Cutting Through Time

The BC-AD Team Creates a Contemporary look at Flint Tools, Combining the Old and the New

    A hand axe with dipped rubber handgrip is both comfortable and immediately recognizable.

A hand axe with dipped rubber handgrip is both comfortable and immediately recognizable.

The mastery of tool making is a core driving force in human advancement.

The archeological record shows stone blades and tools have been in use for more than twomillionyears, magnifying bodily (teeth, fingernails, fists, etc.) capabilities of cutting/chopping, sawing and pounding.

By contrast, humans have been working metals for some 6,000 years and plastics for only about 150 years. Clearly, we have an astounding amount of experience at designing and making stone blades and tools.

The art of “knapping” a blade—hitting one stone against the other or hitting with the aid of a striking antler to create “controlled breakage”—has been kept alive by crafts people as well as individuals interested in outdoor survival, through Native American history, and as an academic means of studying material culture. Flint and obsidian blades have been shown to cut with amazing efficiency and power through materials as varied as vines and elephant skin.

As product designers, we are fascinated by the prospect of integrating thousand-year-old cutting implements manufactured by knapping with the most contemporary tool-making technologies including engineering software and 3-D printing. Here we re-look at these basic tools from our current perspective, conventions and knowledge of knife and tool making, to ask the following:

•   What happens when these two technological polarities meet?

•   What lies between the custom-made and mass-produced knife?

•   What new forms are generated?

•   How does the digital age influence the making of such knives and tools?

•   And how does what we call “craft” get updated in the process?


Our “design investigation” progressed down several parallel routes; the use of actual prehistoric stone tools as well as those we had knapped ourselves, the latter an important aspect of understanding the work stages and geometry of flint blade-forming.

By DovGanchrow