Thoughts on Kimberley Points, teaching and learning

Last Saturday afternoon I spent four and a half hours with Rob Fulton, Rob Howarth and Sunny Lum testing out a Kimberley Point workshop idea. Rob Howarth is pretty experienced in that we tend to meet up most weeks to knap. Rob Fulton and Sunny Lum however were knapping novices, and as such, ideal for my experiment. I wanted to see if I could lead a novice knapper through the process of producing a Kimberley Point in one session. Spoiler alert: I couldn’t.

IMG_20171021_143354

I had used a glass cutter and hard hammer to make some preforms from the old plate glass that we have. Rob Howarth works at the University of Salford Centre for Applied Archaeology and had kindly contributed some samples of 20th Century industrial plate glass for us to use. There are real qualitative differences between differing glass types, and one of Rob H’s samples in particular was excellent to work. By using these samples I tried to make the preforms formally (shape) and materially (type of glass) conducive to working into Kimberley Points. I also had outlined a clear and idealised reduction sequence.

reduction sequence

Having introduced them to the rich and interesting background to the points we started on the preforms. I had realised when putting together the idealised reduction sequence that they needed to grasp two basic types of retouch: steep; and deep invasive. We started with steep, and it took a while. I had underestimated how long it takes to get a feel for a new process, and for Rob F and Sunny it was a very new process. The first hour and a half perhaps was taken up with producing steep retouch on a series of blanks. Ultimately, Sunny got it but Rob F was unable to consistently apply it. This was frustrating for both of us and obviously had implications for the next phase, because the steep retouch was in fact producing the necessary platforms for applying the deep retouch. Rob Howarth was able to produce a number of steep edged blanks ready for the next phase, and perhaps this emphasised the value of previous experience.

IMG_20171021_161118

By moving on I was hoping to allow them to experience the practical value of the good platforms they had produced through steep retouch. The experience of using the platforms would perhaps provide them with a different understanding that could be used to refine their process. Sunny picked this up pretty well and was able to concentrate on increasing the depth of his flaking. Rob H produced a fully surface flaked example, the best he has yet made. I think for Rob H the clearly outlined reduction sequence was really helpful as it allowed him to apply the skills he had already developed in a structured way. For Rob F it was more difficult. I was able to clean up his edges so that he had good platforms but his ability to get deep removals consistently was the problem. Some worked really well and some didn’t at all and this became increasingly frustrating. I know this feeling well and I found it difficult to help. We worked closely together, but a transition gradually occurred, leading ultimately to me doing most of Rob F’s retouch. He had run out of steam. This experience has reiterated to me the value of the glass bottle arrowhead workshop as an introductory tool. He would have fared much better with that one, but this session was more like the ‘deep end’ so to speak.

IMG_20171021_184458

Rob H ran into problems with the later phases of my idealised reduction sequence, mainly losing width with each subsequent round of steep retouch and invasive reduction. Consequently his beautifully surface flaked blank was becoming narrower but remaining relatively thick. This has to be to do with the angle of the invasive removals. As I said earlier, Rob H, Nick Overton and myself sit down together most weeks to knap. I think we each have a slightly different style and approach, and indeed Sunny commented on the differences between my own and Rob H’s physical approach in this session. I think Rob H’s flaking style is more similar to Nick’s than my own in that it is more invasive but shallower. This results in less thickness reduction. My flaking is not ideal but I think I aim for a steeper angle of removal to reduce depth. This is the punchy retouch I have discussed elsewhere. This is something for myself and Rob H to work on in our Thursday sessions.

So conclusions. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed at the end. Rob F was kind enough to volunteer and it turned out to be a frustrating experience for him. Rob H produced his best surface flaking yet, but depth reduction has emerged as the next key phase to get on top off. Sunny seemed to enjoy it and got the processes. I have worked with Sunny a lot in other contexts and I know he is an efficient learner (and good teacher). He was also happy to go away with the conceptual outcome of understanding and also being able to practice steep and invasive retouch. Rob F had to get home for babysitting and the remaining three of us worked through Kolb’s reflective phase in the pub afterwards. I have since had a week to digest what went on. I actually really enjoyed the day, working together to develop skills and solve problems. I have also gained a new appreciation for the complexities underlying apparently simple tasks such as applying steep retouch. I now think there is almost a (very un-sexy) session on simply applying retouch, perhaps linking it platform preparation, and the platform categorisation systems that are used in archaeological analysis (linear, punctiform, etc.). I like the idea of workshop participants going away with something they have produced. Rob H seems to be the same in that each of his artefacts has a story behind it: where and when it was produced; the material it is made from; the issues it raised. The artefact contains the story which contains the experience. I realise for me that these blog posts are becoming the more tangible outcomes of my ideas and experiences. Sunny seems to be content to go away with a grasp of the experiential and conceptual understanding. Rob F is going to give me some written feedback, and Sunny is going to produce a ‘guest post’, and Rob H too if he is up for it. But let me here thank all three of them for giving me the time and providing me with some real food for thought. The photos used in this post are all Sunny’s.

