USING METAL BILLETS

Aluminum and Copper billets are commonly used by modern flintkknappers, and although they are not historically correct, they work. Better yet, they may be easier to use for some beginning flintknappers as the edge preparation necessary is not so important.

Metal billets are easier to stick in your pocket and use when sourcing materials, last much longer than natural antler billets, and won't be chewed up by any but the meanest dogs.

An antler billet, being much softer than stone, microscopically wraps around the edge of the preform when used. Slight strike angle varaitions are therefore not so important, and they offer a cushioned shock to the stone. For this reason delicate and well heated materials may best be chipped with an antler billet.

Metal billets are not nearly as gentle. They transfer shock more readily, and strike a smaller area. Like antler, they also "bite" into the edge of the stone but in a harsher manner. So you need some practice in converting from antler to metal billets. The benefit of metal billets is that they require less swing, can work a platform edge easily with less platform preparation, and are perfect for cleaning and trimming large amounts of stone -- they will save your arm.

Grind the edge as when using antler, most of the time. But metal billets allow you to skip the abrading stage more often than antler billets would allow..


The diagram above shows proper strike angle for a beveling or nibbling strike used to set up a striking platform or change preform outline.

The diagram below shows the angles necessary for striking a thinning flake that runs across the surface of the preform, as well as the difference in strike angles necessary in using metal billets as opposed to antler billets.




To use metal billets, remember the following:

Strike angle with a metal billet is more straight down than with antler. Strike the edge of the preform at nearly right angles to the core centerplane. For aluminum, use just the tip to strike.

Push the billet in a straight path, taking care not to make an arching strike.

Metal billets seem to work best when the core is elevated above the pad so billet travel continues past the preform edge. Hold preform just inside the knee with wrist resting on the pad.

If your flakes are not traveling far enough across the preform face, adjust the angle you hold the preform VERY slightly up on the striking edge.

If your flakes are stepping, angle the edge of the preform VERY slightly down, so that the force of the blow is not directed so much into the preform center.

It may take a while to get used to metal billet strike angles. Keep your posture and strike consistent and you will get consistent flake removal.

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