Modern-day flintknapper’s demonstration combines crafting and history

  • Posted: Sunday, March 3, 2013 12:53 a.m.
    UPDATED: Sunday, March 3, 2013 1:17 a.m.
Bill Earnhardt  chips flakes from a large piece of obsidian stone while his son Dwayne hold it in place.  Earnhardt  did a flintnapping demonstraton for Cub Scout Pack 351 at  Shiloh Reformed Church in Faith.   photo by Wayne Hinshaw, for the Salisbury Post
Bill Earnhardt chips flakes from a large piece of obsidian stone while his son Dwayne hold it in place. Earnhardt did a flintnapping demonstraton for Cub Scout Pack 351 at Shiloh Reformed Church in Faith. photo by Wayne Hinshaw, for the Salisbury Post

FAITH — Generations of young men, especially those in Scouting, have hunted for arrowheads in the woods and fields of North Carolina.

Saturday, local Cub Scouts got to see firsthand how some of those arrowheads were made.


Bill Earnhardt, a local flintknapper with 50 years of experience, visited Pack 351 at Shiloh Reformed Church on Saturday.

Scouts and their families, plus others, gathered around a row of tables laden with sample arrowheads and spearheads.

Some of them were modeled after artifacts Earnhardt said may have been made thousands of years ago.

“It’s quite an accomplishment to create,” he said, holding up a rough-cut spearhead that had, minutes before, been a large piece of obsidian.

He went on, “You could take this blade here, and then …”

And, as the Cub Scouts looked on, Earnhardt — wearing leather apron, safety glasses and gloves — began tapping it with a hammer, using small strokes to flake off more pieces of stone.

He then started pounding, chipping flakes of rock off.

When he held it up again, the stone had begun to take on a classic “arrowhead” shape and point.

Earnhardt and his late brother, Jerry, started out making smaller arrowheads as a hobby.

Over the years, it became one of Bill’s passions. Today, he and son Dwayne have a website, Modern-Flintknapping.com, and make several presentations a year.

Bill’s daughter, Lisa Trexler, and his granddaughter, Victoria Trexler, also assisted.

While her grandfather hammered and ground the obsidian, Victoria held a smaller stone.

She used a technique called pressure-flaking – using a piece of wood with a small copper piece attached to pressure off small flakes.

It’s the same technique that Bill Earnhardt said was used in making arrowheads, spearheads and stone knives ages before.

His tools: a cinder block, a modern metal hammer and a “hammer stone,” as well as another rock for grinding.

Also on display: different types of stone, used by different cultures throughout history to create different types of points.

There was a lot of material to go over in a short time, but the Scouts stayed fascinated throughout.

“There’s so many different phases,” Bill Earnhardt said, after the presentation.

Saturday’s demonstration was just a rough overview of the craft, but the items he had on display were a history lesson by themselves.

With charts and reproductions of historic artifacts, the boys saw how different cultures throughout history, from Egyptians to Native Americans, had created blades and points.

He also showed off an atlatl, or spearthrower, a type of hunting weapon believed to have been first made about 20,000 years ago.

One Cub Scout, Spencer Chandler, 11, said he enjoyed learning how arrowheads were made.

He brought with him a weathered stone arrowhead. “My great-uncle gave me this,” Chandler said.

Asked whether he thought he’d learned about to make his own, he replied, “I’d probably need to practice.”

“It’s a lot of hard work that goes into it,” said Andrew Koon, assistant cubmaster for Pack 351.

This was the Earnhardts’ first visit to the Cub Scout pack.

Aside from being entertaining, and a window into history, Koon said the demonstration might be useful if the boys later go camping.

If they’re lost and without gear, he said, they might be able to create a simple knife blade to use as a tool.

For Thomas Stewart, 9, the Earnhardts’ visit to Pack 351 showed him a skill he’d never seen before.” “I’d found (an arrowhead) one time at Dan Nicholas Park,” Stewart said.

Just as Bill Earnhardt himself learned how to shape stone as a boy, so his visit Saturday might lead a new generation to learn more about the craft.

Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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