Hinges happen!!! I've watched master knappers get them, I get them, and I've seen beginners
points that were more or less a mass of hinge and step fractures. Hinges and step fractures come
hand in hand with beginning knappers and bloody band aids. The best statement I ever heard on
hinges and steps was from Mary Martin, she said " If you don't make them, you don't have to spend
time fixing them". What Mary was trying to say is very important here, she was saying that
working patiently and cleanly pays it's dividends in the end when your final stage biface is free of
hinges and steps to fix. So the answer to fixing hinges is preceded by Mary's piece of advice of
working slowly and carefully to avoid them in the first place.
So you rushed and bingo......right on cue, there's a hinge or step looking back at you from your
otherwise perfect end of game biface. After kicking yourself, and asking "why" a few times, it's
now time to focus and fix it. If you ask a group of five knappers how to fix a hinge fracture or a
step, you are likely to get five different anwers. So here's mine!
The first piece of business is to make yourself a "hinge picker" to fight that beast of a hinge
fracture or step. The first time I ever knapped with Jim Fisher, I saw him use it and he explained
exactly what a hinge picker does. I've even been told that D.C. Waldorf has one. All you need to
make hinge picker is a solid hardwood handle, and a steel nail. Take the hardwood handle and drill
into one end the diameter of the steel nail. Take the steel nail, saw off the head and then file the
point of the nail flat & square like the business end of a flat nosed screw driver. Now insert the nail
into the drilled handle so that the filed flat end is sticking out of it. Now you have yourself a hinge
& step picker.
Take the hinge picker and place it under the hinge or on the step. Push inward for pressure and
then pluck outward to pick it off. Picking off the hinge or step will leave the tell tale mark of where
one flake ended and another began, but that can me softened up by abraiding a bit when the point is
finished. It's important to keep the hinge picker sharp at all times, because that sharp edge gets
under the hinge or step much more effectively than a slighty dull edge. You usually only have one
good shot at picking off a hinge or step, so don't blow it with a dull hinge picker.
The other way to fix a hinge or a step comes when you make one while percussion flaking. The
flake you strike with your billet stops short and the hinge or stack appears due to the energy not
carrying through the biface but rather traveling upward through the flake to snap it off early and
prematurely. Take the flake that fell short and place it right back into the flake scar that it came
out off. Now hold it in place and strike it again with your billet. What usually happens is that the
flake that stopped short, now carries the energy back through the hinge or step and the results are
that the hinge is taken off with the flake continuing past it as was intended with the first failed
strike. This works!!! The first time I tried it I was amazed. But, you have to make sure that you
hit it the second time with the force of the first strike.
The final way to fix a hinge or step is what I use as a last resort, and thats planning a percussion
flake from the opposite side to travel over to take out the problem. During early percussion stages,
I'll use this as a first option, but since the most problematic hinges and steps usually occur in the
end stages, I use it then as a last option due to the high risk of breaking the piece in half or sending
an overshot flake that bites out the opposite side. If you've tried the hinge picker, and it didn't
work, now it's time to send either a percussion or heavy duty pressure flake over from the opposite
side by changing the angle of you biface by tilting it up. When I look through my artifact points, I
see several points where the ancient one tried several times to remove a hinge or step this way only
to fail and have to leave it on the finished piece. I don't think the ancient ones had bone or antler
hinge pickers as they wouldn't have been hard enough to pick off the hinge or stack, but modern
knappers are blessed in that aspect so take advantage of it.
The Hinge Picker
Picking The Hinge off