Making Stone Flakes From a Columnar Basalt Core
For a while now I’ve been playing around with making tools from hard stone. I’m not a great knapper. I’m not really even a good one. I’m a novice when it comes to making beautiful arrowheads and knives. I can make functional arrowheads, and functional knives from obsidian or even glass bottles. My concern has always been… what good is glassy obsidian for doing, well, real things? I mean, sure if you want to skin an animal obsidian makes perfect razor blades for the job. If you want to carve a bow-drill notch, or score a bone, or saw through a willow shoot, Obsidian is not going to cut it.
So during the spring I was on a hike with my lady along a river and I saw a stone that was broken and shaped similarly to obsidian, but was a dull gray/brown. It was a piece of columnar basalt. I took it home and played with making flakes using another large stone (granite? a larger grain basalt?) as a hammer stone and it was amazing. I’ve been making a bunch of flakes and even pressure flaking a little bit to get a sort of serrated edge. This stone is tough. Super hard. I’ve been asking around to the old knappers every chance I get for tips on working it. Most have suggested I find a softer basalt but a few have given me some really nice pointers that I’ll share in a later post once I’ve tried them out myself. I’ve collected quite a bit up there to play with back at home.
Here are some photos of me demonstrating how to get quality flakes for scraping tools. These are from the Teen Wilderness Skills camp I co-led for a Rewild Portland and Portland Parks and Recreation partnership.