Bone-Hafted Blade

Forager
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July 28th, 2018, 2:56 am #1

I've been using an old experimental bevel-hafted flint blade for years and treating it ruthlessly to determine its value and the strength of its haft.  After some resharpening episodes and ongoing all-season exposure I know that it'll be a matter of time before it fulfills its last task.  So this evening I decided to fabricate a successor.

After pressure flaking one of my chert blades into proper form for hafting, I selected a deer bone and prepared it to accept the blade along with some adhesive pitch filler and a wrap of Dogbane twine.

The dorsal -
Bone and Blade Knife, Dorsal.JPG
And ventral -
Bone and Blade Knife, Ventral.JPG
Aside from straightening a curve at the tip I like to keep my blades unifacial for the sharpest edge.  The finer edge angle retains the original feathered margin from when it parted from the core, suited to fine and delicate tasks; the stronger opposing side is flaked unifacially to a lightly serrated edge for more robust work.  Any incidence of esthetic here is outweighed by practical matters, the priority is long-term performance.


When I looked to see how the new knife would fit the old one's Birch bark sheath I was amused to see how consistent my mental template has become for making stone knives.  These were made many years apart and without comparison until the sheath-fitting:

Dorsal -
Blade Knives, Dorsal.JPG
Edge view -
Blade Knives, Edge View.JPG ...almost creepy.

Suffice to say that they each fit the same sheath.  I will continue to treat my old trustworthy workhorse according to my usual manner, knowing that a fresh one is waiting in the wings.
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Chippintuff
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July 28th, 2018, 3:11 am #2

That looks like another good one, and my guess is that knives of this general type have been pretty common over the centuries. I have enjoyed seeing the old one in many of your posts.

WA
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Forager
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July 28th, 2018, 4:13 am #3

Thanks WA.  This form of knife certainly bears some vintage....  

From Bordes' The Old Stone Age (1968), discussing the Upper Paleolithic of Siberia on p 203:

"There is a site at Malta, on the left bank of the Belava in the Lake Baikal region, 85 kilometres west of Irkutsk.  It has produced several dwellings, and an original industry, comprising end-scrapers, side-scrapers, borers and retouched blades--one of which still had its deer antler handle--some burins, notched pieces, bone needles and awls, and some points."

...Bold italics are mine.  
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freeze cracked
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July 28th, 2018, 5:48 pm #4

you're good at successor fabrication. and postings. and etc.

it's almost as if the only thing you lack is an epiphysis.
i dream of a better world in which chickens can cross roads without having their motives questioned.
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Forager
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July 28th, 2018, 5:57 pm #5

freeze cracked wrote: it's almost as if the only thing you lack is an epiphysis.
Thanks, but if I had one where would the blade go?
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freeze cracked
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July 28th, 2018, 6:54 pm #6

Forager wrote:
freeze cracked wrote: it's almost as if the only thing you lack is an epiphysis.
Thanks, but if I had one where would the blade go?
it can stay where it is. you aren't one of those carpenters who throw the nails away that have the heads on the wrong end, are you?  you're supposed to save those for the other side.
i dream of a better world in which chickens can cross roads without having their motives questioned.
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dixieshedhunter
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July 29th, 2018, 8:56 pm #7

Fine Fungi separator.
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VirginiaKnapper
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July 30th, 2018, 2:02 am #8

I love the performance that may come with simplicity, no need to really change if a system performs well. Some folks call stuff like this "crude", but we know that it works great and, when it was around, it was considered state of the art. Pete, may you describe a fungi separator?

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"It's about what you learn, not what you make" - Erret Callahan
"Win some, lose some, and sometimes ran out" - Kenny Roberts
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Forager
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July 30th, 2018, 3:31 am #9

Much may be said for simplicity and its economy.  Artifact hunters tend to focus on specialised forms but actual stone tool use will prove that the sharpest edges are flake margins.  This has been vindicated in artifact form, whether tools were opportunistically culled from the debitage pile or deliberately fabricated in the form of prismatic blades parted from a prepared core.

The earliest stone tools were simply flakes struck from cores and this hadn't changed throughout the grand legacy of stone tool usage, whether the edges came from block-on-block flaking, bipolar cores, bifacial cores, Levallois cores, blade cores, etc... all of them producing deliberately struck flakes demonstrating use wear.  

The Upper Paleolithic revolution of bladecore technology provided the product of simple yet elegant blades, which are essentially flakes.  Used as is or modified into a variety of forms, they conveyed humanity through an evolution of socio-technical stages only eclipsed by metallurgy.  

