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Back In Time

By Daniel Dye
Photos by Larry Teague

-- Imagine that your modern compound bow never existed and that your survival hinged solely upon killing the next deer you saw. What would you do?
photoPhoto: Tools of the Trade
Hall uses a variety of tools to create his arrowheads and knives. Clockwise, upper left corner: Deer and elk horns, a wide assortment of pressure flakers made out of broom handles and copper points, an abrader for smoothing rough edges, copper bopper, a variety of raw materials that will take the shape of arrowheads, and a cell phone because you just never know what might happen.

Your only option might be to craft your own weapons like Alton "Sonny" Hall does. This art of forming tools from stone is known as flintknapping. While Hall and thousands of other flintknappers, as they call themselves, consider this their hobby, Native Americans depended on this process to produce their weapons, which would hopefully bring down some of Mother Nature's most cunning animals.

photoPhoto: Shape Up
Hall shapes the stone into a preform by striking it with an elk horn. Observe the small pieces of rock taking flight. Always wear safety glasses when flintknapping.

Hall brought the ancient process of weapons construction to life recently at Buckmasters. And he made it look easy. However, after talking to a few beginners, this is a hobby neither for the faint of heart nor the impatient.

Silky Smooth
Hall strongly recommends to abrade, or sand, the stone after a few strikes with the bopper tool. Frequent abrading yields small chips, which fly from the stone - the desired result.

A six-year, self-taught knapper, Hall explained that sanding, or abrading, the stone after a few swift knocks with a copper bopper tool is key to getting to a preform shape that will eventually turn into a deadly arrowhead, the weapon he has chosen for this demonstration.

"Abrade. Abrade. Abrade," Hall would say after the chips flew from the rock. "The best knappers in the world abrade a lot."

photoPhoto: Taking Shape
Hall inspects the preform after striking it with the bopper.

After using the bopper to work the rock down into an oval shape, Hall then reached for his pressure flaking tools. During this process, the sharp point of the tool chips away layers of the rock.

"Sometimes I have a picture in my mind of what I want when I get to this place," Hall commented.

As time passed and Hall finished his demonstration, he imparted one piece of important advice for anyone interested in knapping.

"Always wear a shirt that has a pocket and keep bandages in it," he said more seriously than expected. "Also, you've also got to have fun."

photoPhoto: Finished Pieces
Arrowheads and knives can be made out of an array of stones including obsidian, quartz and limestone. The bopper, bottom, is from an elk, and the pressure flaker, top right, is from a deer. Native Americans used these items to create their weapons.

According to Dane Martin, co-editor of the popular flintknapping magazine "CHIPS," this skill was virtually unknown until D.C. Waldorph's book "The Art of Flint Knapping" was published. Since the late 1970s, Martin has seen a steady increase of people who have picked up this craft.

To find out more about flint knapping, visit


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