This week I learned about flint knapping, blow gun making, wood carving, and felting among other things.
In flint knapping, I did not knap flint; I knapped chert a second of flint. Chert is not as strong a flint but is more readily available in the area where I was. A good hammer stone is relative to weight. The hammer stone should be about the same weight as the chert. When knapping flint or chert, the angle that needs to be hit should preferably be less than ninety degrees. If it isn’t less than ninety degrees, it is OK; it will just take a lot longer to get to a point. The finished product is an arrow head or a spear top.
Blow guns are an ancient hunting tool made by most ancient cultures. This simple weapon was probably a toy that evolved into a tool for hunting. The way a blow gun was made in the stone age was to get a piece of cane, like river cane or bamboo. To get the membrane out of the river cane, the membrane must be burned out with hot coals. Once the membrane has been removed the cane must be straightened over a fire in a process of heat and pressure until it is perfectly straight. After you are done straightening your blow gun, you are done.
Wood carving is a hard and pain staking process, but if done correctly all the hard work will pay off in the beauty of the piece. Sharp tools are essential to the out come of your piece. Tools can be made from almost anything – from a hammer to a wrench. Green wood, wood from a newly cut tree, is best for carving. But the disadvantage is that it is prone to cracking if dried quickly in the sun. To avoid this always work in the shade and make the wood have as even a thickness as possible.
Felting is your traditional way of making cloth with sheep’s wool. The easier and most likely way of early felting does not require carding. In this process, all that is needed is hot water and wool. First a netting of wool must be made by taking, flattening and criss-crossing the wool. This must then be wetted down. A long process of poking the wool with increasing pressure until one side’s burs (the microscopic rough edges on the wool) become intertwined. Then one side is done. Then you flip over and do the other side the same way. At this point, you “pet” the wool by gently pulling your finger towards you across the wool. (Never go sideways with you hand because the bumps on your fingers will separate your hard work.) When complete, turn it ninety degrees and pet it the other way. Then flip the wool and repeat. Then pick it up and rub vigorously between your hands. When the wool is as tight as you want your felt to be, then you are done.
In this paper, not all the classes I took are mentioned – like shell carving and blacksmithing. But all the classes were labor intensive, but worth it. I look forward to going back to Rivercane next year.