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from Callahan's catalog, "Piltdown Productions Catalog #5" p.4
- 6, 1999)
I made my first hafted stone knife in 1966. Knife production was occasional thereafter until 1984, when I started obsidian knife production in a big way. Since 1984, I have produced 860 stone knives, all duly signed and documented. (I make and sell about 50-60 knives a year. That's about one knife a week. But I spend 1-2 months on my big showpieces.) Today, knife production comprises the vast majority of my stone work; I'm considered a halftime maker. (See Below.)
I knap 2 - 2 1/2 hours a day and have done so for decades. (Between 1990 and 1998, I knapped a measured average of 2.2 hours a day. Range 1.8 - 2.7 hours.). I love flintknapping.
The Importance of Reputation
MENTORING IN THE 90S
Reinventing the Wheel
All in all, I'd say I spent 20 years working my way through the Paleolithic, Paleo-Indian, Archaic, and Woodland levels and another five years working through the Mesolithic - all the while voluntarily restricting myself to replicas of ancient forms. This was my basic training and excellent discipline it was.
During the last 20 years I have been working my way through the complex Neolithic levels, finally breaking through into the unexplored Post-Neolithic territory shown herein. These latter years have also been a real struggle, for once again I've had little to guide me. What do you use for guidance when you're trying to break a new trail into unexplored territory? - Only intuition.
But I don't forget to check my backtrail to see how others are coming along. That's why I offer my workshops. (My students are now learning in one week what it took me the first 10 years to learn on my own.) And that's why I founded the Society of Primitive Technology in l989 and served as President of the Board from 1989-1996.(See Tribute by Steve Watts in SPT Bulletin #14, in 1997.)
Education and its Relevance to Knifemaking
"Perhaps nowhere in the business of sharp edges does one's background
prepare him so well for his livelihood as does that of obsidian knifemaker
Errett Callahan." - Steve Shackleford, Editor, BLADE Magazine SE/OC
These degrees may not be responsible for my craftsmanship but they have indeed forced me to think hard about design, about historical context, and about field testing my products. Throughout the 1970s, I pioneered the field of "Living Archeology, conducting subsistence projects in which participants lived off the land for from two to nine weeks under primitive conditions. We used stone knives and other primitive tools exclusively, while testing certain archeological hypotheses. When your life and very material comfort depend exclusively upon your stone tools, you learn a few things about function, design, and craftsmanship. So when I say that my knives are functional, I think I know what I am talking about. The knives shown in my catalog are the culmination of all that experience
I am also in the final stages of writing a book on experimental archeology - everything I know on that too, another 15-year project. (Working title: THE CAHOKIA PIT HOUSE PROJECT: A CASE STUDY IN RECONSTRUCTIVE ARCHEOLOGY.) Watch for it.
Once the books are behind me, then I can start on my videos.
Over the years I have fought hard for what is ethical in flintknapping. (Yes, there is a sordid side to our history.) I have supported and will continue to support ethical flintknapping causes. And vice versa. You can count on it.
My work is done with the conviction that I can serve best by supporting causes and revealing my so-called "secrets." In fact, I make it my duty to see that my students can duplicate my accomplishments. This may be easier said than done, but that's my goal. I love teaching flintknapping.
Bud Lang, Editor of KNIVES ILLUSTRATED, says: "Errett Callahan (is) a master flintknapper, instructor, etc., a gentleman who makes some of the finest obsidian knives ever created." (KI, Oct. 1998: 4).
(Thanks Bud, but as I clearly state later on, I make no claims at being a master - though I think I am mature. Having worked extensively with the real masters, I am aware of the vast gap between them and me.)
I am available for occasional consultant work related to lithic analysis, archeological reconstruction, private flintknapping instruction, demonstrations, lectures, slide presentations, or similar advisory sessions. But I rarely teach outside workshops which would compete with my Cliffside Workshops. My rate is usually $200/day plus expenses. Let me know if I may be of service.