How To Make and Use Primitive Stone Bladed Knives
When most people think of stone bladed knives they think of something like the one above with a classic blade and a handle to make it easy to hold. 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 more chipping.
To really appreciate stone bladed knives and where they fit in man's history one really needs to appreciate flint knapping. 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, spear points, or any chipped stone tool. Flintknapping is relatively easy to learn (with proper instruction and patience) and there are some good instructional books and videos 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 knappable stone material many modern flintknappers use copper tools, even though the American Indians probably never had access to enough raw copper to fashion tools. Today, there are a 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 Knife
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 rocks, on logs, on the ground, or on most floors and expect it to survive. That is why when the Native Americans had the opportunity to convert to steel they did so quickly. 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
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Making stone bladed knives is not hard, once you have a knapped blade for your project. To learn how to make flint knapped blades yourself, check out our all inclusive Flint Knapping Kits. We also carry finished knife blades and other points ready for your own custom 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. Raw handle material such as antler, osage wood, and jaw bones are available in our Raw Craft Materials product category.
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 most cases in their naturally hollow portions.
3) Animal hide glue or another adhesive is prepared, then applied, to secure the handle. Pine pitch glue also works good for blade attachment. Socketed styles usually only require gluing, but slotted styles will need some additional wraps of gut, rawhide or sinew to properly secure the blade. If needed, these materials should be applied into the wet/warm glue. Allow enough time for animal hide glue to dry thoroughly before continuing with the project. Animal hide glue and/or pine pitch resin glue used along with sinew, gut or rawhide will form a material a lot like fiberglass in its strength - as long as it is stored correctly.
4) 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 already has most of the components pre-made. Please check out our Knife, Arrow, and Firemaking Kits category page for other introductory lessons in to primitive crafts.
Copyright 2020 Elliot Collins