Flint knapping is more than making arrowheads

By Travina Coleman
Braggs, Oklahoma (AP) 10-08

Ted Lawrence wants to see flint knapping as an art form. And it is. Just look at some of his work with obsidian – a rock found in Oregon and Washington.

“The obsidian is sharp like glass, but the smoky gray color is beautiful. You can hold it to the sunlight and see what the stone has captured,” he said.

Lawrence, who is retired from the Norman Police Department and the U.S. Army, has been knapping for 14 years. He studied under a master knapper, the late Jack Hutchinson.

“Jack was the brother-in-law of my sergeant major when I was at (Camp) Gruber,” he said. “I collected pieces and he got me into making them. I just really enjoy what I do. It’s peaceful, and perfection is unattainable. You can never get a truly perfect piece. That’s the challenge.”

Lawrence, who is Choctaw, said he enjoys entering his work in local and regional shows for exposure. He took first place at his latest show.


“I won first at the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society Contemporary Art Show in Illinois for 3-D art,” Lawrence said. “That means something dimensional, not a painting.”

Knapping comes from a German meaning to strike or hit.

“If you look at this piece you can see the outline of a Native American,” he said, holding up a large obsidian point. “I think I captured his spirit.”

Lawrence grew up on his grandparents original Indian allotment in Duncan, in Stephens County.

“It was a nice place to live,” he said. “My brother and I own it now.”

The process of finding suitable rocks is sometimes difficult considering there is not true flint in America, Lawrence said.

“Most of the time we use what we can find at the creek bed, much like our ancestors used to,” he said. “All of the early people made stone tools, not just the Native Americans.”

Lawrence said the key to finding a good rock is to strike it with a hammer. If it breaks clean, revealing a smooth surface, then it can be used for projectile points and arrowheads, he said.

“We modern knappers mark our work with a diamond scribe,” he said. “This way it won’t be confused with artifacts.”

Some of Lawrence’s work can be found at the Five Civilized Tribes Museum gift shop in Muskogee.

“Mary Robinson has always been very supportive,” he said of Robinson, the museum’s director. “People just don’t know what they have here in Muskogee.”

Lawrence gathers with other knappers in the area like Hoy Parson, Floyd Brown, David Rogers, Vyrl Keeter, Jim Clay, Jim Moran and Nelson Myers.

“We trade tools and materials and learn from each other every Wednesday,” he said. “It’s just something we love doing.”