A-Z List of Flint Knapping Terminology [Updated]


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Flint Knapping Terminology, Definitions & Phrases 2021 [Updated]

flint knapping terminology and phrases
Flint knapping, like any other skill, has its own terminology and phrases that are helpful to know. Tonto National Monument, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Flint knapping is the process of making chipped or or flaked tools out of stone. It is a reduction process in which skillful action creates an intentional finished product out of a larger original material.

This process is truly ancient, and its simplicity and history make it an attractive past time for many people.

Flint knapping, like any other skill, has its own set of terminology and definitions that describe the process and the various characteristics of a knapped item.

Below are some common terms you will likely come across as you learn about flint knapping and begin practicing the skill.

While not a definitive list by any means, it should help you understand the basics of flint knapping, and can be referred to again and again.

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Abrading

The process of polishing the edge of a preform’s platform to strengthen it in preparation for flake removal by percussion or pressure flaking.


Biface

A piece of flint that has been flaked on both sides.

Bipolar core

Cores that were worked on an anvil. Commonly used when flaking poor quality stone or opening small pebble nodules. Bipolar cores have a characteristic “scalar” shape.

Bulb

Also called “the bulb of percussion.” The area very close to the edge or margin of the biface where the flake originates due to pressure or percussion work. It can be deep and cause significant concavities along the edge. The bulb should be kept minimal.


Center Line

Term used to describe the imaginary centerline of a preform as viewed from the blade edge.

Chip

Small, irregular pieces of stone removed as a by-product of making tools. Most chips are considered waste, but some may be salvaged for future use.

Cobble

Irregularly shaped but smooth, and are formed in various sizes averaging from 1 to 5 pounds. Are usually covered with a cortex.

Concave

A scooped out area on the face of a preform or nodule. Should be avoided until the material around it has been removed.

Convex

The opposite of concave, a rounded or domed area that is the foundation for successful flaking.

Core

The “mother stone” or nodule which spalls are removed from. Prepared piece of flint that useable blades are removed from.

Core Tablet

Flakes removed across a worn or damaged platform in order to create a fresh platform and continue making new flakes.

Cortex

The outer layer of a flint nodule or spall. Usually a chalky white or brown material ranging from 1″ to 1/4″ thick.


Debris

A by-product of knapping, a material which inevitably results from the knapping process but which is not the outcome of the process. Some debris may be suitable for use, with or without modification.


Flake

A thin, sometimes broad and sharp piece of stone chipped from a larger biface or preform.

Flake Scar

This is the “scar” left behind where a flake has been removed.

Flute Flake

A special flake removed from the base of a blade or preform that travels up the face towards the tip. Creates a concave channel to aid in hafting techniques of Paleo era points.

Heat Treating

The process in which flint is very slowly heated and cooled to temperatures ranging from 350-700 F, depending on the material quality and type. Heat treating gives flint glass-like characteristics and makes it easier to chip.

Hinge Fracture

An undesirable flake that rolls out.


Isolated Platform

A platform that has been “isolated” from the material around it. This is done by carefully chipping the stone away from either side of it and leaves the platform sticking out a bit.


Knapping

The skilled process of chipping flint or making gun flints.


Margin

The edge or circumference of the biface or preform.


Nodule

A large to very large smooth or irregular piece of flint.


Overshot Flake

The affect of a flake that travels from one margin to the other and “clips” the opposite edge.


Platform

A carefully prepared area on the edge of a preform that is struck to create the desired flake. A naturally occurring area on a rough spall or nodule that would produce a desired flake or spall. Platforms are essential to proper knapping.

Platform Bevel

The part of the platform that is actually struck by the knapper.

Platform Support

The underside of the “bevel”. It gives support to the platform at the time of strike.

Platform Deltas

The results of flake removal.

Preform

A bifaced blade in various stages of reduction.

Pressure Flaking

The act of removing flakes by pressure using a flaker.

Percussion Flaking

Removing flakes by directly striking the stone with a billet.


Raking and Shearing

Raking and shearing is the action of carefully dragging a course abrader or other device to remove “micro” flakes from the edge of a biface or preform to change its shape or give support to an edge before actual abrading is done prior to percussion or pressure work.

Retouching

The removal of small flakes from a blade or flake in order to shape it. May also be used to create specific edges. Retouching is generally carried out by pressure flaking.

Ring Crack

A circular crack observed on a platform. Ring cracks are formed when the platform is struck, but no flake is removed. They show where the blow fell and are considered mistakes.


Spalling

The act of breaking up a nodule or cobble into workable and desirable sized pieces

Spalls

The finished untrimmed large flake removed from a larger “mother” stone

Stack

A series of flakes that do not meet a specific objective. Resulting in multiple failed attempts to remove a specific problem area.

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