Friday, 12 July 2013

Flint knapping with John Lord

I recently spent the day on a workshop with a master flint knapper called John Lord. After meeting him several times at various places I decided to pay another visit. Deep in the very peaceful and beautiful Norfolk countryside, you will find John and Vals place, where workshops take place.
I had an introduction to knapping several years ago, but wanted to learn more about the subject the more I practised.

After being made to feel very welcome at their home, and tea was consumed, we set off up the garden and John started the day with a demonstration of making a hand Axe and working large nodules

Take one large nodule

Starting to remove the unwanted with the hard hammer sone

The waste can also be used to make items, and the nodule is starting to gain some control, to become the axe. Reading how the stone wants to work is key at this stage, and preparing for any problems.

A lovely long flat flake to thin the piece, produced with the larger soft hammer.

In no time at all this beautiful Hand Axe is made.

Core blade manufacture was the next demonstration and I had a play too

These little scrapers are like swiss army knives. This one had a scraper at the end suitable for small game de-fleshing when making furs, a very sharp knife edge and a serrated blade.

My attempt at a hand axe. Its on the small side but Im glad i got there with Johns help. I made another towards the end of the day and felt like it was going much better than this one. Quicker and more confident blows were applied until I hit a flaw (or hit it wrong) and it broke into three. Still, understanding the process and whacking off decent flakes was the main aim.

I wanted to make arrow heads of course, but more importantly i wanted to manufacture the flakes on purpose to do so. I am so absolutely chuffed to bits with this flake I removed from a bulb of percussion. Saves loads of time trying to turn a less suitable piece into a head, although I still want to keep that skill.

Some great tuition from John and my pressure flaking was improving, and I did a bit of anvil work to remove the bulb area and made a little leaf point.

A few of the bits made during the day.

A cracking day out but loads of practice needed to retain and improve the skills :)

Both John and his son Will provide tuition in Primitive technology through their companies 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Mellon style Bushbasket

One of the things that are very handy when living in the woods for a prolonged period are containers. Think how many times you use a plastic bag, a box, tray, plate or bowl in your normal day. A container gets a lot of use when gathering food and materials when living off the land or just for a casual wander.

I wanted to make a container with what was around me the last time I was out, so I chose a simple large design that would allow me to use willow for weaving. All I had was Crack Salix fragilis and Goat Willow Salix caprea. The places to look for suitable thin flexible stems are from a damaged, fallen, or pruned section of a larger tree as this species of tree as do several others, produces lots of new re-growth that can be utilised.

Crack willow is a dominant tree species near water. Its called crack willow due its brittle nature. The sections of the tree break off, land in the water then float downstream. As they make contact with the bank side, they easily propagate into the new surface and a new tree is born. Its a back up to the seed production and is why they are successful.

All stems gathered from a few separate trees

De-bark for some cordage.

Splitting down some larger diameter sections, for the main handle, base and ribs.

After heating over the fire to make them flexible, form two hoops from split sections and lash together with the bark which makes an excellent cordage. The cordage is very green so will shrink a little, but is adequate for a temporary fixing.

 Then form the first of the weaving around the two hoops. 
After forming a cross in the middle,wrap a thin weaver around one of the hooped sections, then go diagonally to the next one of the four, wrap around that and go diagonally to the next, and continue till you have gone round all four several times. Do again on the other end.

Into these end weaving s, make and fit four split and bent sections to form the base.

Then split down little finger thick stems around 1-2 Metres long, and weave in and out of the frame you have made. Some thinner sections can be used un-split - "In the round".

The knife pictured was the main tool used and all that is needed for the whole process, but a saw sped up the gathering time of the stems.

Ironically I found the crack willow easier and less breakable to work with than the goat willow. Both needed quite a bit of encouragement to work with, and it helped to work the stems by running them over the edge of a log to loosen the fibres within before weaving.  
The end result seems very sturdy and I am very pleased with my new large foraging basket.
I am going to try hazel coppice growth in the round next time, and make a flatter bottom type, as well as try out other more flexible stems that need less processing.

Time to go practice wild food in the coming months with my new helper.