Stone Tool Stories: Metal stone-flaking tools

Stone tool technology did not disappear with the invention of metallurgy and in many areas stone tools persisted side-by-side metal technology for thousands of years. Metal tools were made for both percussion and pressure flaking, and most modern flintknapper hobbyists use metal tools.

Bronze tools such as awls were likely used to pressure-flake stone arrowheads in the Bronze Age, and bronze was probably used for the fine punching seen on some Danish daggers. Copper awls may have been used for pressure flaking in the late prehistory of North America, and copper nuggets may have been used for percussion flaking, but this is poorly documented by archaeologists.

Iron hammers were used by gunflint makers in England and France during the historic period, and, more recently, by threshing board-makers around the Mediterranean. Modern makers of hide-scrapers in Ethiopia use iron tools to detach and retouch obsidian flakes, and recent Aboriginal flintknappers in Australia sometimes used the back of an iron hatchet to make flakes and blades. Highly-controlled pressure flaking was accomplished using iron nails or sections of steel fencing wire by traditional flintknappers in Australia and North America.

An unusual technique used by modern stone bead-makers in Khambhat, India, involves bracing the core platform onto an iron punch embedded in the ground, and striking the core with a wood or horn mallet to detach the flake. This traditional technique may have considerable antiquity.

Copper is preferred by many modern flintknappers because it is relatively soft, like antler, but much heavier and more durable. Copper hammers are referred to as ‘boppers’ by North American flintknappers. Some boppers are solid copper bars, while others are composite tools made by hammering a copper plumbing cap over a short wood, plastic, metal, or antler handle. Other boppers have machined aluminium handles with the caps secured with an expansion screw.