Making Hoko Knives- Where do I start with this piece of obsidian?

Discussion in 'Primitive Tools' started by Bitterroot Native, May 19, 2018.

  1. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie Supporter

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    Hello BCUSA! I'm in the process of making several primitive Hoko Knives :D. A hoko knife is a small knife used for processing fish. It is named after a site on the Hoko River where they found a well preserved native village https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoko_River_Archeological_Site .

    I have made a few of these in the past in the field but I always made the blades with inferior random stones I found in the creek. I just bashed rocks until I found ones that made good flakes and used those as blades, not needing to conserve materials or care if I was slightly wasteful.

    I have obtained a decent size chunk of obsidian (at least I think it is?) that I want to use to make blades but I'm not sure how I should go about chipping the blades off. Should I just break off a smaller chunk and smash it with a small rock until I get suitable pieces? Should I try and chip them from the large chunk? Is there a specific knapping technique that would be best suited to getting small flakes?

    Here's the stone in question
    20180519_103510.jpg

    Holding it for scale
    20180519_103704.jpg

    I want to make good use of this obsidian and waste as little as I can. I'm still a newbie when it comes to knapping but I am always striving to learn more :22:. The work I have done with stone so far has been a little on the crude side to say the least. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! :dblthumb:

    Handles I plan on using. Willow shoots that I processed and smoothed out with stone tools! They have been drying in my room for some time and retained their bright white color nicely. I'm going to use either roots or some natural cordage to bind it all with.
    20180519_103822.jpg
     
  2. OrienM

    OrienM Guide

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    Busting a cobble into flakes is called 'spalling' in knapping jargon; try googling, there are some excellent Youtube vids on the topic.

    Briefly, you want to find an edge or corner on your stone of less than 90* (ideally, with a ridge running perpendicular to it on the bottom side...flakes tend to follow defined ridges), and strike lightly but firmly, using kind of a glancing blow with some follow-through, just above the corner. If done correctly, a nice flat spall should pop off.

    A roundish stone, antler billet, or copper bopper will all work as a hammer; personally I prefer using antler, as I think it tends to produce thinner, flatter flakes.
     
  3. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie Supporter

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    Thanks a ton @OrienM! I tried googling it yesterday but think I worded things weird so I didn't get the results I was looking for. I'll try again this time with proper nomenclature lol. Thanks for filling me in on the proper vocab! I normally just start trying things until I figure it out but this is a very finite resource for me so I was a little hesitant to just start busting into this stone willy nilly. I'll make an antler billet today and give it a shot :dblthumb:.

    Most of the time when I'm searching google for how to make primitive tools, the results come back with detailed instructions on how to make the item... in a videogame called minecraft lol :eek:
     
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  4. OrienM

    OrienM Guide

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    Good ol' Minecraft, lol. I wouldn't dislike video games quite so much, if there wasn't so much weird, inaccurate info based on them floating around the 'net. :rolleyes:

    I also learn best by just doing things :)...I learned to knap a lot like you have been doing, just going around busting up any likely looking rock. The geometry of spalling is much the same for any knappable stone, so you can learn a lot by beating on low-grade rocks. The main difference is in how hard you have to strike; obsidian requires a lighter blow than most other materials, or else it tends to shatter.
     
  5. Mr.Black

    Mr.Black WILDEROXEN Tracker Pack #1 Lifetime Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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    Theres a old lesson in Bushclass.
    Note: the beauty of Hoko Knives is they were not refined.They were made quick on the spot and they were made in huge numbers.I think the Hoko was used in the production of tons of fish the gullet was cut gills removed the Hoko is rapidly jabbed into the body cavity making a paste, the paste is squeezed out dried to feed dogs or used as bait it was used for something rapid I belive that thoght came to me after seeing a Asian fish monger gut a fish this way combined with many outings of seeing the crew on the Sum Fun in Dana point rapidly process fish.those two combined gave me a guess at Hoko use. trying it out several time proved it to me at least was how it was used lol
    Put on safety gear and goggles wrap that nodule in a pillowcase smash it with a sledgehammer and pick out some flakes.no knapping necessary
     
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  6. southron

    southron Scout

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  7. atlastrekker

    atlastrekker Supporter Supporter Bushclass III Bushclass I Bushclass II

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    @Mr.Black did some awesome classes on hoko knives, I would definitely start there. I still use those skills to this day, today actually.

