Pre-Columbian Style Stone Knives: How To Make Them


 In making stone items and knives over the years of different kind of stone, we prefer obsidian and Slate for making knives above any other type of stone. Obsidian is a volcanic glass and does not dull when used. With a seriated edge on the slate, and obsidian being broken glass, they rip through most things easily. In this lesson it shows how to make a knife out of black slate. The slate used must be a good quality metamorphic rock and can be cut real thin without any flaking. In Figure One it shows a slate blade rough cut. This design of blade was chosen to fit the antler and since this knife will be for a lady it needs to be smaller than normal. Figure Two shows how the blade and antler are cut to make a snug fit. Just as in the Tomahawk lesson the blade is glued with epoxy and deer leg tendon i.e. sinew (See Figures Three and Four). Before the blade is glued into the antler handle both are sanded and polished. Once again care must be taken so the epoxy does not get on the blade or antler. If this occurs just use alcohol for cleaning as we described in making a tomahawk. White jewelers rouge is used in polishing both the blade and the antler after the fine sanding has been done. 

In Figures Five, Six, and Seven we begin the process of engraving the blade and seriating the edge so it will rip well.  A Dremel tool is used to engrave the blade. Since this slate is of such a good quality it is harder than one would think. The Dremel point used is a good small diamond dental bit. Before engraving, the design is chosen and then drawn on the polished stone with a good number 2 pencil. Once engraving the design is done the edge can be seriated using a round file. The file is used on both sides and try to align the indentations. In some places it has to be filed twice, in order to get the degree of cut needed. Fine sandpaper is then used to eliminate the scratches and then it is polished on the edge again. Figures Six and Seven show each side of the blade with its respective design and the seriated edge. If you seriate the edge at a sloping angle it will aid in ripping.
The next step is to make a sheath for the knife. Each sheath is formed to the knife so it will fit snugly ensuring it will not fall out or break. The following way to make a sheath for a knife is kind of surprising but is the best way to mold and protect the blade. A good thick piece of latigo leather does look good and protects the knife but they did not have cows in the North America before the English arrived. If you take Elmer's glue and two good pieces of cardboard you can glue them together and after they dry they are like a wood!! This is the basic concept with making this type of knife sheaths. First cut 2 good pieces of good quality cardboard and take them and form them to the knife. Do this before you glue them to get them as close to how you want the finished product to fit. Have a carpet needle with some good thick thread and a pair of needle nose pliers close by. Also have a dish of water and a cloth that is damp with water. Put a good thick coat of glue on the two pieces of cardboard and squish them around the knife. With the glue on the cardboard it makes it pliable and easier to form. Then use the needle and push it through both of the cardboards on the edge to hold them in place. If it won't go through the 2 cardboards then use the pliers and slowly push it through. Be careful and go slow, the needle can break and stick in a hand or finger. Sew the cardboard together to hold them as the glue dries. Let them dry overnight, to make sure they set good.  During this process you may drip some glue because if you did it right there is a lot on the cardboards and as they get forced together some of the glue comes out. This is where the bowl of water and wet cloth come in handy. Keep the glue off the needle and pliers as much as you can.  After 24 hours the glue has set and the cardboard is very hard!! You can then use a small saw or a sharp razor knife to cut the knife sheath to the exact size you want. Try to make the sheath as small as you can so it is not so bulky.
Figure Eight shows a sheath with fur on it. It also shows red wool on the top of the sheath. If you are going to use a fur covering, make sure you cut the fur large enough to cover the entire sheath. Glue the fur down but leave the very edges sticking off so after the glue is dry they can be sewn down and the excess cut off. The fur is wrapped around the sheath so the ends come together to allow for sewing on the back edge. This is the edge that is under the handle. In the picture (Figure Eight) it is the bottom edge. It is at this time you can sew the red wool on the end of the fur to keep the edge from showing. If you don't want to use fur but prefer buckskin, look at Figure Thirteen it shows a sheath covered in buckskin. The same process is used and the buckskin is glued to the sheath with the ends sticking out. In this figure you can see the edge of the buckskin well. After the glue dries then add the buckskin lace to sew the deerskin together. Leave the ends of the ties hanging some, to give it a fringed look. In Figures Ten and Eleven it shows some buckskin lace that was added to the sheath on the top edge. Another lace is sewn through the tip of the sheath for tying, if need be. One of the laces on top is used to secure the knife to the sheath so it will not come out.  
The last thing done to this knife was to deep cut a design into the end of the deer antler handle; (See Figures Nine, Ten, and Eleven) This completed the knife shown with the white rabbit fur covering the sheath. This knife went to a lady as a gift. She showed it to some people and was offered a good amount of money for it. She said "No!! It was her baby"...
Figure Twelve shows two knives. The one on top is another black slate knife before engraving while the bottom one is smoky obsidian. Each of these knives has a buckskin covered sheath similar to the one in Figure Thirteen. The knife in Figure Thirteen is a nice size dark obsidian bladed knife. It was made by a friend of mine from Albany, Georgia. It was broken in transit and had to be reknapped. With it's new sheath it should not break anymore while being moved. Figure Fourteen shows a solid stone sword I did. It is 48 inches in length and is cut from a large piece of stone so it is one piece. It is a type or knife, well a long long knife. This sword is NOT engraved.  The one in Figures Fifteen, Sixteen, and Seventeen was made for my sun when he was 15. It is 36 inches long and is fully engraved with designs from the Maya. It is also a one piece sword.
I hope you enjoy making a stone knife and can find this lesson useful.



                                                       Figure One    



                                                  Figure Two 


                                                 Figure Three 


                                                     Figure Four


                                                    Figure Five 


                                                      Figure Six 


                                                  Figure Seven 


                                                    Figure Eight 


                                                  Figure Nine


                                                   Figure Ten


                                                      Figure Eleven 


                                                Figure Twelve


                                                 Figure Thirteen


                                                 Figure Fourteen 


                                                Figure Fifteen 


                                                 Figure Sixteen


                                           Figure Seventeen 


                                                Figure Eighteen

Serrated slate knife with pouch and engraved. Beneath the knife is an antler & stone pipe tamper. The knife has the hand and eye design on the blade.


                                                 Figure Nineteen

The opposite side of the knife showing engraving on the handle. Maya symbol carved on the end of the handle with the Uktena pre-Columbian design on the blade.


                                            Figure Twenty

Another slate serrated knife with a very pointed deer antler handle.


                                               Figure Twenty-one

The pointed end of the knife's handle can be seen in it's entirety in the picture. Very nice pre-Columbian design on the blade and handle.


                                                Figure Twenty-two

Large slate knife before it is serrated. There will be a pre-Columbian design engraved into the blade and handle.