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Phoenix Obsidian Designs

FLINTKNAPPING DICTIONARY

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This flintknapping dictionary is provided to define several of the terms used within this website.

BilletsConchoidal FracturingEdge Modifier
FlintknappingHammerstonesPalm Guard
Percussion BifacePercussion ReductionPercussion Reduction Tools
Pressure Flaking HandlesPressure ReductionPressure Reduction Tools

 

Billets
Billets are rod shaped pieces of copper or are antler pieces.   These are used for careful application of softer percussion blows, such as for percussion finishing.   Some flintknappers have found that they can use billets throughout the reduction process.
 

 
Conchoidal Fracturing
Conchoidal Fracturing is the breakage pattern possessed to some degree by most materials which can be successfully flintknapped.   When a stone which has this property is struck straight-on the percussion waves radiates outward from the point of contact in the shape of a cone.   The breakage occurs at the outer edge of this cone through the material and if the cone reaches the other side of the piece it will break out in a cone shape.   The best example is what happens to plate glass window when a BB pellet strikes, popping out a cone from the opposite side of the strike.

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Edge Modifier
The Edge Modifier takes off the thin sharp edge of a flake created by previous flintknapping activity.   The purpose of the use of this tool is to ensure that the application of future pressure or percussion does not crumble the edge.
 

 
Flintknapping
The Art and Science of Making Stone Tools.   Specifically - the process of precisely applying one of several possible reduction techniques to a lithic material in order to produce a desired outcome.   The application of and choice of reduction technique is based upon an intimate knowledge of the materials breakage patterns (like conchoidal fracturing) acquired through training and/or experience.   The most recognized desired outcome of flintknapping is the production of stone arrowheads.

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Hammerstones
Hammerstones can be of a wide variety of materials and sizes.   Hard Hammerstones are quartizite and other dense stones.   These are generally used for reduction of denser materials such as fine-grained basalt or cherts and for large scale quarry reduction of other materials.   Soft Hamemrstones are sandstone and other less dense stones.   These are used for reduction of materials such as obsidian which are much more conchoidal fracturing sensitive.   Different sizes and weights are desired of either of these types of hammerstones since getting the right hammerstone for the right type of material can sometimes make all the difference.
 

 
Palm Guard
The Palm Leather Guard is a small piece of leather, sometimes with a thumb hole and other times can be a folded over larger piece of leather, placed in the hand to protect the palm.

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Percussion Biface
A piece of flintknapping which has been worked by percussion reduction on both sides.   A biface is oftentimes a blank or preformed piece which may be worked further down into a specific tool at some point in the future.
 

 
Percussion Reduction
Percussion Reduction is the process of flintknapping in which one object, whether a hammerstone or a billet, is used to strike the material being worked.   The strike is purposefully aimed to take advantage of the full possibilities provided by the property of conchoidal fracturing.   Percussion work generally occurs during the stage of roughing out of the raw material to produce a blank or preform.   However, the finishing of larger blades can often be produced by the very careful application of softer and more controlled percussion blows.

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Percussion Reduction Tools
The toolkit for Percussion Reduction can include Hammerstones of various weights, a Billet, and a Large Leather Piece for protection of your lap.
 

 
Pressure Flaking Handles
Flaking Handles have a bit of either metal (most commonly copper or brass), bone, tooth enamel, or antler.   The choice of bit often times is determined by the use to which it will be put.   Traditionally this handle is composed of a split piece of wood with the bit lashed into one end.   The version called a "Ishi Stick" is a dowel with the bit hammered into a hole drilled slightly smaller than the bit's dimensional width.   The most modern version has a allen wrench screw which tightens on the bit placed into an internal hole.

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Pressure Reduction
Pressure Reduction is the process of applying through pressure (rather than percussion) the force necessary to produce conchoidal fracturing.   It is a very controlled technique with the point of fracturing being carefully applied to a specific area of the piece being reduced.   This process is what is performed in the latter stages of the production of a refined tool.   It can be applied using specialized tools to create notches and other final finishing touches.
 

 
Pressure Reduction Tools
The tool kit for Pressure Reduction include: Pressure Flaking Handle, Edge Modifier, Palm (or Leg) Leather Guard, Other Specialized bits or complete handles for finishing touches.
 
 



 
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Page last Updated -- 03/20/11