After the stone nodules were taken from the heat treatment, they were struck a well directed blow with another stone to break off large flakes. Flakes of different sizes were struck off the lump of stone, which now became known as a “core.” The core was turned in the hand to find the ideal surface from which to strike the size and shape of flake desired for the item being made.
With practice, this striking off flakes would produce the right shape blanks for making arrow points, knives, scrapers or other tools. The area around where the craftsman was striking flakes from a core quickly became littered with discarded flakes, chips and pieces of cores that were not quite the right shape to be used for whatever tool he had in mind. Those flakes that were the right size and shape were set aside or bagged in a pouch for further processing.
Coyote used the same methods used by Stone Age hunters for the past million years to make his stone tools. He used a few completed points given to him by Silent Buck as patterns to gauge the size of his flakes being struck from the core. After a few days of trial and error, Coyote produced a heavy leather pouch full of arrow point blanks he had struck that met with the approval of Silent Buck. Now that he had the raw material for making the arrowheads, he was ready to begin the next, and most tedious step, that of pressure flaking to make the finished arrowheads.
The flakes he had struck from the core all had the same basic leaf shape with a slight ridge up the center of one side and a slightly rounded convex surface on the other side. Only about one flake in every ten struck from the core had a shape suitable for making an arrowhead. Basalt, the material being used by the mountain hunters, was a dull, black volcanic stone that chipped fairly well when properly heat treated. It was most commonly used in the High Sierra hunting camps due to its abundance in the mountains.
To perform the fine pressure flaking, Coyote used a sheet of thick leather draped over his knee to use as a work platform. In addition, he had a leather “palm” with a thumb hole cut in it to wear on his left hand to protect it from being cut by the glasssharp chips as they were dislodged. He held the stone arrowhead blank in the leather-lined palm of his left hand, securely resting on his knee. With a pointed tine of deer horn, held in his right hand, he applied quick, snapping pressure against the edge of the stone blank at each place along the edge where he wanted to make a chip. With pressure applied at just the right angle, the chips came off in tiny, narrow ribbons that went halfway across the surface of the blank.
The pressure flaking left a distinctive pattern along each side of the arrowhead. Both edges and both sides had to be chipped to obtain the desired shape for the type of arrowheads he was making. Once the sides were chipped, the corners were notched using the same inward pressure to dislodge the tiny chips. Silent Buck checked in often to correct Coyote about subtle deviations in shape, thickness, width, length and workmanship. The shaman rejected several points that had imperfections by smashing them with a rock so no one would attempt to use them.
Though the criticism may have seemed harsh, Coyote began to develop an appreciation for perfection in his workmanship. After the inferior points were weeded out by the shaman, those remaining were truly works of art, having a distinctive shape and form that defined the customary type of arrowheads made by his people. Coyote became extremely proud as he held the handful of perfect stone points that he had created. Unknown to him, the beauty of his workmanship would be discovered and appreciated by modern man hundreds of years later.
After finally receiving some praise from Silent Buck for the fine quality of his work, Coyote became obsessed with doing well. He became determined to produce the finest projectile points by any hunter in the tribe. At last he was beginning to think of himself as a master of his art. He was eager to produce the perfect weapon and move on to the mastery of hunting with the weapons he had made.
In his enthusiasm to produce more and higher quality arrowheads, Coyote dislodged a chip of basalt that struck him in the eye. Startled, he quickly rubbed the razor sharp chip of stone into his eyeball with the knuckle of his hand. The chip cut its way into the man’s eyelid and eyeball, drawing blood, tears and intense pain. It would take a few days of rest and healing before he was able to resume his work. The concentrated effort of working with the sharp stone pieces was also taking its toll on his raw, sore fingers. They were bloody from being cut in several places by the shards of stone.
While Coyote Skin perfected his flintknapping expertise and recovered from his occupational injuries, Squealing Rabbit sharpened his talents at perfecting the arrow shafts for the two of them. Rabbit shaped his steatite arrow-straightening stone to fit the exact shape of his palm. He heated the stone in the fire as he had seen the other hunters do. He then took a thick piece ofleather folded over a few times to use as a hot pad to protect his hand as he worked with the hot stone.
Rabbit took each blank arrow shaft and examined it closely, sighting down its length to determine where each curve in the wood had to be removed. Using the surface of a downed log as a work platform, he applied the hot, grooved arrow straightener to the shaft and ironed it back and forth along its length until even the slightest curves were removed. As he worked, a hot sizzling steam often issued forth from the wood. The hot stone permanently removed the moisture and curves from the shafts and helped to polish and steam-cure the wood to retain its straightened shape.