To grossly summarize, in one form or another flakes got us started and during millions of years provided the summit of subsistence technologies.  So Frank, I agree - it appears that there was really no need to change, because the system performed that well.  I also love the performance which comes with such simplicity, which is why I'll actually haft a blade in preference over a biface.
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Forager
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July 30th, 2018, 4:17 am #10

VirginiaKnapper wrote:Pete, may you describe a fungi separator?
Pete is familiar with my pattern of gathering and trimming wild mushrooms through the agency of stone knives.  I suggest this to be the inference of his signature minimalist yet pithy comment.
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freeze cracked
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July 30th, 2018, 1:16 pm #11

pete's unique. he kinda nique's up on ya.
i dream of a better world in which chickens can cross roads without having their motives questioned.
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BrewerMo
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July 31st, 2018, 8:07 pm #12

Do you plan to take out the old blade for study one day?
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Forager
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August 2nd, 2018, 4:22 am #13

Although several individuals have suggested I document the use and submit the blade for comparative reference value, I'd forgotten about it until you've brought it up, Ryan.  I recently found an old photo of it from 2009 and I think it wasn't new at that time... it seems likely that I'll go on working it down until it's either broken or exhausted.  If the latter, I'll see if there remains any interest in its potential value.

In this context, the old one was quite useful one evening during a discussion with the County Historical Society.  We were examining the debitage flakes in their collection of artifacts and one was quite similar in size and shape to my old blade.  It was clear that the ancient flake had been put to work on one edge and after pointing this out I passed my knife alongside the flake to the committee members who saw matching use-wear in the prehistoric flake, opening their eyes to an additional class of artifacts which exceeded the status of 'production waste flake'.  They have established a new category for such things as 'expedient tools' when use-wear is clearly evident.
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Paul Howard
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August 5th, 2018, 6:58 pm #14

Nice! I like the look of those knives and they look very pragmatic and useful too, Thanks for posting!
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Forager
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August 7th, 2018, 1:12 am #15

Thanks Paul.  Your appraisal of pragmatic and useful is right on track.  

The haft design for the antler and sinew blade was an experiment to try matching bevels between the stone and the tine.  It has held up admirably.  The black and white has the more conventional slotted haft, which has always done well in my experience... I would have gone with the matched bevels but that works best with curved blades and this one was pretty straight.
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BrewerMo
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August 7th, 2018, 11:54 pm #16

I really like this. After butchering one of my deer with flakes last year, I was surprised how my hands responded. My hands are in bad shape from the work I do, and are hurting pretty fast when using a knife with a traditional handle. When using flakes, much of the pressure used to cut was near the cutting edge instead of 3 or 4" away. This didn't cause near the fatigue. Only thing I adjusted mid job was dulling the edge facing my hand. I just wonder if the handle for these type knives couldn't have been positioned differently than a traditional knife.
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VirginiaKnapper
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August 8th, 2018, 12:15 am #17

Interesting observation.
"It's about what you learn, not what you make" - Erret Callahan
"Win some, lose some, and sometimes ran out" - Kenny Roberts
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Forager
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August 8th, 2018, 1:34 am #18

Ryan I am glad to read your report on the ergonomic efficiency of flakes - I've heard this many times before and enjoy every fresh reinforcement.  It is more significant for your increased tolerance with simple flakes. 

As to your thought concerning alternative haft orientations, I'd long wondered about the small basal constriction of some classic forms like the Susquehanna Broadspear or the Turkeytail.  There's been discussion of a simple cord tied around the notches, which would imply hand-held direct usage, suspended from from a belt, a strap, or around the neck -

Tied Turkeytail.JPG
A different option was suggested by Jack Cresson, who devised a clever alternative haft.  Simpler to show than describe, he encouraged me to make one of my own and see how it worked:

Transverse Haft.JPG
The handle is a thick section of Bittersweet vine, no pitch involved, just split, carved to fit the stone and tied.

Simple to make...
Split Haft.JPG
The basal element gets locked into place -
Basal Lock.JPG
And it is very comfortable in hand during use -
Face-View Grip.JPG
...edge view -
Edge-View Grip.JPG
I must say that I really like using this knife.  I feel so comfortable with it that early on I carelessly snapped the tip off in hastily placing it down to gather a bundle of materials I'd harvested.
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VirginiaKnapper
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August 8th, 2018, 1:59 am #19

Amazing tool! I may attempt to make one one those soon, hopefully it goes smooth. Is that agrillite?

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"It's about what you learn, not what you make" - Erret Callahan
"Win some, lose some, and sometimes ran out" - Kenny Roberts
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Forager
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August 8th, 2018, 2:23 am #20

Yeah, Jack is a crafty fellow.  More than a notable archaeologist and master knapper, he bears a full complement of primitive skills - one of the founders of the Society of Primitive Technology.  With a degree in the Fine Arts it's no surprise he'd cook up such a haft element.  

The stone is not argillite, but Mt Kineo rhyolite.
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