The Last Knapper

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The Last Knapper

Post by grendel on Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:33 pm


H Field 1930

"In Brandon, England flint mining and flintknapping were still uninterrupted in the 1920s, a legacy that has gone uninterupted for thousands of years. First knapping blades of stone and then in the more receint past, the gun flint. The king of the Brandon flintknappers was a Mr. Fred Avery. Brandon is a small town 80 miles northeast of London, England. The buildings and structures in Brandon are made of flint and black Brandon flint is considered the best in the world. Fred Avery, the pride of Brandon, was able to balance large boulders of flint on his leather padded knees and effectively decorticate the fine grade black Brandon flint with his six-pound quartering hammer and procure large blades more quickly and effectively than is counterparts. As Fred Avery swung the hammer the black Brandon flint rang like a bell. He was also known to have produced amazing flint art work, including large hollowed out flint chains. Some of these items are curated in the British Museum.

"Picking up a formidably heavy hunk of flint, perhaps sixty pounds in weight, from a large pile in the corner of his dusty shed, Fred Avery sits on a stool and hefts his six-pound quartering hammer. An open door and window supply ventilation. He places a burlap sack on his lap to catch the waste. He aims to reduce the block to workable pieces-"quarters" in the Brandon vernacular. Avery works so fast and rhythmically he is able to manufacture several gunflints in just one minute or so, and is able to sustain this pace for a considerable length of time. At the start of the 1950s, Avery and his father in law, who taught him the trade, worked in the courtyard of the Flintknappers' Pub in Brandon along with others, under contract to the publican Herbert Edwards."

After Avery's father-in-law died in 1966, Fred was the last one. At his best Fred Avery was manufacturing 1,000 gun flints a day. John Whitaker was in Britain when I was writing this book, John told me that Fred Avery had died a few years ago, ending the Brandon tradition. According to D.C. Waldorf; "Fred Avery was the last surviving gunflint maker in Brandon, once home to hundreds of his kind.
Fred Avery died April 24, 1996, "The last of the gunflint knapper".

The writing above is an excerpt from this blog
http://flintknapping.blogstream.com/v1/pid/139122.html


Here's a great PDF leaflet about Brandon Flint Knapping
http://www.brecks.org/shared/pdfs/AxetoFlintleaflet.pdf

I superb downloadable article written when Brandon was at its height
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1139012/pdf/medhist00091-0043.pdf

A full length in depth article about Fred Snare another Brandon knapper Lithically analysing his work, arrowheads, spears gunflint's now owned by the British museum ect.
http://web.grinnell.edu/anthropology/Faculty/JohnWhittaker/Articles/2001_The_Oldest_British.pdf


An utterly stunning photo of a flint chain link made by Brandon Knapper a the turn of the century, showing they were a match for the best knappers of any time period. Apparently the Brandon knappers as the last flintknappers were employed by museums to replicate prehistoric objects for their collections. Making necklaces and even alphabets was another trick of theirs.
http://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/456735


Last edited by Grendel on Tue Dec 20, 2011 1:43 pm; edited 11 times in total

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by grendel on Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:39 pm



A while back I had a go at gunflint making. Mr Avery apparently did 1000 flints an hour. I managed 1 per hour (so nearly there).

I only made one, having no gun to test it I've no idea if it worked, but I sold it on ebay and got positive feedback, so maybe. It's made of Norfolk flint.

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by the barnacle on Tue Dec 20, 2011 1:38 pm

interesting bit of info - thanks for posting.

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by grendel on Thu Jan 05, 2012 3:46 am

A pretty astonishing silent documentary vid on the knappers showing their skills way surpass that of modern knappers. The speed and ease they do it is incredible.



Last edited by Grendel on Sat Jan 14, 2012 10:48 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by the barnacle on Thu Jan 05, 2012 4:16 pm

great clip, i like the way they keep chopping between flints. i wouldnt mind one of those piles of flint.

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by grendel on Fri Jan 06, 2012 6:32 pm

found another couple of films from the talky era, the first from th 30's the second the forties. Listen the the Suffolk accents in the second. Sound almost west country.




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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by the barnacle on Sat Jan 07, 2012 9:33 pm

another couple of great vids, thanks for posting them.

