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Archive for Sunday, August 31, 2008

Auto repairman enjoys knapping

August 31, 2008

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— Richard Martin is known as "Old Ways" for a reason. He doesn't like using high-tech tools or processes to make arrowheads, knives and other objects from stones, glass, wood and antlers.

Martin's skill, known as flint knapping, involves grinding the edge of a stone or piece of glass and then using a billet to knock flakes or small pieces from it to form an object.

"A lot of things I learn just by picking it up. A lot of things just come natural," he said during a recent visit to his workshop in North Topeka.

Martin, 57, said he became interested in flint knapping in 1992 after going on an archaeological dig at Lindsborg and being introduced to the skill by the late John Reynolds, an archaeologist with the Kansas State Historical Society, Washburn University professor and flint knapper.

Soon Martin and his wife, Ann, found themselves traveling to a flint knapping gathering at Fort Osage. They have returned to the fort twice a year since then to participate in other flint knapping events.

Martin, whose full-time job is removing dents and hail-caused dings from vehicles using a paintless process, said the first object he flint-knapped was a tiny pig made of flint that is no bigger than a postage stamp. He then turned his attention to making knife blades and points, which are tied to the ends of arrows and spears.

Today, his favorite materials for points and knife blades are midnight lace obsidian glass and Brazilian agate because of their unique color patterns.

"Obsidian is the sharpest thing known to mankind," he said.

Other materials used for his points and blades are fiber optic glass; red glass from Arkansas; jasper; blue and pink glass from Japan; white milkglass; and vaseline glass, which contains uranium and glows a bright green under a black light.

Martin typically gives away his flint-knapped creations or uses them to barter for other products or services.

"The pleasure and relaxation he gets from producing this artwork balances the other stresses in his life," his wife said.

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