 

Advertisements

SMART Archaeology glass arrowhead workshop

smart 2

On Sunday I was fortunate enough to run a workshop for the South Manchester Archaeology Research Team using bottle glass to produce an arrowhead. My aim from this session was to get photos and feedback on my teaching and how I am organising the process for the learner.

smart 5

I now have a very structured approach and clear outcomes for the session: use hard hammer, soft hammer and pressure flaker; produce something like a Bronze Age barb and tang arrowhead; recognise that the equipment needed is all accessible and therefore personal practice can be developed (if desired).

 

smart 7All those boxes were ticked. I also added a feedback section that was designed to be useful to me, but also encourage some reflection by the participants on what they had learned. This is following Kolb’s learning cycle model and I think it is a valuable addition.

smart 6

Feedback from a previous participant has encouraged me to use a whiteboard, in particular to explain platform angles. Having a clearly established process allows me to punctuate it with whiteboard explanations before the participants have to do it. This too is really useful.

smart 3

Pressure flaking: it is not easy, and not easy to get people up and running with it in a three or so hour session. Consequently, the later stages involved a little interference by me to get rid of any difficult bits. I have a barb and tang flint arrowhead produced on a flake and made by me. One side of it has a nice row of deep invasive removals. They were produced by John Lord showing me how to pressure flake. The opposite side has an intermittent row of shallow flakes produced by me, not really getting it. I think if John Lord does a bit on his students arrowheads, then it is totally legit.

smart 8

And everyone did go home with something approaching a barb and tang Bronze Age arrowhead. I would like to thank Ellen McInnes for suggesting this and Andrea Grimshaw for the organisation and making it happen. Based upon the feedback I can say that we all got something from the day and I think we all enjoyed each others company, so a result!

The tools I use

This is a reference page to illustrate the free availability of materials that can be re-purposed for the production of stone tools. I really began to improve when I had tools and materials with which to practice and make mistakes. That is why I now love working with glass, and I value the process of re-purposing everyday objects to facilitate stone tool making. I see it as a test of my own ingenuity and understanding (e.g. will it work?). I also enjoy the minimal costs associated with re-purposing, as it makes this activity freely available to anyone prepared to invest the time and effort. Onto my toolkit.

car

Carpet off-cuts. As discussed here I have found carpet off-cuts to be ideal leg protector material. Their free availability means that they are great for workshops as I can make lots for absolutely no financial cost, and minimal time and effort. The above ‘book’ was given to me by my neighbour, Ashif the carpet fitter. Carpet off-cuts receive a 10/10 in my imaginary marking regime.

stones

Hammerstones. Let’s go to the beach. I have a selection of hammerstones of many different materials and sizes and they serve a number of functions. The big ones are useful for breaking up large flint nodules as illustrated here. The first example in the above picture has seen a lot of service and its elongated shape makes it also good for abrading edges as well. The third stone is not a hammerstone, but my abrading stone. Smaller hammerstones can also be used for tasks such as quartering glass bottles as discussed here. Hammerstones receive a 10/10 in my imaginary marking regime.

antler-hammer

Antler hammers. Also known as soft hammers, or even dog chews. This is my favourite and was bought from a pet shop, sold as a dog chew and cost I think about £6. I have since bought a slightly bigger ‘real’ one from Scotland for £9. That is also pretty good. These are useful tools for thinning a piece of flint or glass as they almost peel off layers of material. I have some example soft hammer flakes that I show when teaching someone how to use a soft hammer. If they can master producing nice thinning flakes, the end result is a nicely thinned piece. Antler hammers receive only an 8/10 in my imaginary marking regime, mainly because they cost me money. I will be trying wood at some point soon. Free wood.

pressure-flaker

Copper pressure flakers. This helps if you have builder friends, of which I have one. I have acquired a pipe cutter and have been given waste copper pipe. Copper is now quite valuable and these would have been cashed in for scrap, so they do have a financial value attached. However, Joe Curley was good enough to furnish me with enough to make twelve pressure flakers of two different diameters. Enough to run a workshop. I flatten the ends and use the point for pressure flaking glass and they work well. They do need regular re-sharpening with a hacksaw and file. I have used a ‘proper’ copper pressure flaker as owned by a colleague and it does work better. Because of this performance issue these re-purposed copper pipes get 8/10.

pressure flaker 5

Soft iron pressure flakers. This is based upon an Ishi type pressure flaker and its production method is detailed here and here. This type also needs regular sharpening with a file, but it is easy to replace the nail when it has worn down. It is now my favourite tool and although there is a cost attached to the production it still gets 10/10 because I like using it so much.