    This is the way that I do it, but I wouldn't do it with obsidian though!


    I've watched some excellent flint napping videos, and I believe that there are people on here that excel at it. @kevseadog and @Seahunter can help out for sure.
     
  8. Mr.Black

    Mr.Black WILDEROXEN Tracker Pack #1 Lifetime Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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    I always thought there was no pitch glue, that was the genius of the Hoko
    So almost a fast as you can read my ramble one can be made
    -Gather twig (debark for wrap)
    -Notch twig
    - Split twig from notch
    -Wrap to keep twig from splitting more
    -Add flake(this taunts the first wrap)
    - close split twig over flake
    -continue wrap ONE pass over back of flake
    -Close split with wrap hitch



    "The more you know the less you need a Ewok village hut to sleep in the woods...or a heat gun"
    -Ness Muskox lol
     
  9. Seahunter

    Seahunter Scout Bushclass I

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    I don't know how to flint knapp, but my brother @kevseadog is really good at it.
     
  10. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie Supporter

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    Thanks for the info! Thats a really unique way of cleaning a fish, I'll give it a shot next time I go trout fishing :D. I was trying to avoid smashing the nodule willy nilly as I don't have much obsidian and don't know where else to get anymore. Trying to get the most out of the rock as I can. I'm almost done with an antler billet I've been grinding down on a rock. I'm going to try to bust off some small flakes with that and if it doesn't work out I'll bite the bullet and smash that baby into many pieces!

    I like the pitch glue idea but with the flakes dulling and breaking so much it seems like the pitch would make it a little more difficult to expediently change blades.

    @atlastrekker awesome vid! I really enjoyed it. The guy was easy to listen to and pretty good at explanations. Not to mention he was in some great looking country!!

    I have a million projects I need to finish up and this one is at the top of the list! I should have these done within the next couple of days, I'll take some pics and show you guys the finished product as soon as I get em wrapped up :dblthumb:. These hokos are part of a 100% primitive fishing kit I'm working on, really excited to finish it up and catch some fish!!

    Thanks again for all your input guys! It is greatly appreciated and inspiring!
     
  11. Hoof

    Hoof Former Genius Supporter

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    Oregon is one of the few places that has a natural supply of obsidian, go get yourself plenty (and send me some ;) )
     
  12. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie Supporter

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    I think you're onto something Hoof! I just did a quick search and found a map with known obsidian locations! Unfortunately there are none in my area of the state but it looks like there a couple sources just to the east of me near an area I hunt at. I know where a large field of lava rocks are about 30 minutes from my house, never explored it but I think I'll scout it out for obsidian. If I find some I'll send you some for sure! :dblthumb:

    map_obsidian_oregon_unlabeled.jpg

    I'm in the southwestern portion of the state but neighboring Klamath County to the east isn't that far of a drive. I'm sure there are more obsidian sources in the state that haven't been discovered as well!
     
  13. Hoof

    Hoof Former Genius Supporter

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    Save that beautiful piece of mahogany obsidian until you've practiced on less quality pieces, for months I turned my rocks into useless scrap.
     
  14. Hoof

    Hoof Former Genius Supporter

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    This is fun to watch, if I remember right he's in Oregon to get this 300 lb rock.



    He ends up making a 24 inch blade from it.
     
  15. kevseadog

    kevseadog Scout

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    Thanks again for all your input guys! It is greatly appreciated and inspiring![/QUOTE]


    @Bitteroot Native, I have been knapping for about 17 years and have been an archaeologist for around a decade emphasizing stone tool analysis and replicative studies/experimental archaeology. I was not familiar with the Hoko knives until you posted this, so thank you!

