Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

14.2 Making Stone Tools


14.2: Making Stone Tools

a) Tomahawks & Grinding Stones. For tomahawks and grinding stones, seek heavy rocks that have been rounded and smoothed in a river bed, along an ocean beach, or in a deposit of glacial till. Tomahawks can be made by cutting a foot-long section of a tree branch, notching one end, inserting an oval or oblong stone, and securing it in place by wrapping and tying a length of thick leather string. For a grinding stone, seek a well-rounded, coarse-grained rock (granite, basalt, etc.) that will fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. Match this with a large, flat slab of rough rock (perhaps a foot in diameter), and set your kids to work grinding hard kernels of corn.

b) Arrowheads & Spear Points. Stone-age peoples craft arrowheads and spear points from rocks such as flint, agate, jasper, and obsidian. There are various techniques for crafting a point, from hard- and soft-hammer percussion to pressure flaking. Percussion involves striking flint or obsidian with antler, bone, or another rock. Pressure flaking involves poking at the flint or obsidian with the pointed end of an antler segment or other tools to chip off small flakes along the edges of an arrowhead or spear point.

WARNING!! Do not do a knapping exercise with kids! Knapping produces razor-sharp edges (sharper than scalpels) and can send sharp shards flying through the air. Eye protection is a must, as are thick leather gloves. Even then, one guarantee is that knapping will lead to cuts—and sometimes very nasty ones! Thus, this isn‘t the sort of exercise you want to do with young kids. Instead, this is better left as a demonstration performed by a trained expert well versed in the craft. I recommend you get a master knapper from your own club or a nearby club to provide a demonstration. Thousands of Americans practice this art form, connecting via newsletters and the Internet and gathering at regional "knap-ins" to share techniques and materials. You can get a sense of "who‘s who" in this community in John Whittaker‘s book American Flintknappers: Stone Age Art in the Age of Computers (2004). If you can‘t find a local knapper, you can still provide a demo for your kids via a video: "Flintknapping with Bruce Bradley, Ph.D". This terrific 45-minute video may be purchased on-line from the web site of the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota, through their on-line store.

Again, I stress the warning not to do knapping with kids! Even for adults, thorough preparation and great care is required in pursuing a knapping project, as emphasized in the safety chapter of any one of the several books that have been published on the art of knapping. You may wish to purchase one of these as a reference for your club library:

Gravelle, Early Hunting Tools: An Introduction to Flintknapping (1995)

Hellweg, Flintknapping: The Art of Making Stone Tools (1984)

Patten, Old Tools – New Eyes: A Primal Primer of Flintknapping (1999)

Waldorf, Art of Flint Knapping, Fourth Edition (1993)

Waldorf & Martin, Getting Started in Flint Knapping (1998)

Whittaker, Flintknapping: Making & Understanding Stone Tools (1994)