Cliffside Workshops
    Schedule & Apply

Piltdown Productions
    Order Form

Contact Information


Education of a Flintknapper












Top of Page












Top of Page












Top of Page












Top of Page












Top of Page










Top of Page













Top of Page












Top of Page



Since 1987

 Cliffside Workshops

 (4/6/13) Notice : Errett suffered two bad falls in 2012, resulting in debilitating spinal fractures which currently leave him unable to teach regular classes, though private sessions may still be arranged.

However, he would enjoy giving occasional private lessons/coaching for a day or two at a time, any time of year, at your convenience. He misses teaching and invites your participation at Cliffside. (Write for an application. $100 / day.)

Some coaching topics to consider: Squaring and de-squaring; Stepping out; Challenge pieces; Holding positions; Staging; the Basic four; Eccentric notching; Punching; just watching demos of topics of your choice; Hammerstones & billets, Etc., etc...............

If you want to contact Errett for a possible private lesson, or to get on the mailing list for announcements, send your name and address to Errett..............

Errett Callahan
2 Fredonia Avenue
Lynchburg, Virginia 24503

(or print an addressed letter page viewed here )

Phone: 434-528-3444    (Let phone ring 8 times for message.)


- - Teaching Ancient Skills, Traditional Values, and Self Reliance - -

Offering Classes in


Errett Callahan, Instructor

     FLINTKNAPPING: Learn basic to advanced traditional flintknapping skills. Any skill level welcome. We take you wherever you are and push you upwards and onwards a bit. Learn how to make an arrowpoint from a flake by pressure alone; learn how to do percussion knife-making using traditional hand tools - hammerstones, and antler billets (no copper billets); learn the various stages of reduction in bifacing; witness a wide range of other skills - blademaking, punching, bipolar, stone axe making, square work, parallel flaking, etc. Obsidian is the primary stone used, but other flints are demonstrated as well. Instruction is not haphazard, but systematic, following guidelines in Callahan's BASICS manual. Proven results. Traditional knapping only.
     Number of days - For your convenience:  For all sessions, choose any number of days instruction, from Day 1 to Day 7, always starting on Saturday, the first day. This way there's no repetition and you may leave any day of the week. Spur of the moment add-ons are allowed, so long as we can manage the food. See page 7 for costs.
     Errett's been overwhelmed a bit this winteer (2009) due to divorce and destruction of the kitchen & knapping shed from 2 winter storms. Restoration has turned the house & workshop inside out, but all should be back in order by the June session.  He has a lot of catching up to do but do call if you have any questions.
     This flyer & application are the same as the previous years except for the dates.  (Am trying to save paper.)

     PRIMITIVE TECHNOLOGY: Choose one topic and see it through to completion. Others may choose other topics so you could see a variety of skills taught and demonstrated. Choose one - flintknapping, bowmaking, arrow making, pottery, basketry, fiber technology, or stone axe making. Other topics by request. Feel free to practice other skills during "down time." Also, Artifact Illustration.
     Number of days - For your convenience:  For all sessions, choose any number of days instruction, from Day 1 to Day 7, always starting on Saturday, the first day. This way there's no repetition and you may leave any day of the week. Spur of the moment add-ons are allowed, so long as we can manage the food. See page 7 for costs.

     ARCHEOLOGISTS AND LITHIC ANALYSTS: Here is your chance to learn the "language" of flintknapping. Without an accurate understanding how can you interpret your findings correctly? Archeologist Zakariah Johnson says, "This type of study is essential for any lithics analyst wishing to go beyond static formal classification systems and appreciate the dynamic mental and mechanistic processes underlying past technology systems. Understanding the processes behind manufacturing helps put the leaves back on our currently bare family tree."

     INSTRUCTION is one-on-one with plenty of personal consultation. All teaching takes place at Callahan's personal wooded home, Cliffside. His wife, Linda Abbey, handles meals, registration, and keeping the wheels running smoothly. During the evenings, students have the opportunity for campfire discussions or viewing of films and videos of relevant technologies. Students are encouraged to take advantage of Cliffside's large library and numerous recreation facilities. New in 1998 - outdoor lights and a sliding translucent roof over our knapping area. All in all, come prepared to get an education, not just training.

