Major rivers with a degree of natural fluctuations will usually have quite a lot of exposed rocks on the bank. Weaker rock, like flint and quartz will usually be destroyed by the movements in the river, but hard and shock absorbant rock such as quartzite, will only become rounded and often gain desirable shapes. This is why I always look for axe stone here. You will quite frequently find stone that is not layered and homogenous in colour and texture. Among them you will occationally find shapes that resemble axes or hammers. Good stone requires minimal pecking and grinding to be usable.
On this photo you can see some different types of stone found in a river nearby me. The left one is of a very coarse grained type. I use it for abrading platforms when knapping. The four other are of mediocre quality, small axe blanks, maybe except the one furthest down. The three to the right is greenstone.
The majority of the work involved in constructing this type of axe is clearly the stone work. Today I went out and found some really flexible birch saplings to use as a handle.
The first sapling is bent around the groove, very tightly so it will not come loose. Bind the lower end with some willow bark to keep it together.
Take another branch and wrap in the same fashion behind the first one, only from the opposite direction. Use the narrowest end of the sapling to wrap around the top of the shaft to keep things together. Wrap together the saplings to a shaft with willow bark.
It chops beautifully, on small saplings almost as well as a metal hatchet in fact.
Most embarrasingly I often have projects that span years, even if they are quite simple. This project for instance is a pecked and ground axe celt that I started around 2 years ago. Making a celt handle is something I rarely have the time to do, so I decided to modify the axe head to accomodate a different type of hafting. Here is the material, a celt axe head and a quartzite pebble to peck with.
The pecking is done around the whole head, particular attention kept to the top and the bottom, since they will be the two most important points of connection to the handle. Pecking is done in a light motion, no force put into it, only the weigth of the stone is used. Don’t peck too deep and use the sharpest possible edge to keep work and risk of fracture at a minimum.
It’s that simple, the earlier processes in axe head construction can be found here. I will demonstrate hafting one of the nearest days.
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Norway is full of rocks, but very few of them have any particular value in knapping. Flint is only occationally found on the southern coast in small pebbles and rhylite in one location in the west. Quartzite is too hard, quartz breaks a little irregularly and lots of others are more or less useful.
I had heard that quartz responds to heat treating, so I decided to test high grade quartz, quartzite and something that resembles metabasalt. The flakes, no more than an inch thick, were buried a few centimetres below the surface. A small fire was made on top and maintained for between 1 and 2 hours.
I then brushed the coals aside and let the ground cool for a little while. My immediate reaction when digging up the flakes were that the pieces of quartz seemed more shiny and glossy. There was no visible difference on the quartzite and metabasalt.
When testing the pieces I found that the quartz knapped much easier. The flakes travelled easier and didn’t step in the regular fashion. It also felt sharper. On the quartzite, which supposedly doesn’t respond to heat treating I found a small positive change, although it may be just my bias. The metabasalt just became more brittle and crumbled under any flaking.
I didn’t expect any change during such a short time of exposure to such relatively small temperatures. As the results were quite pleasing, I’m not sure much more would be recommended with the quartz, since it may become too brittle, but it may be worth experimenting with higher temperatures and/or longer time in the ground with quartzite.
I have a ton of projects going on now. Among them a fish trap, which will hopefully be finished by the end of this week. But I’m also working on a construction site these days. There is some slack during the day, while waiting for supplies and stuff. That is an excellent opportunity to knap a little. The two to the left have been made at work last week. The two right ones are made from some kind of English flint. The left one from Knife River flint, most graciously given me by Eskimoboy on paleoplanet.