    Unfortunately the only peer reviewed articles on hafted lithics from the site appear to be in books from my initial seach of Google Scholar. I found some of these books at my University's library though so I will take a look and get back to you. The problem is that some are referring to "Microliths" others are talking about a "bi-polar reduction methods" which are typically very differnt knapping strategies... basically, I will investigate to see how the knives are made upstream in the process starting with their specific core reduction sequence and blank selection/retouch strategies and then give you some pointers later today on how you might try to replicate it.

    Very nice mahogany obsidian by the way!

    Also, as an archaeologist I just have to say that if you go gather your own stone (as I do often) please make sure it is from a modern road cut, or stream bed, or modern quarry so as not to be accidentally removing artifacts from the landscape. The whole reason we are all chiming in on the discussion of Hoko is the fact that it was ethically and scientifically documented and published to make these data available to the public. Just think, if someone showed up at low tide to the Hoko wet site with a shovel and a drive to put artifacts on his mantle before researchers got there, we might not have ever heard of a Hoko knife!

    I am not saying that is at all what you are planning to do by gathering your own obsidian (which I highly encourage) but I feel the need to make the statement for all who may come across this thread. Give a hoot, don't loot! ;) Alright buddy, let me read up on the lithic reduction sequence and hafting strategies from Hoko and I will get back to you asap.
    -Kevin
     
  16. Galen blazer

    Galen blazer Tracker

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    Please please use safety glasses the shards are super sharp and fly everywhere
     
  17. kevseadog

    kevseadog Scout

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    @Bitterroot Native, OK the results are in!
    First off thank you for making me take a moment away from working on my research on California stone tools to check out the site reports from Hoko! Simply astounding organic preservation due to it being a wet site and what a great assemblage!

    What I found out is this: the original Hoko knives were made on handles of split red cedar. They are rectangular in cross section and typically two thin split pieces lashed together with cedar bark, split spruce root, or cherry bark.

    The so called "microlith" technology used as the cutting edge are not what we archaeologists generally refer to as microliths, and are certainly not blades, bladelets or microblades.

    The good news for you as someone knew to knapping is that they appear to be using a bi-polar hammer and anvil method to split water worn pebbles of vein quartz (and in one case a green chert flake) to produce relatively random flakes with at least one sharp cutting edge. This is quite simply one of the easiest ways to make a stone tool, however the resulting flakes are often irregular and there is a lot of thick and clunky shatter that will be nearly useless to you for every flake that is decent.

    If you want to make the knife to the T as they did then I would suggest not using that beautiful piece of obsidian and I could send you some pebbles of Franciscan chert and water tumbled vein quartz.

    If you don't care about producing the flake blanks the exact same way as the Hoko inhabitants and really want to use the obsidian then I would suggest direct freehand percussion with a sandstone hammerstone.

    There is a great book with awesome illustrations called Flintknapping by John Whittaker that I highly suggest. It will be a great way to start evaluating how you wish to proceed. I am also here anytime you have questions along the way.

    Good luck bro!

    -Kevin
     
  18. Mr.Black

    Mr.Black WILDEROXEN Tracker Pack #1 Lifetime Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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  19. kevseadog

    kevseadog Scout

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    I know this is an entirely different knife style and cultural affiliation and I am certainly not trying to derail the thread here, but I thought @Bitteroot Native, might also find it interesting. This is a little presentation I did years back on these items.
     
  20. Bitterroot Native

    Bitterroot Native Indigenous Skills Junkie Supporter

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    Wow! 17 years of knapping experience AND an archaeologist! That is straight up awesome :D! Ever since I started on my primitive journey I have been getting more and more into the "experimental archaeology" aspect of it all. I really enjoy making and using tools as our ancestors did! I'm an amateur for sure with no formal training but I have been able to produce some pretty nice and functional tools and other implements so far. Glad I could introduce you to the Hoko knife!

    I'll look into the legalities of harvesting obsidian before I dig and will make sure I'm not digging up (destroying) any sites. Last thing I want to do is tamper with any artifacts or sites of archaeological significance!

