The Flint Knapper

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Published on: Dec. 2, 1998

Last revision: Nov. 3, 2010

Tim Murphy of Hannibal was getting ready to move when I met him. No one likes to move, but for Murphy the 8,000-pound mound of flint in his back yard made the job a real challenge. His back was still aching from digging the stone out of a road cut in northeast Missouri six months earlier.

Murphy is a flint knapper who makes his living shaping stone into arrow points and knives. "I sell rocks," Murphy says, and that's true. But his finished replicas of Stone Age artifacts are art drawn from raw stone. Before moving all that rock, he was off on a trip to Italy to demonstrate flint knapping techniques, sharing his knowledge with university students and an archery club. He does demonstrations at Missouri schools, too.

And unlike most flint hobbyists, Murphy actually archery hunts with the broadheads he makes. In a recent season he killed a 9-point buck with an obsidian arrowhead and field-dressed the deer with a stone knife he also made.

He figures he is the third person in modern Missouri to kill a deer with a stone point, but the first to use a point he crafted himself. He shot the deer in the rib cage and says it ran only about 50 yards before collapsing. He still has the arrow that dropped the big buck, though its black, glasslike broadhead hangs from the sinew that held it to the point of the shaft. It pulled loose when Murphy removed it from the deer. The shot was no fluke; he earlier had taken five deer in five consecutive seasons with a recurve bow and steel broadheads.

Murphy likes to use Missouri and Texas chert and obsidian from Mexico for the points he actually hunts with. Obsidian makes the thinnest edge on an arrow point and is the sharpest, but it is more brittle than chert and more likely to break. He says the edge on the stone knife he used to dress the deer is durable, and that it easily sawed through the deer's ribs.

"You could have lined up three more deer for me to dress with no problem," Murphy says. "I'd put it up against any steel blade. Until you use one you cannot realize how good they are. Sharpening would only involve some pressure flaking, and I would have a razor-sharp edge again." European collectors prize Murphy's beautiful stone knives, some of them made from a

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