similar Chert is found in Limestone. Chalk quarries often give flint nodules away for free (i have never paid for them, though i have given the site foremen a contribution to the "tea" fund, it's only polite), Limestone quarries may do the same with Chert.

UK geological map:

USA Geological Map (i have not explored this link much, it looks good though i could not find a key in the 5 mins i spent looking at it, i'm a brit so it's new to me etc)

Local geological groups, county archaeologist sites etc can help, here is an example from Iowa that i came across:

edit on 27-3-2013 by skalla because: typos

edit on 27-3-2013 by skalla because: omission

posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 12:35 PM
Obsidian can also be found at places like "Glass Buttes", though i understand that laws are in place in the USA re Rockhounding, so do your research and follow all local laws and codes.

Building sites are worth a look too, as digging foundations often reveals nodules of stuff that you can knap - just talk to the folk working there etc

You can also knap porcelaine, as well as "johnstone" from ceramic toilets and sinks at scrapyards.. this stuff is very common and is marked as such - the tops of cisterns are particularly great to use due to sixe and flatness.

It's not my aim to teach the skills in this post, but if you want to buy a book on the subject, John C Whittaker's "Flintknapping: Making and Understanding Stone Tools" is excellent, and i found it invaluable.

Youtube also has a wealth of videos on this subject, though some are of little use to the beginner.
Paleomanjim has a superb channel, mostly fairly advanced stuff, though his beginners vids are superb:

Here is a great vid of some guys gathering basalt - this guy also has an excellent channel, that is both informative and warm and funny too:

and he has a great vid on a simple primitive knife project that is perfect for the absolute beginner:

so.. ask questions if you feel the need, and have fun...

and do follow the safety rules

edit on 27-3-2013 by skalla because: typos

edit on 27-3-2013 by skalla because: omission

edit on 27-3-2013 by skalla because: typo...

posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 12:49 PM
Great thread fella
I may have a go later on.
Just one thing why did you make a big white D**do?

posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 01:02 PM
reply to post by boymonkey74

when i found said paleolithic sex-toy at the quarry, me and the friend who accompanied me simply collapsed and we had real trouble composing ourselves

i could not help but include in the photo..... it has veins and everything

ETA: i should show it to Arken...
edit on 27-3-2013 by skalla because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 01:08 PM
reply to post by skalla


I've been wanting to try Flintknapping ever since I began cutting cabochons 5 yrs ago. A good friend of mine makes some fine blades and points but he cheats a little bit by cutting slabs on a saw and then pressure flakes.

I collect agates in West Texas and occasionaly find hand tools and points made from agate. I'm always impressed at the workmanship.

Star and Flag for such a useful post...

ETA - I've found several 'finger flints' here in S. Texas as well...

edit on 27-3-2013 by Blarneystoner because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 27 2013 @ 03:13 PM
reply to post by Blarneystoner

many thanks Blarneystoner
i was pretty broke when i took up knapping and quite a lot of thought, research and such went into getting started, especially as i live many hours away from a source of flint. i learned alot along the way and am happy to pass it on and "pay forwards".... i've bought some little agate slices fro museums (v cheap and intended for decoration) but sadly they were a little too thin for knapping and had tiny fractures that made the process pointless, but i always have my eye open for more.

regarding the finger flints, if you can spall off little circular sections crossways, they are great for arrowheads

as for your friend too, i dont really regard it as cheating to saw and grind blanks for flaking, it's just a modern method rather than primitive, and the results can be stunning as you have no doubt seen

That particular method is known as "Flake over Grind" or FOG, here is a fine example by Pebblepimp at the ever wonderful Paleoplanet:
edit on 27-3-2013 by skalla because: rock porn

posted on Apr, 23 2013 @ 08:00 PM
Hey skalla,
Nice thread.
I don't really know about specific sources of knappable stone in the US except Glass Mountain in Nevada.
It's the core of an extinct volcano and is exactly that, a mountain of obsidian.
This obsidian was traded for acorns from the native californians on the west side of the suerra Nevada mtns, in California.

posted on Apr, 23 2013 @ 08:12 PM
reply to post by skalla

Great Thread...I too started out on TV's, before I found a local rock shop that would sell me obsidian..

Thank you for sharing this

posted on Apr, 24 2013 @ 06:46 AM
reply to post by punkinworks10

reply to post by okiecowboy

Thanks for the comments.. obsidian is not so easy to forage for here in the uk, as far as i know there are only very limited deposits in Devon and Cornwall, and possibly in Scotland though nailing a location on that one still eludes me.. at some point i'm probs gonna have to dip my hand in my pocket and buy some via the net but that stingey scottish blood i have tends to resist such urges! it may well be for the best at the mo, as i'm on a wood working tip at present and given how many cuts i have on my fingers and hands from lazy knife and chisel use, i reckon i'd bleed out if i knapped obsidian at present

thanks for reading

ETA: swapping acorns for obsidian
sometimes i think that i really was born out of time
edit on 24-4-2013 by skalla because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 25 2013 @ 05:39 PM

Originally posted by punkinworks10
Hey skalla,
Nice thread.
I don't really know about specific sources of knappable stone in the US except Glass Mountain in Nevada.
It's the core of an extinct volcano and is exactly that, a mountain of obsidian.
This obsidian was traded for acorns from the native californians on the west side of the suerra Nevada mtns, in California.

You can knap agates as well. In W. Tx, good flint is hard to come by so the natives used the abundant supply of agate in the area. Agates can generally be found in areas where there are ancient lava beds.

Any good rock hounding forum will have people who can hook you up...

top topics


log in