Thursday, 8 September 2016

Will Lord 1-2-1 Day

I only met  Will Lord fairly recently at the now defunct Wild Food and Chilli Fair (well defunct in that the Wild Food bit has now gone). It wasn't overly busy there so I got to spend a lot of time chatting to him and his wife, and indeed got a really nice picture of his son with the rather fab  Wild Man of the Woods.


If that wasn't enough, Will had offered a load of Lime lengths to a good home on Facebook, I asked if it was possible to pick some up at the show and blow me he brought some along! Not only did the solid length provide me with copious amounts of tough, long and top quality lime bast cordage (a length of which I showed John Rhyder who confirmed it was good on this Spring course I did) but made some peachy bowdrill baseboards. 

Onto the more recent meeting with Will, namely at the rather fine May Day meet in Kent, with his Primal Action Man.  I got to have a crack at a flint arrowhead but didn't get to finish it however I've started using it with a steel for firelighting using the end to slowly 'knap' it a bit smaller. It chucks out lots of decent sparks by the way.

As part of my sabbatical I wanted to spend some time with Will in a course type way at his place in Suffolk, however Will has reined in the courses he does a bit as he has started doing more school visits in midweek. Actually I had discussed booking some time with him at the May meet and despite the fact that a 1-2-1 is more expensive (obviously) he made a good point; on a course he will always be around to help, but such is the nature of the beast that you'll spend most of the day looking at the back of his head. That point, quite literally sold a 1-2-1. My home in Herfordshire isn't geographically well placed for outdoor stuff but this is one of the nice expections in that had to just do a slingshot around Bury St. Edmunds to see Will at his house.

 Anyway, once the day came I headed off and a little over an hour later I was pulling up Will's drive (the place is easy to find) to find him waiting for me. Whilst he made me a tea I unloaded my stuff like lunch, camera, tripod and so on and then sat and had a chat before we started. Whilst we were talking Primal man let the side down but I was alert to it and managed to head him off at the pass. 


Will is of course probably best known for his flint work but I'd asked if I could do some basic knapping and make an atlatl (which is usually pronounced ahtul-ahtul). There were several suggestions for the atlatl dart wood but I settled on some Lemonwood which is a 'belly wood' used on Will's bowmaking course and has an almost unnatural flexibility to it, this was to be coupled with a launcher cut down length of Yew from a bow that a student over worked in one section. The Lemonwood dart needed some meat taking off and a good sand and I cracked on with that whilst Will fashioned the launcher which was chin to finger-tips in measurement. After that we used pine pitch to fasten a peg to the launcher and cut a L -shaped arrangement (an elbow) at the dart tip to receive a flint tip.

Will showed me a few brief knapping moves as he fashioned what's called a crested flint tip which essentially means a piece with a triangular cross-section which will fit a treat into the dart's elbow. The above shot is of the pair of us back filling any space between the tip and the dart with pitch and then binding this union with nettle fibres on an abraded section. 


I took this close up of the finished tip and I couldn't believe what a thing of beauty we'd created at the business end. Straight after this we did a basic fletching using Goose feathers. I had some eagle feathers from this half day but sadly they weren't from the same wing (this matters as they are curved differently) and couldn't be used. We cut the quill at a shallow angle just before the vanes stop at the thick end to gives us a flap to allow us to marry it to the dart shaft. The other end was trimmed with a little vane left and again, pitch and nettle fibres secure two feathers. The other shot is of the two pieces married up at the rear.

Once we'd completed the set Will did the above video talking through the design and then we took a short walk to an open area to try it out.

To throw or not to throw? I'd got a fit for purpose atlatl but of course there was the risk of snapping the flint tip off on a stone in the ground. Will brought along a flightless atlatl he had to practice with before giving mine an outing. You almost have to unlearn the art of throwing and adopt a very overarm action. I was taken through a basic throw, a power throw and then a running throw and thankfully there was a modicum of technique showing through as the above movie demonstrates...I've just got to remember to put my steadying hand underneath the shaft and not on the top...We did a have a slight distraction during our efforts, we could hear what we thought was a small bird cheeping in the long grass near us that turned out to be a Shrew half consumed by a Grass Snake! The two of us staring down may have put the snake off because the Shrew wriggled free and sped off. 


That brought us nicely to lunch time and I'd gone a bit overboard with mine so Will gallantly stepped in and helped me polish it off. I gave Primal a Jaffa cake as a piece offering and he seemed to rather enjoy them.

And then onto a flint knapping session after lunch. Whilst I'm currently trying to toughen my hands up at the moment to cope with learning the hand drill I was wondering what sort of a pounding my softie hands might get and to be honest they were fine on a half day.

Obviously Will led the afternoon's proceedings but as you can see in the above shot I tried wherever possible to point out the next step because it would be too easy to just say 'Yes' when Will finished explaining. 

A teardrop shaped spear head was followed by a tanged arrowhead and this is a closeup of Will touching up the arrowhead for me to then be let loose on it. There was a mantra of words coming out during the knapping like platform, abraid, hammer, coronet, tea...I never said that they were all knapping words did I? Will's wife Sarah kept us well supplied with beverages.


The two finished pieces together and the arrowhead in the space that the original flake occupied. Now I'm not going to glibly state that I could have managed either of these pieces both in terms of timings and standard without Will's sage and very patient tutelage. He did of course have a large part in their creation but who wants to take home a piece that's only a third done? That said he explained and explained again all the techniques to me so that it went in and I did find myself re-capping on what I'd been shown on the drive home.

 If I was about to start again I'd really work on improving the force of my hammer action as I wasn't connecting as well as I often could have done, this can mean that either nothing happens, or piece comes off smaller than expected due to the lack of shockwave or indeed sends a weak shock into the flint that weakens it so it reacts to another big hit in a different way). I possibly defeated myself at the beginning by aiming a powerful hit but someway off target which resulted in a sizable slab becoming instantly neutraliused.

I have done a good amount of 1-2-1 sessions during my sabbatical and this was no different in that it overran, by some way. Neither of us had a watch on and I recall checking my phone at 3:20 thinking that we've got plenty of time to draw the knapping to a close and the time just flew. Will was right  about the value of a 1-2-1, you pay several times more than someone on a group class, but you take away many times more memories, information and goodies from a day like this.I can't recommend it highly enough.

Oh, and I was one of the last people to see Will before he did this with Obsidian! 

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