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The Basics Of Punch Notching

In the early days of flintknapping, I think we all have tried making notches in our flint points with a punch. All to often and with the greatest of ease, simply split the point in two or blow the ear off. You only have to do this two or three times to develop quite a rash.

Thank goodness for good friends and flintknappers. About three years ago a knapper from Texas named Dan Theus showed me a thing or two on punch notching. Dan can notch most anything as deep as he wants or needs to with this technique.

Using an Ishi stick or the smaller flakers has its limitations, for example..."dog leg" notches, thick points or very deep notching. Texas style Andice points are a good example of this.
In the artifact world, it appears native American Indians preferred punching their notches. This is based on the flake scars of old points. Successful punching produces large aggressive "c" shaped flakes.

Now Lets take a look at the basic rules you must follow for risk free notching. There are four basic factors for success. These are: Platform setup, grinding, strike angle and velocity. Lets look at basic platform setup.

Fig.1 shows and view of the margin. Note that the margin is not directly located on the imaginary centerline, it is for the most part, closer to the lower face of the preform. This would make any flake removal(s) more successful and less risky. The same thing applies to the tiny margin located within the notch, in a much more critical way.

Look at fig.2. It shows the margin being closer to the top face. (It's up-side-down) The flake should be removed from the "top" of the Bi-face. Having the platform edge below the imaginary centerline is a must for punching! It is the key!

To begin a notch, I like to use my ishi stick to make a "lead out" flake. Shown in Fig 3. This thins the notching area and can be done to "lower" the platform edge, I like to do this on both faces of the preform. This is not necessary but it can be a big help. Keep in mind that the notch platform is basically the same principle as a standard thinning platform.

With your platform ready as described above you must now abrade it. This is critical, even if you are doing minor adjustments to relocate the margin (something that you will occasionally have to do after punching a flake) to favor flaking the best face.

Take a look at fig.4. It shows the shoulder on the nail resting in the notch ready to punch, note that the nail shoulder is located at or slightly below the centerline of the point. Screw this up and the ear is gone! The nail will require file retouch after a few flakes.

Make sure you're not biting too much off by having to broad of a shoulder on your nail. If you have a good low platform, whack the heck out of it. You can use you billet, a chunk of wood, frozen steak or what ever to hit the nail.

A few more tips. The "lower" the platform the more you can change the angle to drive into the preform, and vise versa. Faster hits for bigger flakes and slower for smaller flakes. You can grind with a small flake. The tricky part is readjusting the margin to favor a face.

Good luck!!! Mark bracken

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