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copper arrowheads


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I make arrowheads I have found that copper is the best material to break the rock with. My problem is that copper in its natural state does the job but it’s much too soft to hold its desired shape. Hammering it or twist it to obtain a work hardened state works somewhat but I would love to know if there is another step I can take to get it a little harder that.  I don’t know if there’s a way to do this but I need to hardened copper rod a little harder on its tips, that’s the part of the rod that I use. I’m hoping that you guys know a secret to achieveing a little more toughnesses or even maybe a slightly hard casing. Right now if it’s too soft it won’t hold its shape and I spend too much time dressing it. I tried brass and bronze but those metals are too hard and they just slip off the rock. It needs to remain copper but a tougher copper. Any suggestions?

Thanks, Melvin

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  • Mod42 changed the title to copper arrowheads

Welcome aboard, glad to have you. If  you put your general location in the header you'll have a better chance of meeting up with members living within visiting distance. Quite a few of us knap stone points. Do you have something we can call you? Your login is just WAY too cumbersome and confusing to remember.

Are you pressure or percussion flaking? I've pressure flaked with a nail, grinding a platform makes almost anything work. I wasn't impressed with antler but surprised how well a nylon rod worked.

Copper is going to wear like copper, hardened or not, it doesn't get hard enough not to cut and gouge working stone. It is excellent for a knapping hammer, the conchoidal fractures are smoother with lower wider waves. 

What makes it "grip" the stone is being soft, if you want harder you'll lose the grip progressively. Bronze can be made very soft or hard, it's in the alloy. You might want to experiment by "soldering" the head of a nail until you find what you like and purchasing that alloy or melting a bunch of that brazing rod and casting your own. Maybe drop pieces of brazing, Silver braze, etc. rod into small copper tubing, say 3/8" and melting the braze with a torch. 

I knew a guy briefly who made his hammers from capped copper pipe filled with lead and a wrapped handle, large to small were 1" - 1/2" and he did some really fine work by percussion.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Copper will work harden.  If you pound on your copper tool or strike it on an anvil, rock, etc. you will get it as hard as it is going to get.  You might be able to have a copper core or point on a tool supported by a stronger metal. Think of the construction of a lead pencil.  There are also some semi-exotic copper alloys or softer bronzes and brasses which might work.  Not all bronze or brass is created equal.  For example, many alloys have lead in them which makes the metal better for machining.  However, the addition of lead makes the metal unsuitable for forging.  You may have to acquire several different alloys and experiment.  I'd try a soft machining brass first.

BTW, welcome aboard from 7500' in SE Wyoming.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for the replies! I have upgraded my profile and changed my username to my real name. The closest I get to actual black smithing is to heat a piece of rebar with an acetylene torch and beat into the direction I want it to go. My motive was to maybe learn something about working copper that I didn’t know. What I learned is what I already knew, work harden it and dress it a lot. I’m sorry that I couldn’t contribute much to forgeing but if anyone here is into flint knapping drop me a note.

Thabks, Melvin Rose 

 

Edited by Mod44
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You didn't need to change your login, I was just hoping for a signature I could remember.  Stick around, there are WAY better ways to heat a piece of steel than an Oxy acet torch and once you get the hang of it being able to make your own tools comes in really handy.

Do you collect your own flint? If so there are a number of rock collecting tools that are easy enough to forge but cost a bunch at the store. 

I mostly work obsidian I have quite a bit of mohogany I collected above Davis Cr. the next road N. of the Sweet Water Cafe on I 395 in Central Cal. There is unbelievable quantities of obsidian in Central Oregon. There are regular knapp ins at the Glass Buttes. There's a deposit of "flame" obsidian on the butte closest to the highway.

Stick around, a number of us are flaky characters.

Frosty The Lucky.

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I do what is called FOG knapping. Short for flake over grind. It’s all pressure flaking.

78B66AD0-5BAF-4F5B-B27E-0B2C4C0C3AF8.thumb.jpeg.7d6be93e3261643bc1b40c62e9ef0405.jpeg74AFA5A7-7E08-46DC-BF02-A962EF506EF7.thumb.png.7d44a3a95098ef1be29c01414b9cfc81.png99201868-1E44-496C-9569-E97AE91BB43A.thumb.jpeg.b6f39e47e3c32c8cb215d87806e2696f.jpegB0A5E293-86B8-49EA-97CC-488609B33915.thumb.jpeg.123f55bf4530073f93d8f401f3a5357c.jpeg5F457681-83DC-41C5-8A12-DEA6DC2D4906.thumb.jpeg.eee0bd6854915e9eefdba2dafd9b7992.jpegF29EECA3-064B-473D-8A1D-E8865D40EA81.thumb.jpeg.7076bd6538a383c506c794b65e778132.jpegD69857B2-AEA8-405B-A30B-F989340DB996.thumb.jpeg.619bba9a1b3065faa6887b704c909182.jpegBDAE30A3-D622-4E08-BD3A-FBCB99A5367D.thumb.jpeg.05ca71ed18129b7556ced45e76821b67.jpeg Where I live here in West Texas there is what is called Edwards Chert everywhere. The problem is that all the property around here is privately owned. I can drive the county roads and in an afternoon usually pick up 50lbs or so. The chert is very tough and has to be heat treated. I usually use obsidian and plate glass because it’s easier. I do have a pile of Georgetown flint I bought years ago. It’s ready to chip in its raw state. As for collecting tools I carry a tire tool for digging and prying chert out of the ground and a solid copper bopper to field test with.