     DR. ERRETT CALLAHAN is your principal instructor at Cliffside. He has an MA and Ph.D. in anthropology (lithic technology and experimental archeology); an MFA in fine arts (painting); an Honorary Ph.D. in archeology from Uppsala University, Sweden; is on the faculty of the Department of Archeology, Uppsala University; has had over 200 research papers published (mostly on lithic technology and other primitive technologies); is advisor to countless archeologists, lithic analysts, and flintknappers worldwide. Callahan has over 50 years experience flintknapping and over 50 years shooting the bow. He is Founder of the Society of Primitive Technology and President of the Board 1989-1996. In 2009 he celebrates his 22nd anniversary of teaching workshops at Cliffside. But Callahan has been teaching primitive skills every year since 1971, both here and abroad. During this time he has personally taught flintknapping to 998 students (as of 2006). Callahan is the teacher of teachers, having taught instructors and students from BOSS, Outward Bound, Pathways', Brown's, Riggs', Watts', Cheatham's, Worsham's, the Sherwood's, and dozens of other outdoor programs and nature centers. And he has taught almost all the Board Members of the SPT. About 50% of his students return year after year. Any and all ethical prehistorians are welcome at Cliffside.
     Callahan regularly displayed his award-winning obsidian knives at knife shows from 1986-2005.  He has now retired and spends his time writing his books on flintknapping and experimental archeology and upgrading his workshops.  See his article in BLADE magazine - May, 1977: 16-19.  He has won 11 top awards to date.
     Beginners - don't let this intimidate you. Most of our students are beginners. In fact Callahan has specialized in clarifying the principles of various primitive technologies especially for beginners. Thus, in the 7 day courses, students learn in a week what it took Callahan 10 years to learn on his own. Nothing makes him happier than passing on his knowledge to his students.

     TEACHING ASSISTANTS: A talented TA is available for most sessions to provide students with additional help. These TA positions, which are also apprenticeships, serve to train up-and-coming technologists in how to prepare for and run a workshop and in answering students' questions and interpreting our explanations. No, we are not turning our teaching over to assistants, but they will be here to help. TAs neither receive nor pay money, but food is free. Nor do you have to be an "expert" to apply. TA applications are hereby solicited - for classes over 6. We need TAs. So, if you have taken one of our workshops in the past and are interested in this opportunity, let us know. Write for details.
     TAs in the past have included: David Smith, Sean Grace, Dan Stueber, Jack Cresson, Barry Keegan, Anthony Follari, Darrell Duggins, Greg Nunn, Scott Madden, Doug MacLeod, Mike Jacks, Jan Apel, Ed O'Neill, Mike Stafford, Mark Amon, and Doug Meyer.

     SCHOLARSHIPS: We offer one scholarship for a week-long workshop of your choice. This offer, which is competitive, is made possible by a generous gift from Bob Verrey, a former student, who believes in our mission. This scholarship is for a person in financial need and is independent of skill level. You must provide your own transportation. If you couldn't attend without this help, write for a scholarship application.

     MATERIALS AND SUPPLIES: Students may bring their own tools and materials or purchase some from us. Your registration fee will cover the cost of obsidian and some other materials and tool rentals. But either way, you must have what's needed to attend. Requirements vary with session and topic. Lists will be sent to applicants.

     LODGING: There is no charge for "camping out" under our covered porches or patio. We have army cots. Bring pillow and sleeping bag suitable for 20-40 degree nights in the fall and 50-80 degree nights in summer. No tents please. Or stay at a local motel at your own expense. A list will be sent.

     MEALS: Food costs of $10/day are included in with tuition. Those who don't prefer our food may deduct this cost and bring their own or eat elsewhere (no place close). Veggies are welcome, but warn us well beforehand. Remember, meals are a high point at Cliffside.