    Wow I can't thank you enough for checking into that! I was just going to make them using the materials I had on hand but now that I know the exact materials and methods used to create them I will recreate the knives as closely to the originals as I can :dblthumb:. Don't have red cedar here but incense cedar should do for the handles. I'll heed yours and @Hoof advice and save the obsidian for arrowheads or knife blades once I get a little more practice under my belt :D.

    I have access to all sorts of quartz varieties as the streams here are littered with it, thanks for offering to send me some though! I'll look into the franciscan chert and see if it's available here, if not the quartz will suffice. I'm getting all excited for this project, going to be awesome recreating them just like they were made 1000's of years ago!

    I was always under the impression that a microlith, microblade, or bladelet was just a small piece of stone with a cutting edge. What specific characteristics would render it a microlith, microblade, or bladelet? Is it the way it's produced?

    I added "Flintknapping by John Whittaker" to my ever growing list of books to order, I'll check it out for sure!

    Thanks again for all the advice! I can't wait to get these finished up :4:!

    Forgot to mention, awesome presentation! Fascinating! Especially the tool that had stone blades hafted on each end, I wonder what specialized task would have required that? Also the dried shark skin as sandpaper! That's amazing!
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2018
  21. kevseadog

    kevseadog Scout

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    Right on brotha! Glad you are so interested! My brother @Seahunter and I did an overnight canoe camp/bushcraft trip the last few days and discussed Hoko knives to some extent. We decided that it is probably best to recreate the knife with a haft that is somewhat rectangular, these are similar to the bi-convex handles of the Nicoleno knives in my presentation and also the modern Mora. We think this will make it much more comfortable in the hand while working, and yes sir, Incense Cedar should work great!

    We archs love to nerd out and give specific names to specific tool production systems and traditions. So according to us, for the most part a "Microlith" refers to geometric microliths or intentionally snapped segments of blades. These were very common in Neolithic Euorope though they also show up in the Middle Stone Age in Africa and in other regions. A blade is a blank removed from a prepared core, think of a flake that is at least twice as long as it is wide. This is typically done through hard hammer, soft inorganic hammer, or soft hammer percussion, though some are made with a punch method. Bladelets are the same as blades but less than 12 mm wide (we have to make a cutoff somewhere) and these are typical of the Proto-Auignacian and Aurignacian (Modern humans moving out of Africa and into Europe about 40kya). These are produced through percussion. Finally true microblades are basically bladelets (at least twice as long as wide) but made with a pressure technique.

    Stoked that you are interested in replicating the Hokos to the T. I would also suggest a book by the Society for primitive Technology A Book of Earth Skills. There is a lot of great wisdom in there as well.

    As stated before, I am happy to help you with you endeavour in any ways that I can. Best of luck to you!

    Kevin
     
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  22. Seahunter

    Seahunter Scout Bushclass I

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    Again I don't know how to flint knap, but this is getting pretty advanced and I thought I would show you how a guy who barely knows anything about flint knapping can knock a flake off. I think this is what Orion was describing in his first post.

    This might not be the right way to make a blade for a Hoko knife, but this is how I did mine. I picked some chert that looked like it had fine grain and had a corner with less than 90 degrees.

    Some of the chert around here has grain that is so coarse it is like sandstone and some of it has a lot of inclusions that make it break in big blocks rather than in flakes. The chert on the left is a little too small and almost too square for me to get a flake to pop off of it. The one on the right has too many inclusions and will probably break along the lines of quartz rather than form a flake.
    DSC_1519.JPG

    Here is a piece with a nice corner to strike. I already knocked the flake off, but i put it back in place for this picture.
    DSC_1522.JPG

    You can see where I struck it in this picture where the white spot is just below the crack. I hit it with the end of a soft river stone about the size and shape of a hot dog. I held the chert in the position that it is in in this photo and struck straight down, catching the edge of the chert as I hit it.
    DSC_1523.JPG

    And that popped this little flake off
    DSC_1524.JPG
    DSC_1525.JPG

    The reason I usually knock a flake off a piece of chert is to put a sharp edge on the larger rock for flint and steel. I usually just discard the flake.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018 at 1:52 AM
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