When most people think of stone knives
they think of something like the one to the left with a classic blade and a handle to make it easy to hold. The knife
to the left has a buffalo jawbone handle. Throughout prehistory, most
cutting was probably done with a simple stone flake. When a flake is
struck from a piece of flint or obsidian it comes off as a nearly
razor sharp blade with an edge that can hardly be improved upon with
To really appreciate stone bladed knives and
where they fit in man's history one really needs to appreciate
flintknapping. Flintknapping is the process of making stone tools by
flaking or chipping the stone to the proper shape and sharpness.
Flint, chert or obsidian (volcanic glass) are the stones most often
used for flintknapping, and can be used to make arrowheads, knife
blades, tomahawk heads, spearpoints, or any chipped stone tool.
Flintknapping is easy to learn (for some people) and there are some
good instruction manuals available. A flintknapper will use an
antler baton or billet to do really fine work but even a round stone
can be used to do basic flintknapping. For harder-to-chip materials
many modern flintknappers use copper rods, even though the American
Indian probably never used copper billets. Today, there are a few
people making incredibly fine stone knives. These range from the
believably authentic aged antler and buffalo jawbone knives to
exquisite parallel flaked art knives that only royalty would have
had in ancient times.
USING A STONE
You cannot pry and lever away with a
stone bladed knife the way you would with a steel blade. Even a
moderate twist can break a stone blade, especially if it is thin.
You must hold the knife handle in such a way as the sharp edge is
presented to the cutting project, not just thrust at it. A stone
knife should be used as if it were a scalpel.
You cannot drop a
stone knife on stone, on logs, on the ground, or on the floor and
expect it to survive. That is why when the Native Americans had the
opportunity to convert to steel they did so quickly. So stone knives
are best used for purposes of ceremony or demonstration. If you want
to cut, use a large single flake. You can dress a deer easily with a
single large flake, then if you want you can throw it away.
MAKING STONE KNIVES
Making stone bladed knives is not hard, once you
have a blade for your project:
1) Antler or wood handles are
shaped with a file or a belt sander after being roughly sawed to
shape. The old way would involve using stone flakes to score or
weaken the handle stock, then sandstone abrasive to smooth it. Today
you can use a table saw, belt sander, files and sandpaper to
accomplish this in a fraction of the time.
2) The handle is
cut to accept the blade. A tight fit is best. Antler, wood or bone
can be slotted with a vertical saw cut, but jawbones and some other
bones can be socketed in their naturally hollow portions.
3) Animal hide glue or other adhesive is
prepared, then applied, to secure the handle. Socketed styles
require only gluing, but slotted styles will additionally need some
wraps of gut, rawhide or sinew to secure the glue job. If needed,
these materials should be applied into the wet glue. Allow enough
time for animal hide glue to dry thoroughly all the way
Animal hide glue used along with sinew, gut or rawhide
will form a material a lot like fiberglass in it's strength - as
long as you keep it dry.
4) The knife is sanded or steel wooled
to smooth out the glue job. Pigments are applied in the form of
paints or natural pigments in a thin hide glue base. Pigments are
easy to use for antiquing or color accents. Use your imagination and
color the knife perfectly whether you want an aged look or the look
of a knife just made in ancient times.
A simple way to make a
primitive knife for collecting, use or decorating is to purchase a
knife kit that is already started. You can purchase fine stone knife
blades already chipped and ready to mount.
Article Created By: Wilkie Joe Collins