Type:  Masonry hammer

Location: Uralla, New South Wales



MoST ID: 4471

Pedestal Link: https://une.pedestal3d.com/r/i62WwGAWj2

Model Author:  Emma Watt

This steel masonry hammer is similar to those used in Brandon, England in the early stages of manufacturing gunflints, from ca. 1790 to the recent past.  Gunflints were mounted in gun locks to strike a spark when the trigger was pulled, igniting the black powder in the pan.  The masonry hammer is from Australia and was used by a stonemason in the 19th Century.

According to a book written in 1866, the masonry hammer in this 3D model is called a ‘peck’ or ‘point’ which was used by a stone mason ‘for chipping the surface of the stone’.  The pecked surface is called ‘scabbling’ or ‘knobbling’.  An identically-shaped hammer, but with a shorter handle, was used at Brandon for the ‘flaking’ process of rapidly removing flint blades to section into gunflints.  A similar hammer was used in Germany.  According to observations made by Sydney Skertchly in ca. 1879, two sizes of flaking hammers were used at Brandon, the ‘First’ and ‘Second’ hammers.  The hammer in this model weighs 1111 grams, or 2 lb 7 oz—about 11 oz heavier than a First hammer and nearly twice as heavy as a Second hammer.  The Brandon flintknappers used the First hammer on larger stones and Second hammers on smaller stones.  The points on each end of the hammer were filed square.  The sides of the hammers were used for ‘striking off irregular projections on the quarters’—probably in the initial stages of preparing the core for blade removals—and to ‘dress of irregular pieces’ during blade-making.  The faces became worn and were resharpened after about 2 hours of constant work.  A Second flaking hammer can be seen in use from 1.41 minutes in this video of a Brandon flintknapper from the 1940s.

A Brandon flintknapper using a flaking hammer to make blades (Skertchly 1879).


Flaking hammer used to make flint blades (Skertchly 1879).


Brandon flintknapper using a flaking hammer in the 1930s (Clarke 1938).

The gunflint industry at Brandon, England, is well-described in historical documents and the flintknappers there served as a model for Victorian prehistorians interested in how stone tools were made in prehistory.  The Brandon gunflint industry persisted until the 1980s, when the last traditional gunflint maker, Fred Avery, retired.  At its peak during the Napoleanic Wars, the Brandon gunflint industry employed up to 200 flintknappers and exported 1.5 million flints per month.  At top speed, skilled flintknappers could finish 8 flints per minute.  An experienced knapper could produce an average of 3000 gunflints in a 12-hour day, and 10 tons of flints were exported per week from one Brandon workshop alone.  In the 20th century most gunflints were exported to Africa; in a 1960 interview, the Brandon flintknapper Herbert Edwards claimed that 60,000 gunflints were still being exported per month to Nigeria.  Edwards’ 1967 petition to export gunflints to South Africa was denied by the UK Board of Trade as part of a general ban on the export of arms to that country.

Gunflint manufacture in Brandon involved mining high-quality flint nodules from shafts dug into the flint-bearing chalk.  The nodules were sectioned (‘quartered’) into chunks about six inches square using a heavy flat-ended steel hammer (two sizes of hammers were utilised, depending on the size of the nodules), and the chunks were given to the flakers.  The flakers were considered the most skilled workers in the production process.  The flakers worked the chunks into single-platform cores using a pointed steel hammer (also in two sizes).  The first series of flakes, called ’shives’, removed the cortex from the stone.  The flakers next proceeded to work around each core’s periphery (‘flaking’), rapidly removing elongated blades, ideally with a trapezoidal cross section.  The used-up cores were recycled as building flints.

Next the blades were given to the knapper to work into gunflints.  To do this, the knapper held the blade against a narrow, flat-topped stake embedded in a block of elm wood, with the blade’s ventral surface facing up.  The stake was cushioned it its hole with leather, allowing it to ‘give’ slightly while in use.  A special flat hammer made from a file was then struck against the blade where it contacted the stake, sectioning it (‘knapping’).  Up to four or five rectangular sections (gunflints) could be produced from one blade.  Three edges were trimmed immediately after the blade was sectioned, with the fourth, functional edge left sharp or retouched by dragging it across the back of the stake.  A common feature of the sectioned blade was a cone of force—called a demicone—created where the dorsal surface of the flake contacted the steel anvil stake.  In these cases, the crack initiated from the anvil, and not from the hammer.