The Flint Knapper

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1998

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

shape stone tools when the material had been heated. Murphy used to heat stone by burying it in the ground in an outdoor fire. Rainy weather curbed his activities a couple of winters and, in a bow to technology, he bought a kiln. He heats the stone to about 500 degrees, then allows it to cool.

"Heating lets the stone loosen up a little bit. It gets color, and it glosses up a bit," Murphy says. Heated chert shows an array of subtle colors. "In the Woodland Hopewell time period, basically all the flint was heated before it was worked, but you get back to the Archaic Paleo time period and little stone was heated."

There are two ways flint knappers strike chips from stone to form artifacts. Percussion flaking involves striking or hitting the edge of the stone with a tool. Pressure flaking uses pressure; the artisan pushes in and down on the stone at the same time with a piece of antler. In indirect percussion, the tool doing the flaking is struck with something else, such as a heavy piece of moose antler.

With tons of rock in his possession, Murphy is something of a poet when talking about chert and obsidian. "The stone has energy in it . . . it is energy, and there is a certain part of myself in it," he says. "I'm not saying I am a New Age, New World worshiper of rock, but there is a vibration in it. Quartz crystal . . . they grind it up and fuse it and make space shuttle glass out of it. It has to withstand the heat. It's neat stuff."

He also likes the spirit and meaning behind primitive archery. He has two bows made of Osage orange wood, the American Indians' favorite bow wood. Both were shaped by friends. Murphy made stone tools, like an adz, to help harvest and form the wood for bow making. Friends make and fletch arrow shafts for him; he attaches his own points to them. Murphy skinned a deer using a stone scraper, and another archer has taken a deer with one of his stone broadheads.

The arrow points he hunts with weigh about the same as a steel point, and he says they shoot wonderfully and fly true to the mark. He uses a grain scale and makes his points range between 110 and 130 grains, saying they shoot without

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