Friday evening and I ended up going back into Uni. Karen was going on a works do and so after taking the dog out I thought I would go back in and finish some things off. We have been knapping Johnstone during our weekly experimental sessions and slowly but surely I have got better. We started out in an unstructured way and I still can’t say exactly what my method is, but I am becoming pretty consistent and avoiding endshock. Anyway, tonight rather than finishing off what I went in to do, I ended up sat in the lab and decided to play with my thinning.
As you can see it has worked pretty well and I am enormously satisfied with this one. Measurements wise it is still what Bruce Bradley would class as an Early, however I don’t really care too much as it is just pretty good. It has also confirmed to me that this material is actually ideal for knife blades. Kiefer Duffy and myself are going to get together to make a knife, and so I might try hafting this blade this weekend. If it works then we have the basis of a nice workshop we can do together, as he can knap, but also make a mastic glue from birch resin. Watch this space!
The full title of this post is ‘do you ever find yourself in the backyard at 6.30 am knapping a flake of bitumen?’
Having got up early I started tidying up my office / room I keep everything in. This involved a sort out, and in the process I came across the above flake. It is a flake of bitumen, the kind that is melted down to produce a road surface. I found a block of it some time ago and recognised the characteristic fracture qualities that suggested it could be knapped. Having discovered the flake I unfortunately then had a choice: continue tidying up; or go out into the backyard and make an arrowhead.
This was pretty quick, less than 15 minutes, which is good because it was cold outside. Having finished making the arrowhead I unfortunately then had a choice: continue tidying up; or do a blog post.
Today I spent the day with John Lord in a polytunnel in Norfolk. I had a number of things on my shopping list, one of which was some rock crystal to be worked. Nick Overton is looking at some debitage recovered from a Neolithic site and wanted John to see how the material knapped.
Nick had given me some pieces of crystal for John to test, but as it transpired, he had already tried it out. Someone had left him some larger pieces and these were of a more usable size. Nick’s pieces are on the top row, John’s on the bottom.
John used an antler hammer to take off a largish flake, and then a Red Deer antler tine to start pressure flaking. Because of its crystalline nature it was unclear if as a material it would knap. The Neolithic material did indeed contain micro debatage, but the crystals Nick had obtained were small and difficult to work, hence the request.
The larger flake proved to be workable and John was able to produce a nice leaf shaped arrowhead. The majority of the pressure flaking was done with a Roe Deer tine. For people in the past I imagine this would have been an amazing material. For me it is very similar to the bases of beer bottles that I am used to working. Some of the magic has therefore been lost on me. I collected all the debatage for Nick so he is going to be busy. The outcome for me is the following photograph of John Lord’s hands.