neolithic craftsman tools


James T Thomas
July 24, 2008, 02:11 PM
I was just viewing the obsidian knives at AG Russell, and noticed that it is stated that they are fragile and not recommended for use.
Of course, it is a type of glass.

Now; how do the other natural materials such as flint, chert, etc. compare
-for actual use? That is, I would presume they too are fragile, however, some must be less prone to fracture than others.

I also presume that the blade profile of a "skinner" point, and convex cross section, full tang, no choil, and design such as that would provide a more sturdy knife.

Has any reader seen contemporary stone knives made for use?

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Dave McCracken
July 24, 2008, 06:07 PM
Here in MD there's a Primitive Technology Weekend at Oregon Ridge Park every May. I used to take the kids.

A Dr Errett Callahan was there knapping along with others. He made incredible stone blades, mostly for show. some for use.

Other craftsmen there made more utilitarian blades. One told me that stone cut very well, but was very likely to break when used to do anything other than cut semi soft materials. He said the old approach was use it till it breaks, knapp a new edge, cut some more.

Park Manager Kirk Drier hunts with homemade gear, including stone arrowheads. Some of his work and others can be seen in the series of books," The Traditional Bowyer's Bible".


Fred Fuller
July 25, 2008, 05:15 PM

I don't have any experience making or using stone knives- my only experience with them has been excavating them, and even that was relatively limited and a long time ago. I did a good bit of field work at Moundville in Alabama ( ) and at newly discovered sites in central Alabama for a couple of years in 1973-74.

We didn't run into a lot of knife blades that would have been suitable for hafting. Most 'working' cutting tools seemed to have been flakes freshly struck from cores. They were perhaps worked on the back a bit to produce a 'spine' or 'back' to the blade suitable for the application of pressure. They were held between thumb and middle finger with the index finger tip applying pressure on the blade, just like you might use a single edge razor blade today.

They tended to dull pretty quickly and given the number we found, were merely discarded in place and not resharpened. In some cases they were resharpened into scrapers, or even reshaped into a burin or borer if they were big enough to start with.

Hafted blades seem to have been weapons more than tools, more like daggers for stabbing- though there were a good many of bone awl-like tools as well that could have been intended as weapons for stabbing. While flaked stone edges can be incredibly sharp- obsidian blades are still used for some modern surgeries ( ), they are not durable under heavy use, as indicated.



James T Thomas
July 27, 2008, 09:09 PM
Thanks; both Dave McCracken and Lee Lapin.

I just do not enjoy the "beholding" of my posessions, but rather the useing of them, so unless I come across some stone blades made as I described, I will have to limp along and make due with those modern steel ones!
The stone ones made for collectors can be collected by others.

Or, I suppose, I will have to learn flint knapping myself.

July 27, 2008, 09:26 PM
Learning flint knapping is fun. I learnt it while taking my degree and practicing experimental archeology. In the end I could make a variety of stone axes, knife blades, scrappers, the odd arrow head. It just a shame that flint isn't naturally found where I am now and was imported from the coast.

They do dull faster, but we are talking about a much older technology and if they were perfect we wouldn't be using steel nowadays. A basic tool is pretty simple and fast to make, but the later neolithic stuff is very easy to screw up with one or two bad strikes and means you have to begin the whole thing all over again.

James T Thomas
July 28, 2008, 07:29 PM
Limeyfellow: That course in experimental Archeology sounds interesting.
I enjoyed geology much. And here {USA} in the state of WA we have learned; that is those of us with "open" minds; that the geologic forms we were "told" had taken millions and millions of years to form, may have just been made in a short period of time by some cataclysm like the Mt.St. Helens eruption that we were here to see first hand. It reminds me of Galileo's struggle and those opposed to what they "knew" to be the truth. Only now the shoe is on the other foot so to speak.

You know; I would have thought, with stone generally being harder than steels, that edge retention would be better. But there you go.

The Rockwell / Moh's hardness is not directly related to toughness or edge retention either; yet they are connected somehow.

So, all those posts here and advice after advice, and it still holds true.

There is a dynamic to knife character. Edge hardness and retention, toughness, and resharpening utility.

I'm back where we all started.

July 28, 2008, 11:30 PM
The stone has a couple of problems. Its crystaline nature causes natural fracture points that break off microscopically and wears down or simple has a macro fracture and so they just throw it away or recraft it. Of course without that crystaline structure you wouldn't be able to knap it anyway. The other problem is while you can heat treat it, it still doesn't compare to the heat treatment and alloys possible with steel. Its the same reason why we don't use silicon based glass for weapons, despite its hardness. Its just too fragile.

On the side, one of my A-levels (a two year course done in Britain after you finish school but before you go to university) was in Geology. Got to go do some nice fieldwork up in Scotland where there wasn't a lamp post within 30 miles. That was always nice. Those were good times.

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