     TO REGISTER: Fill out the printable application form and send it in with half of your tuition. Application fee of $25 is refundable only if class is filled. The $25 fee covers our mountains of paperwork and mailings to you and reverts to your materials fee upon arrival, saving you the double cost. Paperwork costs money whether you follow through or not. Tuition is $75/day. To this add the $10/day food cost, and one-time $25 application fee. Our chart on the printable application form simplifies this and shows how much to send in with your 1st and 2nd payments. Second half of payment is due by deadline indicated (usually 1 month before session starts - we now give you two extra months to pay). Tuition is refunded if you drop out before the deadline, but is forfeited if you drop out after the deadline. If you are applying after deadline has passed, don't panic. If we have room, we'll still take you, but you must then send in the entire payment with your application. We'll return it if we're full or if we have to cancel class. Write or call if in doubt.
     Applications received without payment will be put on hold until payment is received. If you fail to send in your 2nd payment by the deadline, your place will be forfeited without notice and your place will automatically go to next on list. We have a high demand for these courses so guard your position carefully. (Note: If you must forfeit, consider finding your own substitute and "selling" your spot to him. - Let us know if you do this.)
     After you register, you will receive periodic mailings concerning how to prepare, what to bring, how to get here, a suggested reading list, lodging information, etc. Try to do your reading before you arrive, as there will be little time for reading after arrival. Plan on a great time. Please join us.


     "Marie and I have stayed in some interesting hideaways over the years, but none more fun than yours. Alaska to Mexico, Maine to Georgia, Cliffside is 5 star..."
Senter and Marie Jackson

    "Each time I have studied with Errett, I gain more than just a little training. More than any other aspect, I appreciate the willingness to share what has taken decades to distill into systems that work. At Cliffside, I also find a teacher not just willing to demonstrate skills, but one who encourages close observation of demonstrations. For me, close observation of this type facilitates the ability to transform knowledge into know-how. . . The demos . . . are given at whatever level the students' current abilities will allow them to understand.
Mark Amon

    "Thank you for unselfishly sharing your vast knowledge with me. I can assure you that any information you instilled in me will be passed on to my future students. I only hope I can do as good of a job as you have passing on traditions and values along with knowledge. I feel fortunate to now be both a student and friend of yours . . . . . During my Division 1 wrestling career at Ohio State University, I was coached by numerous Olympians and other World Class athletes . . . Errett Callahan, by far, is the greatest instructor of them all. He not only has a mastery over flintknapping and primitive skills as a whole, but he is a gifted teacher as well. Also to his credit, he is a man who takes time to discuss and pass down morals and values to his students, friends, and family, and lives by them as well . . . I am now extremely fortunate to be among those who consider him a role model, a teacher, and a friend."
William Schindler - Director, Center For Experimental Archeology

     "Your concern and patience with the people you are teaching is fantastic. You have a wonderful ability to make people feel confident about what they are doing. You make your lectures interesting and yet light and humorous. You can keep a person's attention for long periods of time with your easy manner of teaching..."
Rod Johnson

    "Thank you all for opening your home to me and taking the time to teach, cook, and just talk around the fire. Errett, you are an inspiration to anyone doing primitive technology, and people that have not experienced you do not know what they have missed."
Doug Meyer

    "Thank you for the help with my archery form. Before last week I was having trouble hitting the target . . . but now I have consistent groupings around the bull . . . After your knapping workshops, I can pick up a 10,000 year old stone tool and instantly feel the decisions of the maker . . . The cores are making instant sense."
Mike Frank, Smithsonian Museum

     "I just wanted to thank you again for the hospitality you extended this past week. I don't feel that I went to a class, but rather went to friends for the week (and learned more than I ever expected). The only thing that impressed me more than Errett's skills was the love I saw in your home. Melody is a very lucky girl to have parents such as you..."
Tom Laskowski

     "There are remarkable parallels between you and Heifitz. Heifitz played with matchless precision, yet somehow he endowed the music with a glow that leaves the listener wondering if he truly heard what his ears had beheld. So I remember your master class. Certainly the students of Heifitz. . . must have felt as I did-that I was witnessing greatness, and I was fortunate to have been present..."
Dr. Barbara Harkness


For a thorough review of our Flintknapping workshop, see Chris Wallace's article, "Flintknapping Workshop," in KNIVES ILLUSTRATED, May 1996: 80-83. (We'll send you a copy if you'd like.)