Practically Seeking

September 2007 (Issue 5)

Hey there,
I can hardly believe it has been six months since we launched Practical Primitive! The support y'all have shown has been outstanding and we are blessed to be growing beyond my most optimistic predictions.
I've been to many fun and interesting places and had the opportunity to become reacquainted with many folks I have not seen in a long time. It has been a fantastic half-year and I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you.
Our schedule for the next six months is ready to go and I hope to see each of you soon for at least a visit. I look forward to sharing time with you all.


What's New Upcoming Events Skill of the Month Eddie's Bookshelf Practically Speaking Final Note

What's New


We've posted our new class schedule through the end of February and have workshops going on in New Jersey, Ontario, Texas and North Carolina. We hope you'll be as psyched about them as we are, and if you have any questions about what's coming up just let us know. And just a reminder, none of our workshops have prerequisites, so come on out and join us. Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Here's a taste of what's coming up...

15 – 16    Tracking Essentials (Aurora, IL)
21 – 23    Awareness 1: Reconnecting
28 – 30    Survival Bows: 3 Bows in 3 Days
6 – 7       Traditional Archery Fundamentals
8             Drums
9             Rattles
12 – 13    Flintknapping (London, ON)
26 – 28    Hunting Skills 1
2 – 4        Self Bows
5             Shooting the Longbow
14 – 16    Hunting Skills 1 (Clifton, TX)
17           Percussion Knapping (Clifton, TX)
18           Pressure Flaking (Clifton, TX)
29           Survival Essentials: Shelter 1
30           Survival Essentials: Stone Tools Basics

Road Trips

Flintknapping in Ontario

October 12 – 13
We're taking off to London, Ontario for a 2-day Skills 2 You Flintknapping class next month. There's room for a couple more to join in, so if you'd like to work off some of that Thanksgiving dinner give us a call at 732-276-8159 or e-mail for more info. We'll be happy to sign you up.
We'll also be spending a few days in the countryside near Kitchener-Waterloo (Julie's home turf) before and after the Knapping class, so you'd like to set up a workshop or do some one-on-one mentoring let us know!

It's TEXAS Time Again

November 7 – 27
We're heading to Texas for a couple of weeks this November, and will be holding our first workshops in the Lone Star State. We'll be driving down & back, and are already looking at making stops in Missouri & Arkansas along the way.
If you'd like us to stop off in your area too, for either a "Skills 2 You" workshop or some mentoring, we'd be happy make a detour.

Upcoming Events

Free Open Skills Nights

September 19
October 17
November 28
December 19

Come on out and join us for our FREE Open Skills nights the third Wednesday of each month. Bring a project you're working on, a plant ID guide, an animal tracking book, or just come meet us and check out our new place. We look forward to having you here!

Skill of the Month

Improving Your Strike

Flintknapping: Improving Your Strike Accuracy

Perhaps the most common problem I see with people who are learning how to flintknap is overstrike.
Overstrike is the knapping term for when your billet hits your rock too far from the edge, and is one of the leading causes of biface failure (when your piece breaks in two). This breakage often leads to tremendous frustration for knappers who don't understand why it keeps happening, or realize that there are simple exercises that can help.
The key to reducing instances of overstrike is ACCURACY. As every skilled flintknapper will tell you, you can never get too precise in your strike. After 25 years of knapping I still practice variations on the following exercise.

For photos to go along with these step-by-step instructions check out our website.

How to Improve Your Strike

  1. Obtain several pieces of plate glass of 3/16 to 1/4 inch thick. I prefer a smoked glass to clear, as it is easier to see what you're doing. If clear glass is all you can get your hands on just pick up a can of spray paint or primer and color one side of the glass yourself.
  2. Using a tile-cutter, (available at any hardware store or Home Depot for about $7) cut your glass into 2x3 inch rectangles.
  3. Using a grease pencil, china marker or other permanent marker, make a small mark precisely on one corner of your piece. This point is where you want your billet to hit the glass.
  4. Hold your piece by the long side and at about a 45 degree angle to your leg. Getting this angle correct is important to your success in this exercise. If your holding angle is too flat your glass will likely break, too steep and you may get a very short flake or no flake at all, or once again, your glass will break.
  5. Strike EXACTLY on that corner to remove the square edge. Your objective is to strike with the very tip of your billet (or hammer stone) and create as shallow an indentation as possible.
  6. Using your marker, mark the flake scar at its farthest edge and continue that mark straight up to the top of your glass. This is your next strike point.
  7. Make sure that you are still holding your piece at 45 degrees and strike precisely on that spot.
  8. Mark this flake scar in the same manner as you did the last to find your next strike point, and take your shot.
  9. Proceed completely around the piece, practicing your strike on all four sides.

