Randy Bing, the Flint Knapper

Randy Bing of Rittman, Ohio, demonstrates the ancient art known as flint knapping.

 

This past weekend, I felt very honored and privileged to be the recipient of a handcrafted gift, a unique, one of a kind item that I will wear with a great deal of pride. This gift is very special in several ways. First of all, it is one of a kind. Second, I got to watch every painstaking movement of its creation. Third, it was fashioned from one of my treasured pieces of creek glass.

Randy Bing, whose home is in Rittman, Ohio, is the young man whose skilled hands turned a piece of aqua colored creek glass that I found at Eagle Creek into an absolutely beautiful arrowhead. He is what is known as a flint knapper, a term that I was completely unfamiliar with prior to becoming acquainted with Randy. I will attempt (and it may be a very feeble attempt on my part) in this chapter of my journal to share some of the information Randy passed on to me about what I would consider his very unusual hobby. Knapping, an ancient art, is a process accomplished by a multitude of various techniques and tools. The main objective involves reducing a stone by removing flakes. This is achieved by either direct, indirect or pressure flaking until the desired shape is obtained. Flint knapping can be traced farther back in time than any other technology. Randyís interest began when a co-worker attended a Pow-Wow one weekend and came back to work telling Randy about seeing a demonstration on flint knapping. And because Randy had been interested in arrowheads since his youth, listening to his co-worker pass along the details of the flint knapping demonstration sparked an interest in seeing one for himself. A visit to the shop of a flint knapper and the purchase of a beginners kit was Randyís next step in the process. But he really didnít get too deeply involved in the hobby until his wife, Chris, (who Randy was dating then) surprised him by paying for a weekend course offered in Michigan, an 8 hour drive from where they both lived in Ohio. These special weekend events are called Knapp Ins. Those who participated in the one held in Michigan that particular weekend sat in a circle around the instructor, Craig Ratzat. Getting just the right angle is one of the goals a person who attempts flint knapping strives to do. But just in case miscalculations are made in the learning process, and according to Randy, this happens quite frequently, a box of band aids is always close at hand.

That weekend course increased Randyís knowledge and interest in what has turned out to be a hobby he really enjoys, and a person has to see only one of his finished products to appreciate how very skilled and accomplished he is with this craft. Knapp Ins are held several times a year and in many different states. And it was during one of these events held in Water Creek, Arkansas, that Randy and Chris were married. The ceremony was held out doors around a campfire with all participants of the Knapp In the invited guests. D.C. Waldorf, a highly respected and well known Master knapper, served as best man at their wedding. Because Chris has a very special love for Tennessee, and has relatives in the Taylors Crossroad Community that she has visited quite often while growing up, one of the songs played by the blue grass band following their wedding ceremony was "Rocky Top."

Some of the tools of the trade used by Randy include pieces of moose and deer antlers.

Obsidian, a natural glass, is sometimes used for the making of arrowheads.  The dark colored ones pictured here are made from this type of stone.

 

During the hour or so Randy chipped away at my special piece of creek glass he so kindly volunteered to demonstrate his skills on, family members gathered round at the home of Bob and Donna Jolley in the Taylors Crossroad community to watch Randy work. Those present in addition to Bob and Donna, and Randy and Chris, were James and Marie Gunnels, Jimmy Gunnels, Scott and Rebecca Gunnels, Raymond and Frances Sells, Scott and Diane Copeland, Karli and Cade Copeland, Helen Keisling, Kelly and Emily Sells, and visitors Frank and Susan Woog, and Tami Herman, all from Rittman, Ohio. The demonstration took place outdoors on the carport of Bob and Donnaís home. Just within Randyís reach sat a satchel containing the many different tools he used in the quite lengthy process necessary to produce the finished product. I sat nearby spellbound by the methodical and precise movements he used involving not only his hands and wrists, but practically his whole body at times. While he chipped away, he explained that dedicated knappers look very unfavorably upon anyone in their trade who attempts to pass off items as having been made by Indians hundreds of years ago. Such attempts are sometimes made at flea markets and even on Ebay. A special tool called a diamond scribe is used for engraving names or initials of the person who made the modern day artifact to help in identifying those from ones made in years gone by, and to avoid the possibility that a purchaser might be deceived about the date of origin. Randy describes the flint knappers he has become acquainted with during the five years he has been involved with this hobby as being some of the friendliest and most helpful people in the world. He said in the flint knappers world, he has yet to meet anyone he didnít like.

The finished product, a creek glass arrowhead, fashioned from the skilled hands of flint knapper Randy Bing.

 

In addition to all the enjoyment both Randy and Chris have received from this hobby is the fact that they have formed some lifelong friendships with other couples who share this interest. Special weekend events are scheduled in many different states at various times during the year, one of which is held in Manchester, Tennessee. Chris hopes she and Randy can someday make Overton County their home, something she has wanted to do since childhood. She has many happy memories of trips here from Ohio while she was growing up to visit with family in the Taylors Crossroad Community.

I was very happy to have the opportunity to watch as a sparkling clear design of an arrowhead slowly began to appear from the repetitive chipping away done by the skilled hands of a very talented craftsman being performed right in front of my eyes. I will treasure this gift always. For those who might be interested in seeing this procedure in person, that opportunity will be extended during Overton Countyís 200th birthday to be held in September of 2006. Randy and Chris have been included in the list of the distinguished craft persons invited to attend. Look for further details as that time draws near.

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