There is a knappin in Brady Texas next weekend and I’ll probably stock up on more obsidian. Mostly mahogany and dacite because it’s more affordable.

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Is that a sawn blank? I've never heard the term, FOG but haven't done any reading on the subject in a long time. An acquaintance of my Father used to sell points flaked from sawn blanks of milky obsidian similar to what you show. 

Nice pieces, especially the howling wolf.

Ever work from a core? The pictured antler is more of a percussive bopper than a pressure tool. 

What do you grind platforms with? I had emery cloth glued to both of my pressure tools. ONCE I found out about grinding a platforms that i. I'd been trying to make good points for a couple years before I discovered a book about knapping with a how to section. 

Frosty The Lucky.

 

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I take a nodule of material and cut it into slices with a diamond bladed table saw. I then take a slice and I cut out the preform with a diamond bladed trim saw. Hence the name FOG, flake over grind. There is more to it that that but you get the picture. From there it’s all done with pressure flaking. I’ve never gotten the hang of working from a natural nodule, knocking off spalls and reducing them to arrowheads. I can do it but they look like crap. So by doing it the FOG way I use much less material and get better results.

the pictured antler is a handle for the knife. Stay in touch if you’re interested in learning this process. I can show you videos of how I do it and even better I can put you in contact with the guy that’s teaching me. Everything is free, no worries about that.

I’m sending you my contact info in a private message.

 

554B03F9-CD8B-4E89-BC29-0B890B479734.jpeg

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Working sawn preforms is a good way to make consistent shapes, like your wolf. The first knapping I did was from sawn spear point sized preforms but the guy who showed me didn't know about grinding platforms so I didn't do too well. 

Talking to an old "Indian" rock shop owner in Oregon taught me quite a bit. My "main" question was, "How do you choose good obsidian for flaking?". He literally rolled his eyes, picked up a random piece off a table held it up and said, "See the shape of the fracture?" Said it slowly and clearly like I wasn't so bright, then he gives it a tap with the rock hammer he was carrying and said, "Good flaking, hit it this direction and it's bad flaking." He'd tapped it parallel to, on the shelf perpendicular to the fracture plane. If that makes sense. Visualize striking the number 7 downwards on the flat just above the vertical part.

How embarrassing, I'd been picking through huge obsidian fields and it never occurred to me to just whack it and see. Some breaks with a short wavelength fracture plane, what you want is a long wavelength. The beautiful conchoidal pattern is literally the sound of the percussion frozen in stone. The hardness of the hammer effects the wavelength, harder makes a shorter wavelength so bone is better than stone sometimes. The size of the block or nodule you're working makes a difference too. 

For example if you're removing a core from an intact lens of obsidian say 2' from a platform you can isolate a blow to, a sledge hammer is appropriate Direction of the blow matters too but close to parallel to the face you wish to follow makes nice cores. I used masonry chisels to make platforms with limited success but it works, I believe with enough practice you can really control the size and shape of blocks to strike cores from. 

My favorite mahogony obsidian hunting grounds is littered with pits with seat high shelves around the inside. It wasn't until I talked to the fellow in Oregon I realized they were Indian point factories. On my next visit I spent time in and around a couple of the probably 2 dozen on my usual line of "march." Some were really large, one maybe 20' in diameter most were in the 4'-10' range and maybe 4'deep. They all had rims of chips and larger rejects like a crater. The floors were relatively clean. In one I found a piece of antler broken off when being driven into a crack maybe 10" from the top edge of the quarry. 

It wasn't legal to collect raw stone or chips from any of the quarries as they are artefacts but they are an education in knapping on many levels. The larger quarries say 7-8' dia. had a fire ring in the center, not for tempering the stone but for the same reasons humans build fires when they aren't strictly necessary. Perhaps to keep bug off and animals away, maybe cook food, maybe just because. I almost always build a camp fire when camping because I like sitting around it and talking or just watching the smoke. 

It's easy to visualize a group of people sitting around a fire knapping points or cores to take back for later use. They're talking, laughing telling funny or scary stories, jokes, general gossip. It's as much a social occasion as an industry. 

I enjoyed visiting the ancient quarries, some maybe millennia old as much as collecting good core stock. I wasn't going to carry large, multi core pieces of obsidian home as carry on baggage so I struck cores. 

