Improving Your Strike

Flintknapping: Improving Your Strike Accuracy

(As featured in the September 2007 issue of Practically Seeking)

Why is accuracy important?
Check out Eddie's Single-Strike Arrowhead to see what accuracy can do.

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 (your piece breaking 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.

Tips for a More Accurate Strike

Step-by-step Instructions for Improving Your Strike Accuracy:

  1. Obtain several pieces of plate glass of 3/16 to ¼ inch thick. I prefer a smoked glass to clear, as it is easier to see what you are 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. Plate Glass Painted Plate Glass

  3. Using a tile-cutter, (available at any hardware store or Home Depot for about $7) cut your glass into 2x3 inch rectangles.
  4. Cutting your glass 2x3 inch pieces

  5. 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.
  6. Mark your strike point Prepare to Strike

  7. 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.
  8. Strike Angle

  9. 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.
  10. Remove the Corner

  11. 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.
  12. Marking Your 2nd Strike Point

  13. Make sure that you are still holding your piece at 45 degrees and strike precisely on that spot.
  14. Take your 2nd strike After the Strike

  15. Mark this flake scar in the same manner as you did the last to find your next strike point, and take your shot.
  16. Taking Additional Strikes

  17. Proceed completely around the piece, practicing your strike on all four sides.
  18. Continue around all 4 sides Continue around all 4 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 or working with plate glass in this exercise is that you'll get lots of practice in removing square edges, which will help you to develop much more confidence in knowing how to "get into" a new piece of rock.

Single-Strike Arrowpoint

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, as Eddie did with this Single-Strike Arrowpoint.

By carefully preparing specific platforms Eddie produced this point with a single billet strike.
A bit of notching and it was ready to haft.

Single-Strike Arrowpoint Single-Strike Arrowpoint