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by Lumpendoodle on Tue Jan 10, 2012 9:00 pm

Fascinating viewing, I loved seeing the way those large nodules of flint were handled and spalled with ease.



One day, maybe I'll be able to do that.............

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by Lumpendoodle on Tue Jan 10, 2012 9:13 pm

Just thinking, anyone got any idea how the flint ring would be made? I mean, where would you start?

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by grendel on Wed Jan 11, 2012 9:37 am

It's a mystery, the Maya made the odd hollow flint object, but it's assumed they were exploiting material with natural holes in them. The brandon knappers apparently made many of these rings, too many I would guess for them to be natural holes from urchins. So I guess they must have had a method of making holes. Also it looks like a delicate piece of pressure flaking work, I've never heard of the Brandon knappers using pressure, only percussion. So a definate mystery.

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Stupidity got us into this mess, why can't it get us out

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by Lumpendoodle on Wed Jan 11, 2012 8:50 pm

Maybe someone will find a film of the Brandon knappers working on one of those rings.

Sadly, I don't think there's much chance of a film like that appearing soon if at all.

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by grendel on Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:42 am

I know one museum (forget which one) has a collection of the works of one of the Brandon knapper, including his prehistoric stuff. The museum must have some records on how he made it. Must try and found out where the collection is.....

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by Lumpendoodle on Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:49 am

I'm planning a bit of a holiday 'dawn sawth' (sorry for bad attempt at accent), and would be interested in visiting the museum.



Will have a little search of the Interweb too.

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by grendel on Thu Jan 12, 2012 8:51 am

That's 'down saaf' where I come from.

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by Lumpendoodle on Thu Jan 12, 2012 9:06 pm

Told you it was a bad attempt.

That's why I only speak 2 languages, Lallands and English.Very Happy

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by grendel on Fri Jan 13, 2012 2:15 am

Grendel wrote:


A full length in depth article about Fred Snare another Brandon knapper Lithically analysing his work, arrowheads, spears gunflint's now owned by the British museum ect.
http://web.grinnell.edu/anthropology/Faculty/JohnWhittaker/Articles/2001_The_Oldest_British.pdf



Silly me forgot I put the details in links to the original post. Here's an article about the collection, with drawings.

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by grendel on Fri Jan 13, 2012 2:54 am

was only able to find one picture online of the items mentioned in the article. That's Bill Basham's flint alphabet, in the Norfolk Museum.

http://www.google.co.th/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=bill%20basham%20flint&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CB8QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.norfolkprepared.gov.uk%2FConsumption%2Fgroups%2Fpublic%2Fdocuments%2Farticle%2Fncc083790.doc&ei=x5wPT4LQJszqrQe71pz_AQ&usg=AFQjCNG2PfhmxPsOHAcgUwO4ciX2WtIm0Q

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by grendel on Sat Jan 14, 2012 10:49 am

One more film to the list, shows more of the mining


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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by the barnacle on Sat Jan 14, 2012 9:44 pm

Thanks for the great clip. very interesting.

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by Lumpendoodle on Sat Jan 14, 2012 10:34 pm

The flint alphabet is just plain gobsmacking.

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by grendel on Sun Jan 15, 2012 3:05 am

Gobsamcking, worth a visit to Thetford just to see it. Pity I'm halfway round the world. Next time I'm in the UK I must give them a call and ask if they'll let me photograph it.

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by Lumpendoodle on Sun Jan 15, 2012 10:42 pm

Adding Thetford to my holiday stopover list.

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by grendel on Mon Jan 16, 2012 2:52 am

Phone up before you go and ask if you can have a viewing to photograph it for academic purposes.

Museum of London has the Fred Snare collection, I don't know if it's on public display, but as they started Laarc and have a public handling room, I guess they would be pretty open to letting you have a private examination.

Also Laarc itself may be worth a visit. It's the project where the Museum of London moved its entire catalgue of finds to a warehouse with examination rooms and any member of the public can turn up and freely handle them.
http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/laarc/catalogue/

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Tue Jan 17, 2012 9:42 pm

The knapped alphabet is probually the only reason to go to Thetford, it's a bit of a dive otherwise!

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Re: The Last Knapper

Post by Lumpendoodle on Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:48 am

Thanks for the heads up:D . I plan to see the alphabet, maybe pop over to Grimes Graves, and a few other of such ilk, then head in the direction of home.

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