Welcome to From the Pit! This is going to be a place for PA readers
to ask questions about flintknapping and ston artifacts. I will do my
best to answer your questions or at least point you in the right direction.
For now, let me start by posting some questions that I get all the time:
tools do I need?
You will need at least three knapping tools: a hammer stone, a billet,
and a pressure flaker. Leather or rubber pads, work gloves, and eye protection
are essential as well. There are places on the internet that sell tool
kits as well as individual tools. Just do a search for “flintknapping
tools” online or at your local library. If you’re handy,
you can easily make your own.
The PA forum is a great place to get advice
on tools. Your tools don’t need to be fancy to get the job done.
do I find rocks that are good for knapping?
You can buy all sorts of rocks these days, of course, but many flintknappers
gather their own. There are many places to find chert (or flint) and
other knappable rocks: private property, landscape supply yards that
carry stone, sometimes in public areas like road cuts, and from other
knappers. Free, easilyaccessible rock is getting harder and harder to
find so, in my opinion, the best place to find stone is at a knap-in.
If you are new to the hobby, you should ask for advice before picking
up just any old rock that looks good. Many stones will look good on the
outside but will not knap well.
How long does it take to get good at knapping?
Most knappers will agree that progress is measured in weight not time.
By this I mean that you’ve got to chip a lot of stone
to get good. Some say at least 100 pounds and maybe as high as 1000 pounds—it
depends on your natural ability. In my opinion, it will take the average
person about 200 pounds of chipped rock to get past the newbie stage
where you can’t seem to make anything “good.” That
is equal to about three five-gallon buckets full of rock. It can take
years and many hundreds of pounds of rock to reach the “expert” stage
where you can make high quality knapped objects of just about any shape
Where did you learn to knapp?
Personally, I learned about the art of knapping from videos and other
knappers. However, 90% of my skill is self taught
through trial and error. I think you can gain up to 25% of your skill
by just following instructions, but the other 75% has to
come from you. Flintknapping is a very difficult skill to learn. It is
like a sport in many respects because of the physical demands, but it
is also like solving puzzles. Your mind and body need to be in good health.
cut yourself doing that?
Yes, every time I knap! Sometimes I get big cuts and sometimes small,
mostly very small. Be prepared to donate blood
to this hobby.
What about rock dust and chips?
These two things are very hazardous to your health. Do your best to protect
yourself from inhaling the dust and cutting yourself with the chips
and the finished objects. Be especially careful when children are around
I heard you can heat up the rocks and drip water on them
so that flakes will fly off. Ever done that?
Yep, I’ve heard that too. It’s not true. Yes, I’ve
done that and it causes messy explosions. I’m not sure where that
idea comes from but, like an invasive species, I try to kill it with
Why am I having so much trouble “getting” it?
All I can make are small rocks out of big rocks. I feel like giving
up. Someone please put me out of my misery.
Every knapper faces this misery at some point. It’s all part of the process … but
that fact doesn’t seem to help. Think about it like this: flintknapping
is a royal pain in the butt. I could elaborate further but I’ve got to
keep this clean.
“Do or do not … there is no try.” –Yoda