My experience with flintknapping began in the fall of my senior year. I was in a survival class as an elective, so we learned how to build shelters, how to make fires, and other rudimentary skills. Among these skills was flintknapping. We would sit on the floor of the classroom – a garage-like room – and whack away at pieces of glass. The teacher did it as a hobby, and had made some interesting points and other tools. He demonstrated the flaking of volcanic glass, and showed that the resultant flakes were sharper than surgical steel. We compared a flake about the size of a razor to a scalpel from the biology department; the flake sliced right through buckskin, where the scalpel encountered some difficulty on its way though. We were very excited to begin making our own lithics using the method he presented.
We started by gathering our material that we would fashion into weapons: large pieces of glass windowpanes from the recycling. They were only perhaps a quarter inch thick, but the fragments we began with measured about three inches by four, in a triangular shape. We decided to try to just work on the edges, to get them sharp without destroying the main piece we were working with. Although it sounds like a simple task, we soon found otherwise. We made our tools ourselves, as well: our hard hammers (or “boppers,” as he termed them) were bars of metal, about a half inch thick, rounded on the ends. The soft hammer and pressure flaker were combined into the same tool, which we made by taking an inch-thick dowel – about the thickness of a shower rod – and hammering a nail most of the way into one end. The wooden dowel served as the soft hammer. To make the pressure flaker portions, we proceeded to strip the head off the nail with pliers, leaving a dull, somewhat rounded metal stub, perhaps half an inch long. Once this was filed into more of a point, our tools were ready.