I had the opportunity to have a wander around Chorlton Ees one morning last week and came home with quite a few pieces of old glass recovered from the roots of fallen trees.
This lovely blue piece in particular caught my eye and I like to think it is the base of an old Milk of Magnesia bottle.
As you can see it is chunky and I wasn’t quite sure how well I could reduce it. This is because it is both narrow and thick and I was worried that I may run out of width before it was adequately thinned. Anyway, today has been a beautiful day here in Manchester and I got to spend a couple of hours outside playing with it.
I am pleased with the result. It has become a Neolithic leaf shaped arrowhead, similar in proportion to some of the stone examples I have seen. The edges are sharp, the tip is good and it is fairly symmetrical. What really makes it stand out though is the lovely blue colour. When Nick Overton sees this photograph he will immediately focus upon the very, very small section of original surface left in the middle. All I can say Nick, is: “when a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees is pockets!”.
I am very interested in the story of Ishi, not just from a lithic technology perspective, but also the tragedy of it. For anyone else interested there is a documentary on Youtube, Ishi, The Last Yahi. In our knapping session tonight we had an Ishi focus, Nick has made an Ishi stick, which he tested out (I will get him to post about this), I used my Ishi style flaker to make a point. For the later part of his life Ishi lived and worked (as a ‘Stone Age remnant’) within the University of California, Berkeley, Museum of Anthropology demonstrating his Stone Age skills to the public. He adapted to new materials and used a glass cutter to produce blanks, and nails within his pressure flaker. This is my first attempt at this kind of point. It is made on a flat slab of fishtank glass supplied by Rob Howarth. The size, and retouch has worked well, but I ran into problems with the notching. I am thinking that another nail, filed to a very thin point might work better. If I do this I can fit it onto the other end of my flaker.
I think I will be making a few more of these.
Ishi was a Native American from who much of our understanding of the practicalities of pressure flaking has been gleaned. Within our twice weekly knapping sessions Nick Overton has raised the bar by introducing the use of soft iron nail pressure flakers, similar to those used by Ishi. This is a version of the same with a replaceable point. It is easy to make with total material costs of less than £2.50. Tools needed are a saw, chisel, hammer, large nail and a gimlet. Time wise it takes about half as hour. Materials needed are a bean pole (22mm wide, 75p), two copper end pieces (internal width 22mm, £1.40), one cut flooring nail (60mm long, can’t remember how much, they come in bags of about 20).
1. Use the saw to cut a section of the bean pole to a length that will be comfortable in your hand (perhaps 140mm). Then use the hammer and chisel to split it in half.
2. Use the cut flooring nail to gouge out a groove on both pieces to fit the nail, and then use the gimlet to bore a small hole on one side to accommodate the head of the nail. Then insert the nail.
3. Put both pieces together and modify to make a tight fit.
4. Use the hammer and large nail to punch a hole in one of the copper end pieces and insert it over the nail to hold the pieces of bean pole together.
5. Stick the second end piece on the other end. These two pieces need to be tight and so some trimming or padding may be needed. When finished the nail needs to be filed to a point and when used, kept sharp. The main benefit of this design is that as the nail gets filed down it can be replaced easily with a new one. When you make one of these, by default you have to then start making Ishi Points. Perhaps that will be the next post!
I was more cautious with this one and it turned out longer. I tried to stick to my method, ventral first, then dorsal, then the point, however the angle of the edge face made me improvise a bit. I am pleased with the needle like point, and am going to arrange to go back into the Manchester Museum to compare and contrast. I think the key difference between mine and the actual points may be thickness and edge angle. Let’s see.
The next post will be about home made pressure flaking tools, as we have been innovating in our twice weekly knapping get-togethers.
This is one half of a piece of period bottle glass recovered from Chorlton Ees. My aim this time was to make a larger point and maintain some of the lettering on the dorsal surface (see Foraging for early 20th Century glass and ceramics). I used a glass cutter to score the inner concave ventral surface of the larger piece of glass, and then tapped the dorsal convex surace with a hard hammer. The large piece split cleanly into two useful preforms, one of which you see here. I then started to work on the ventral surface of the margins to produce a steep edge angle. This would allow me to flip it over and start using the newly created steep edge as a platform for penetrative flakes. The aim of this penetrative flaking was to flatten the convex curvature on the ventral face. I was able to straigten and steepen the margins but was not as systematic as I could have been. Working around a thick area semi-disaster struck!
I called it a day in the lab and took both pieces home, and the following day finished it off. The ‘A’ is a useful landmark on all three photos and gives an insight into the degree of reduction. I am getting a feel for this thicker and uneven material and was able to avoid a large internal bubble, which is why the base has remained relatively unworked. The end result isapproximately 76x26x7mm and pretty well flattened on the ventral side.
After the above photograph was taken I serrated the margins. My main learning from this piece is to be systematic in my reduction sequence. If my edge steepening had been more consistent I would have achieved a longer point. I am making some points for Eleanor Casella’s teaching collection and I think this can be one of them as it has an interesting provenance and biography, as well as being an aestheically pleasing example.
The above Kimberley Point has been made from an old piece of glass, the flat side of a Camp Coffee bottle. My aim was to retain the raised letters that spelled ‘chicory’ but it was not to be. If you look closely it is clear that there are bubbles in the glass and the section on the bottom left is the edge of one large bubble. These voids meant it was necessary to continually adjust in order to manage them, hence the small size.
This second point is made from a side section of an old glass beer bottle. This is similar to one seen in the Manchester Museum and the main issue here was managing the curve and the variable thickness of the glass. The proximal section on this piece was much thinner than the distal. I am happy with it as a point, but in order to get that feeling of sharp serration on the margins I need to get the initial invasive flakes deeper, to reduce the angles. So whilst the microwave turntable presented its own set of problems, the transition to using old glass has highlighted some interesting issues that need to be considered when attempting to make these points as aboriginals did: uneven glass thickness; managing a transverse curve on longitudinal section; and accommodating bubbles in the glass. All in all an interesting process.
We have been having regular Tuesday and Thursday evening ‘knapp-ins’ for the past few weeks. Between the three of us we each gravitated towards different materials. Nick focused upon the remainder of the thick microwave turntable. Rob brought in some Langdale Tuff, a volcanic material with a fantastic texture, and I brought in a bone china plate. This bone china is hard, and very difficult to get long removals from. It really does seem to be a case of heavy abrasion to get incrementally longer removals, only to abraid again to get a bit further. Each of the above removals was hard earned.
Both Koalaboi and Nick recommended having a look at Paleomanjim’s Youtube channel. He uses a number of methods depending upon source material, but to maximise flake length he combined two approaches. Firstly he used abrasion and removals to create a steep angle that can be used optimally for one face only. He also used a pad with a channel cut into it. He has identified that having this void below the flake being removed means that it has absolutely no support, and thus comes off cleanly. Even small amounts of support (contact) can lead to step fracturing. This makes sense, although it doesn’t seem to be reflected in the Kimberley Points literature. Once optimal length flakes have been removed from one face, the the margin in prepared so as to remove optimum flakes from the second face. This process is primarily aimed at thinning and creating a lens like cross section. I have a couple of fragments of this material left, and so I am going to test out this steep platform method this Tuesday evening.