Need help choosing a kit?
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I am often
asked the question; "What tools do I need"?
The simplest way to answer this, is to group the tools
into the four essential categories and to break them down
into what your personal tool requirements and personal
Here are the four
1. You'll need something abrasive
to grind the edge of the flint to prepare the platform
to be struck.
2. Your going to need something to hit the rock
with, it's what we knappers call a billet.
3. A tool will be needed to do detailed pressure
flaking, this tool is for creating platforms, finished
edge work and notching.
4. Finally, a hand pad will
be needed to protect yourself while using an Ishi
stick or pressure flaker.
Videos: I want to emphasize teaching
media before we get into the tools. The cost of a
book and a dvd
will quickly pay for itself in flint, time and discouragement.
Having a video means having an expert knapper at your
service any time of the day or night. DVD's won't wear
out and the knapper in the video will never complain when
you make him perform that same hit 30 times in a row.
The book will
help you understand the terms, angles, stategies and so
much more. These two things are foundational! Our goal
here is to help you learn, advance and
enjoy knapping. I still have the memory fresh in
my mind of how I struggled because I did not have good
tools or anyone to watch. Things are different now! The
"Cat is out of the bag!"
the tools for flintknapping fall into these four groups.
Abrasives, Billets, Pressure flakers, pads and other protective
equipment. All the kits have these four basic tools
in various degrees. You just need to pick what fits best
for you. Factors to consider are:
1. Will you be hunting your own rock?
2. What size pieces will you be working?
questions can determine the array of billets you will
Now, let's take a
look at each group of tools and explain them a bit.
As the process of knapping moves forward towards a finished
piece, the edge gets thinner and more delicate. The coarseness
of the abrasive should be reduced accordingly. For roughing
out preforms, a coarse 30 grit is used. For finishing
a medium 60 grit becomes more suitable. Lastly, for special
detail, a 120 grit fine abrader can become quite useful.
Our abraders have just the
right "bond" to shed old grit to retain fresh
sharp grit. Consistency is then achieved, producing predictable
results throughout the thinning process.
There are 5 main variations this tool. These billet types
discussed here in this article are on the billets
page. The bigger the kit, the more variety in sizes.
Why? Flintknapping starts at the quarry where (in some
cases) a large rock is broken down into large flakes called
"spalls" (see knapping "terms"
article). Depending on the size of the spalls, (some can
be several pounds) large heavier billets are needed to
shape, thin and simply reduce these larger spalls. Using
a billet that is too small for the job will dent &
damage the tool and will likely not produce satisfactory
thinning flakes. So, a simple rule is: "the bigger
the rock, the bigger the billet". Therefore the bigger
kits have a broader selection of sizes.
These are used to press off flakes solely by pressure
and are not intended for indirect percussion. What do
choose? Ishi Sticks or the smaller
Flakers or AKA "Notchers". Here is some thoughts
to advise you in your choice. It's all about personal
preference. Most knappers use the longer Ishi Sticks over
the shorter pressure flakers because with the Ishi stick
the force is generated primarily with the leg muscles
and not just the arm and wrists as with the shorter 6"
flakers. Why choose our tools? All of our pressure flakers
feature an adjustable copper nail tip. They are double
set screwed for added peace of mind and durability. The
"Twist-Lock" style flakers have no set screw,
they adjust with no tools. Adjustments are made by simply
twisting the body tightening or loosening the collet.
The nail is (part # KN109; for
the Twist-Locks) that can be easily extended as needed.
The flaker tools ("Ishi" or the "notcher")
will be the tool you use for your notching, edge work
and most important, for platform
building. It will give you the accuracy you need to
create good quality striking platforms -- this is the
heart of good knapping technique. The difference between
the notcher and the 20" long Ishi stick is the power
and control that can be generated with the longer Ishi
stick. The flex in the 3/4 dia. Ishi gives an added "spring"
affect, helping to transfer the energy through the flake
detachment process resulting in longer, cleaner flakes.
All our 20" Ishi sticks have the Allen Key tool built
right into the handle
for convenience and storage. A great new feature! Read
more about ishi sticks here.
There are hand pads and leg pads. The hand
pads are to protect your hands during the pressure
flaking process only. There are many types available.
I prefer the simple leather hand pad. The better more
advanced artists prefer the grooved
rubber pads. Fancy flake-over-grinders almost all
use a notched or grooved pad. There is an advantage to
the grooved pads because they allow the flake to detach
in "open air". For some reason, this helps keep
the flake from creating small finger nail type step fractures.
Leg pads are needed to save your pants and leg from cuts
and can help to limit bruising if your doing heavy work.
I almost always have my leg pad in the active position
while knapping. Some knappers do all their percussion
work on the leg pad. I tend to hold the preform up in
my hand suspended and take swings at it there. Once again,
personal preference. Safety
glasses, gloves and other items are a must for the expert
and novice knapper.
summary, there are many variations of tools and they all
work. It's just a matter of finding the one that works
best for you. The kits are a compilation of tools that
have been most popular to the majority of knappers. Experiment,
remember cause and effect, have fun, stay out of trouble,
be careful, feed the dog, grind before you strike, buy
a box of Band-Aids, remain calm, stop reading this and
go chip one!
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Florida "Hillsboro" type chipped from Agatized
Point by: Mark Bracken