I love these tools because they have allowed me to practice and get better. The free availability of these materials has also allowed me to share my enjoyment and my equipment with others who have made the mistake of expressing an interest. In turn, I now learn a lot from the other people I practice with. We get real excitement from sharing a new revelation, or a newly recognised free source of materials. I could at this point segue onto the social aspects of flintknapping in the present and past. However, the next post will be an accompaniment to this one and discussing freely available materials. Probably.

My ‘Soft & Sumptuous’ leg protectors have arrived

Many thanks to my neighbour Ashif from L.L.C. Carpet and Laminate flooring.

LLC

He fitted some carpet and laminate for us earlier this year and told me at the time that they had to pay to dispose of off-cuts. My ‘leg-protectors’ are made from exactly such carpet off-cuts and work really well. Having now done a few workshops it became clear that I could use a few more leg protectors. This week Ashif popped round with this ‘book’ of twelve carpet samples. I had told him what I needed and asked him for off-cuts, but he thought these may work better because of the stitched edges.car

These are carpet they no longer sell, and as well as being ‘soft and sumptuous‘ and made in Great Britain, they are absolutely free and rescued from landfill. Ashif may not fully comprehend my enthusiasm for free and recycled flintknapping equipment, however I do fully appreciate his excellent after sales customer service. Many thanks Ashif!

 

Hulme STEAM maker faire

Learning through making

On a sunny Saturday afternoon two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to run the above workshop at the Hulme STEAM maker faire in the garden of the Old Abbey Taphouse. Running this workshop in a pub is a double edged sword (so to speak). We had almost unlimited access to empty beer bottles. We also had almost unlimited access to full beer bottles. Health and safety issues aside, STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths and the thrust of the event was to explore how the Arts and Sciences overlap. We had three hours and I ran two consecutive sessions with a fair degree of overlap. My overall aim was to introduce people to the complexity of an apparently ‘primitive’ technology through the process of making a Bronze Age arrowhead. The session was successful on a number of levels!

First of all both sessions were well attended, and it is therefore reassuring that other people also find these things interesting, and it is not just me. It was really rewarding being able to share my enthusiasm (obsession).

Secondly, it was open to everyone and so two younger knappers were able to take part. I was surprised (although I have no idea why I should have been) at the degree of concentration and their results. This opens up the whole area of at what age in the past children started knapping?

Thirdly, everyone seemed to get something from it and some people made really good arrowheads, fantastic examples for first attempts. We also had some interesting discussions about the different effects of the different tools, and on a personal level I can now clearly hear when someone is hitting the glass incorrectly.

Everyone seemed to love the initial stage of removing the beer bottle base using a nail and cork, and because the session overall was an enjoyable and engaging experience I was awarded £200 seed corn funding to develop the workshop. And as I have already said, it was sunny!

IMG_2071

Many thanks to Jana Wendler and Sam Illingworth for organising a brilliant event, and Ellie Mycock for taking the great photographs. Also, please check out this link: Hulme STEAM maker faire to see the other great ideas and innovative projects exploring this art and science overlap. My thanks to Hannah Cobb in the University of Manchester Archaeology Department for the loan of the safety goggles.

Flint knapping, 3D printing and primary school workshops

I have some workshops planned aimed at primary school children studying the prehistory of Britain. Following the theme of this blog, one of the activities is to bring together the components necessary for the kids to make a Bronze Age arrow. Rightly or wrongly, I am a little cautious about letting small children loose with flint or glass arrowheads so I thought I would get some 3D prints. The flint originals were a Neolithic leaf shaped example and a Bronze Age barb and tang arrowhead both produced by John Lord for Elizabeth Healey’s teaching collection . These originals were scanned in by a colleague Tom O’Mahoney.

19397817_10101581304831172_1134111985_n

19244151_10101581284372172_1358061093_n

Tom also scanned one of my glass barb and tang arrowheads to see how the scanner would cope with a reflective and transparent material. This example had to be covered in talcum powder before scanning.

19397908_10101581315534722_814618048_n

After scanning, two prints of each of the flint versions was produced for me by Ed Keefe from the print unit at Manchester Metropolitan University (ManMet).

DSC_1888

The first two examples on the left have some horizontal lines running across. Ed described this as similar to when a photocopier is running low on toner. Consequently he printed them again in the more transparent material. The second two are excellent ‘plastic’ reproductions of ‘original’ flint reproductions. However, the most impressive aspect is the price. Because prints are priced by the cubic centimetre each arrowhead worked out at £2.50. Full colour versions would have cost £3.50. My scans can be uploaded to sites such as Sketchfab or Thingiverse and therefore downloaded free of charge by teachers with the print costs being minimal.

The workshops are still at the planning stage, but I have been impressed by the results and the prices for this process. I would certainly recommend the 3D print facility at ManMet to anyone who thinks the process may be useful to them. Ultimately though, it depends what the kids think!