Why is this such an effective exercise? The fragility of plate glass will not tolerate the slightest amount of excess bending stress. If you overstrike, your glass will break. And if your glass breaks, you know why!
Another side benefit of working with plate glass in this exercise is that you will get lots of practice in removing square edges, which will help you to develop more confidence in knowing how to "get into" a new piece of rock.

Accuracy is the first step to being able to predict what will happen when you take your strike. Once you can predict what is going to happen, you will soon discover how to manipulate what you want to have happen.

Check out this Single Strike Arrowhead to see why this can be a real time saver!

Knapping Strike Challenges


Follow the instructions for the above exercise until you make it all the way around the piece without breaking your glass.


Repeat the above exercise without making any marks on the glass, or repositioning your piece between strikes. Using only your fingertips as indicators of strike points, go down the side as quickly as possible. (Wear hand protection!)


Do the exercises above, blindfolded.

Eddie's Bookshelf

The Art of Flintknapping

The Art of Flintknapping

—D.C. Waldorf

When I began knapping many, many years ago there were virtually no reference materials from which I could effectively learn. When a knapping buddy of mine introduced me to The Art of Flintknapping (2nd edition) it was a godsend.

The clear and concise way in which D.C. presented the information made all the difference to my early knapping skills, and the beautiful line drawings throughout the book, (drawn by the late Valerie Waldorf — an amazing woman who is missed by all who knew her) made it easy for even this Texas-boy to understand how to proceed.

Waldorf has continued to improve his format and content with each re-issue, making the information even more practical and understandable. I remember visiting with Dave & Val at their place in Missouri, discussing his plan to add the "level line drawings" to the third edition, and how excited I was about the ways in which this would make holding and striking positions so much more understandable to those new to the craft.

Since that time Dave has continued to upgrade and revise his book, which is now in it's 5th evolution, even adding an excellent companion DVD last year.

This work continues to be a must-have primer for anyone wishing to explore the fascinating world of lithic manufacture. While there are other books that delve deeper into the technical aspects of the craft, and provide more in-depth information on fracture mechanics, The Art of Flintknapping condenses all the vital information you will need into an easy-to-digest package, and remains a work that will continue to assist knappers, new and old, in becoming proficient in the Art of stone tools.

For more information on this and other recommended books, see our website.

Practically Speaking

The Colors of Fall

Where did the summer go?

Well, Fall is coming and our minds are slowly beginning to turn towards preparing for the winter.

The problem with that way of thinking is that it is at best inefficient, and in many cases, far too late. So what time of the year is it appropriate to begin laying in stores and supplies in preparation for the upcoming winter? At the end of the current one!

In a recent Foraging class we talked a lot about how important it is to not only have an accurate assessment of your current needs, but to also be able to predict your future needs. Sure, in the fall you'll be able to gather and store up lots of walnuts and acorns and the like but, come mid-February, wouldn't that acorn mush taste soooooooo much better with a handful of dried raspberries????

When it comes to foraging and gathering, prediction is the key to efficiency, and experience and observation are the keys to prediction &mdas; and to your ultimate success.
If you were preparing for the upcoming winter, could you answer any of these questions?
When is cattail pollen first seen and when is it gone?
What are the best acorns in your area?
When do they mature?
From what type of oak do they fall?
When do your favorite berries come into season in your area?
When are they gone?
When is your preferred basket material at its best?
When is the "rut" (whitetail deer breeding season) in your area?

It is important to remember that many things are available only during a specific time of year, and are at their best for only a short time. But how do you know when that is?

Do this: Obtain a calendar that you can carry with you in the field. As you keep watch on the resources that are available in your area notice when they begin to appear, when they bloom, when they go to seed, when they dry out — any significant change — and note the date on your calendar. This will give you a heads-up for the coming year, as well as help you to develop an improved sense of awareness for your environment. You will be amazed at what you will begin to discover about your extended home area.

I hope this helps you gain a better understanding of how to start planning for the future.
Now get out there and have fun!

One Final Note

Experience comes from knowledge, and is all you truly own. Experience is the only thing you possess that cannot be taken from you by anyone else. Experience is cumulative; it adds up over time. Whether it's just for fun, or in confrontation of adversity, if you spend your time turning knowledge into experience you will always be the better for it.
In the words of Louis Pasteur, "Chance favors the prepared mind".

Eddie Starnater
Practical Primitive

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