Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Making Glass Arrowheads - Part 2

Once you have roughed out the shape of your point, it is time to bring out the pressure flaker and start working down to your finished point. Most knappers do their pressure flaking with a deer antler tine or a piece of large guage copper wire mounted in a wooden handle. I personally use deer antler because that's what I've got. You'll also need a palm pad to protect your hand while you're pressure flaking. I use a piece of heavy leather, like belt leather. The pad is oval shaped and a little bigger than the palm of my hand. The leather needs to be flexible so that you can close the pad around the piece that you are knapping and hold it tight. Shown below: Pressure flaking tools.

When you pressure flake, you need to be fairly precise on where you remove a flake. Pressure flaking is how you will finish out the shape of the point and how you will straighten out the edge of the arrowhead so that it is sharp and will penetrate well. You want to try and make your flakes long so that you will not be left with a bulky point that's fat in the middle. The trick to pressure flaking is to push in and down on the edge. If you just push down you'll end up taking off a short flake and you'll have a point that's fat in the middle and then drops off at a too steep angle to the edge. Pictured below: How to take off flakes so that you keep the edge centered.

It takes practice, but that's why you're using glass, so you can practice. If you have a thin edge, pushing in and down may crush the edge rather than taking off a flake. You can prevent this by rubbing the edge on a piece of sandstone to grind it flat, and then using your pressure flaker to take off a flake. Turn your point up on edge and look at it frequently. You want the cutting edge of the point to run straight and to be centered. In other words, remember to flake both sides of the edge. Show below: Top: Improperly knapped edge; Bottom: Properly knapped edge.

The final step to finishing up your point is to cut the base notches for mounting the point on an arrow shaft. I made a special tool for cutting notches. I just drove a six penny nail into a wooden handle and clipped the head off of the nail. I use the same flaking motion to carefully cut the notches, and "shazam" I have a finished glass point. Pictured below: Finished point without notches, flaking notches, and finished point with notches.

By the way, I have since learned that Native Americans used glass, when they found it, to make some of their points. Ishi, the famous "last wild Indian" made beautiful points from broken bottles, so this is not just some modern invention. Shown below: Finished glass points.

So there you have it. A cheap readily available supply of knapping materials. Practice and enjoy. You'll find that your skills will improve, and you can move on to using that flint and obsidian that you've been afraid to bust into; or you may, like me, get hooked on knapping glass. Either way it's a great hobby.


Pacific Crest Foraging said...

Thanks for the info! I've been practicing with glass for a few weeks now but am obtaining all of my instuction from the internet. You really helped me with the pressure flaking and sharp edge techniques. Thank you!

Sensible Survival said...

Thanks for reading my posts. I am no pro at knapping (sort of a jack of all trades but master of none)but I really enjoy making points. I have friends that can make points that you wouldn't believe. I call mine "survival grade". They ain't art, but they do work. Good luck with your knapping, I'd love to see some of your work.

Jermaine Rogers said...

Im going to try my hand at knapping for some bamboo arrows im making. I don't have any antlers or copper pressure there anything else I can use?


Sensible Survival said...

Jermaine, You can take a nail, drive it into a wooden handle (dowel rod or piece of any hardwood stick), and cut the nail off leaving about 3/4 inch of nail sticking out of the handle. This is not as good as an antler or a copper knapper, but it will work. I have even used a screwdriver to knap with and it turned out a serviceable, if not beautiful, point. Keep an eye open at garage sales for somebody that may have some old antlers for sale. Good luck and thanks for reading, Hank

aaron palmer said...

Hi , I'm Aaron. I am having trouble knapping the dome like part of the bottle bottom to a even shape. Any advice?