Pebble Source

Pebble Tools

(As featured in the August 2007 issue of Practically Seeking)

The Pine Barrens of New Jersey have a couple of things in common with the Blackland Prairie of Texas.

One of which is little to no good stone of sufficient size and consistency from which to knap large tools. (Boo...Hiss...) In fact, this is true for many areas of the United States, Canada, and the rest of the world.

Fortunately for man-the-tool-maker, there is one usable resource that can be found pretty much everywhere: Pebbles.

It's easy to produce a cutting edge from a variety of types of pebbles using a technique called Bipolar Percussion.

Tips & Tricks for Pebble Tools

Step-by-step Instructions for Making Pebble Tools:

  1. First, you'll need to find a good supply of pebbles. They can be any size, though for ease of use, it's best if you can find ones that are at least 1½ – 2 inches long. (Smaller pebbles with no inclusions are better to use than larger pebbles with inclusions.)
  2. Pebble Wash Pebble Supply

  3. Smaller pebbles with no inclusions are better to use than larger pebbles with inclusions.
  4. With & Without Inclusions

  5. Examples of Poor choice, inclusion-filled stones, Okay choice stones with some inclusions, and Good choice stones with few or new inclusions.
  6. Lots of Inclusions Some Inclusions Few or No Inclusions

  7. You'll also need two larger, mostly round stones. These two stones should be at least three times the size of your largest pebble. One will be your hammer stone and the other will be your anvil; choose a stone with a slightly flatter bottom as your anvil to make it more stable.
  8. Hammer and Anvil Stones

  9. Hold the pebble suspended just slightly over the anvil stone, only a few millimeters, with your non-dominant hand. By suspending the pebble in this way you get a double percussion effect, making it more likely your pebble will break on the first strike. You may also wish to wrap your pebble in a leather thong or plant fibers to help protect your fingers from accidental hits.
  10. Holding Your Pebble

  11. Taking your hammerstone in your dominant hand, tap down lightly on the pebble to check the stability of your set up. If there is too much wiggle, change the pebble position around on the anvil until you find a spot where everything feels stable. Otherwise, your stone could roll and you'll smash your fingers. Not fun!
  12. Plant Hold Finger Hold

  13. Strike the pebble HARD and DECISIVELY with the hammerstone. If nothing happens, that's okay. You may not have anything happen the first couple of strikes. Continue to strike your hammerstone in the same place and repeat until you get a fracture.
  14. Split Pebble Quartered Pebble

  15. Your pebble may split in half or into any number of pieces. You're goal is to create a tool that is relatively easy to hold and has a sharp enough edge to complete your task.
  16. Pebble Tools Pebble Tools Pebble Tools

  17. The resulting sharp edge can be used much like knife for cutting flesh, abrading notches or scraping.
  18. Creating an indent for your burn in Notching Your Fireboard Sizing your Notch

  19. Using pitch (or glue) you can embed several of these flakes into a stick of wood to make longer macuahuitl-type blade (Aztec sword) as seen in this image of Aztec Warriors from the Florentine Codex.
  20. Florentine Codex image of Aztec Warriors