My other favorite hunting grounds was the Central Oregon Highway, 20 between Bend and Burns Oregon. I was usually driving north on I 395 through California and it ends at Riley Oregon on 20.  Turning west takes you through endless buttes and ridges of obsidian, the ground as far as you can see literally glitters like sequins were sprinkled liberally by God. Turn east and the terrain is more flat and agricultural but every ditch, gully or stream cuts obsidian beds. I didn't hunt the area much it's mostly private property and farmers aren't fond of people wandering around. Some of the rock shops had spectacular obsidian, some really expensive collected from secret locations. One I really wanted to try was optically clear to the naked eye pale green. The conchoidal fractures were barely curved on all faces in pieces more than a foot across. I so SO wanted to try knapping it but he was asking crazy money, a 8" piece was more than $100 in 1970's dollars.

The Indian rock shop owner had quite a collection, some ancient some fresh, his Grand Son knapped and sold points to souvenir shops. The boy did phenomenal work, his life sized lizards had claws, tail, etc. in detail and all knapped from cores. 

While he was showing me his collections he was schooling me in Indian stone work. Braves on the hunt only needed something sharp so "Brave" points were just chips, barely biface and unrefined. Nicer blades like skinners envision a stone ULU were sometimes made by men but more likely just retouched in use or struck on site.

The main stone tool makers were the women. The uniform, well shaped to the purpose and utilitarian blades were "Squaw" points made by the adult married women. Girl points were often obviously made by beginners or girls without the necessary strength in their hands. Then there were the young women blades and they were maybe not expert but showed a lot of refinement to display skill and value to the tribe. Courting points tended to fall into groups of profile, the young woman had her eye on a brave and was making points he favored; hunting for a husband. Bride points were the truly spectacular, as perfect as humanly possible on every count. Knapped jewelry was usually courting or bride work, though I'm sure some were gifts or prizes. Old woman points were shakier and showed the signs of failing eyesight and strength.

I could sit on the bench in a quarry pit end envision a group of women sitting and gossiping with children and toddlers chasing around. Old women teaching girls and giving brides and courting women pointers. Competition between young women for a particular brave. 

I LOVED those old quarry pits. The road in passed through a cut with an exposed lens of mahogony obsidian needles about 60' long. I always collected a coffee can worth on my way past. The "Official" needle beds were farther in, on a side path and much harder to locate/collect.

I always collected WAY more than I wanted to fly home, 70lbs. was my max in two carry ons. You should've seen the looks on people's faces when they Xrayed the bags. 

Fun times.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Posted (edited)

Very good story. I have a friend that sells all sorts of knappable rock and he uses the “if it fits, it ships” boxes from the post office. I feel sorry for the mail man. LOL

  I would love to see quarries like that. Our local material is found in abundance and usually as cantaloupe shaped nodules, and hard as XXXX. It has to be spalled out into smaller pieces then heat treated in order to be used. It’s not true flint but churt. There are ancient American pitcuregraphs nearby. A small town named Paint Rock is named after them. Check out Remove commercial link. There are numerous mortar holes nearby  in the solid limestone rock surfaces where native Americans would grind what ever it was that they ground. The indigenous peoples around this area were nomadic and didn’t farm. Mostly Comanche in the 1700-1800. No such thing as a settlement here until after the Comanche were “civilized” or just wiped out. Another story for another day.

 I’m going to Brady, Texas this coming weekend to a knappin. I plan on buying some chunks of obsidian there, if I can afford it. $3 a pound is bottom dollar for the cheap stuff. Lowes and Home Depot have what is called subway glass tile. It’s all 5/16” thick and 3 to 4 inches wide and 8 to 12 inches long. I make a lot of arrowheads out of that. And I melt glass in a microwave kiln, usually green and blue beer bottles. I’m not good at knapping but I do enjoy it.

Edited by Mod30
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In Eastern Wyoming is a place called "Spanish Diggings" which has nothing to do with the Spanish but are Native American flint excavation pits similar to what Frosty describes in Oregon. A few miles south of there is Camp Guernsey where I spent a lot of time during my National Guard service.  I realized that most hill tops were covered with broken bits of flint and realized that they had been used as flint knapping workshops.  I can see advantages to the hilltops, good visibility and fewer bugs in the summer. There are LOTS of shards and central cores.  I have picked up some of this detritus to accompany fire steels.

"By hammer (and hammer stones) all arts do stand."

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I miss-remembered the location of the quarries. The ones I visited are on I 395 in California and not on Davis Creek. The Davis Creek obsidian beds are in Oregon and produce some spectacular colors I remember them as flame and fire obsidian but looking at the website it's called "Rainbow" obsidian now.

The location of the beds on 395 I visited a few times have escaped my memory. The landmark I used, The Sweetwater Cafe," is long gone and much of the area is developed and built up. Satellite imagery is good enough to recognize walking trails and water troughs clearly. I spent a silly long time looking last night and couldn't find my site. Saw lots of really interesting rock formations and it's all obsidian country but I didn't see the quarries.

I guess 35+ years and a birch tree did it for being able to locate it again. It was such a cool if hard to get to place. <sigh> 

Frosty The Lucky.

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