Stone Knives

HuntPrimitive Stone knives are made with natural materials and designed for real work and function. They are extensively field tested in very large projects such as fully processing and disarticulating large animals such as deer and even Bison! While function is our greatest priority, we also strive to utilize beautiful blades and ergonomic blade and handle combinations for comfortable and efficient work. With all the different styles, we are confident there is a stone knife here just for you!

HuntPrimitive's Classic Bison Skinner Stone Knives. These have been a cornerstone of the HuntPrimitive knife brand for a long time. It is hard to go wrong with this classic and utilitarian design.  Click here to be taken to that page

Deer Antler handled knives are a crowd favorite. While they are certainly functional knives, these tend to be the favorite for gifts and display pieces as well. Click here to be taken to that page.

Our Walnut Handled Deer Skinner knives are a dressed up version of our cornerstone and classic Bison Skinner knives. They bring the same form and function in a classier package. Click here for that page.

The HunterGatherer stone knives have 2 cutting edges on an asymmetrical blade. We like to use the curved edge for animal work (hunter) and the straight edge for plant work (gatherer)  Click Here

The HuntPrimitive Mammoth Skinner is the big brother of the bison skinner. This knife is for someone that wants a big honkin' stone knife. Click here for that page.

Neck knives are a popular style of small stone knife work as a necklace. They are fun, handy pieces. Check them out by clicking here

Here you will find a couple videos of our stone knives doing some serious work.

Skinning and Butchering a Bison with Stone Knives - YouTube

Have Questions on Sharpening Stone Knives? We have you covered with this easy Tutorial!

 

Below is an except from Ryan Gill's Book

The Secrets and Science of Primitive Archery 

There is no way I will go through this entire book and how to make the best primitive hunting implements and not cover what you likely want to know about making the best Primitive knives. Stone knives are synonymous with Stone saws. When we think of "knives," we think of cutting flesh or whittling. When we think "saw," we think of cutting branches and bones. A stone knife and a stone saw are essentially the same things. Knives can be single-edged flakes, or they can be knapped bifaces hafted to handles. I will pretty much tell you everything you need to know about stone knives and saws in this chapter. Like building and hunting, I have an extraordinary amount of experience with stone blades for building and animal processing. There is a lot of theory and some novice-level practical application to muddy the waters a bit. Still, I have extensively worked with stone blades in everything from processing bison, deer, hogs, alligators, fish, trimming sinew, and boning meat off carcasses. And then, I have built tools utilizing stone knives that have required sawing through a massive amount of wood and bones with nothing but a flint blade. You're about to get a crash course on one of my favorite subjects.
I will admit that I didn't see the practicality of a biface blade hafted into a handle when I got started. I figured those were just for show. I was far more enamored with hand-held blades and specifically uniface blades or single broke knife edges. After all, when you're a flintknapper and see how incredibly sharp a single broken edge is, you know right then, that is a serious cutting tool. I have skinned and deboned hogs with nothing but cleanly broken flakes of obsidian. But, I have also skinned, and deboned hogs, deer, alligators, and even bison with bifaced blades hafted in wooden handles. I will tell you right now that the bifaced hafted knives are vastly superior when properly made. Knowing what I know now, I was just playing and tinkering around when trying to make larger tools and process animals with flakes and small hand-held bifaces. I think I have a couple of videos out there even promoting non-hafted bifaces over hafted blades. I have to eat crow on that one and admit I was not only incorrect but grossly incorrect. I first figured this out on my first bison kill when I figured we would skin the whole thing most easily with flakes. I brought some hafted knives but was not eager to use them. The task was daunting with flakes. When I needed a break from cramping hands and picked up a hafted biface, I knew right then and there what I had been missing. Between the comfort and leverage of the tool, I was robbing myself of efficiency by thinking a single sharp-edged flake was superior.
Single broken edge blades are super sharp. You can often shave with them. Unfortunately, they also have two major fatal flaws. They are both uncomfortable and even a bit dangerous to handle, especially in cold weather with numb hands. More importantly, the edge is depleted and becomes downright dull very quickly. Cleanly broken flakes of chert and obsidian are perfect for small detailed work and breaking the skin on an initial incision. Bifaced blades, especially those hafted in handles, make light work of very large jobs. The difference between "just any biface blade" and a really efficient one comes down to the ability to give it a good edge. Like any other knife, it will not be very efficient if it doesn't have a good edge. Just like stone projectiles for many years, stone knives got a bad reputation because folks weren't getting good edges on them.
When we think "knife," our mind goes straight to a camp knife with a single edge and contoured handle. While we can undoubtedly make stone knives in that fashion, the best stone knives for practical application have a relatively straight handle, and both sides of the blade are sharp. If you look at the archaeological record, most larger "spear points" are misidentified. In reality, those are knife blades. It is a very simple concept that I have preached for years from a practical application standpoint. Suppose you make a standard style of tool/point that would be considered a diagnostic lithic. That could be any well-known "point" style from Clovis, Dalton, Hardin, on down to all sorts of Archaic and even Woodland period point styles. Those diagnostic lithics have both larger and smaller versions. Many of the larger versions are actually horribly sized to be atlatl-thrown spear-tipped projectiles. But by making them in the same diagnostic style, they can be used as knife/saw blades, and they get a little smaller every time you sharpen them.
Once the knife has been sharpened multiple times, then reworked, then sharpened multiple times again, it is half the size it used to be. Once a blade has finally exhausted its useful life as a blade, it can be reworked off the same basal-diagnostic platform one more time and live a new life as a projectile. There is no reason to throw that resource on the ground when it's almost a projectile point with just a bit more work. It is easier to create a projectile point from an exhausted knife than to start from a fresh piece of stone. These diagnostic lithics aren't typically (although occasionally) single-sided. Instead, they are sharp on both sides of the blade. That is really important because that is twice the available edge on your knife that can be used before it needs to be sharpened. If it doesn't cut well on one side, flip it over. When it doesn't cut well on both sides, it is time to sharpen. It is without a doubt the most efficient knife design for stone age contextual cutting.  
Those diagnostic lithics mentioned are Paleolithic and Archaic-based styles. When you start getting into later Woodland and Mississippian periods, the knives aren't being repurposed into atlatl projectiles at the same frequency. Even when the Spanish arrived, they mentioned that the atlatl was still used alongside the bow and arrow. (I honestly think the atlatl still had a context in bison hunting even at that stage in history, but that is a subject for a later chapter or discussion). So, we don't necessarily see a complete vanishing of blades being repurposed into spear points, but a drastic decrease, which shows the drastic shift from the atlatl to bow and arrow technology depending on its context of use. Contextual arrow points are considerably smaller and thinner than earlier atlatl-thrown spear points. It is no longer practical to repurpose exhausted knife blades into projectiles since the projectiles no longer utilize the same hafting surface or dimensions as the knives. However, and this is the big "however," these larger knife blades that are double-edged still exist in pretty significant numbers but just don't carry the same diagnostic signature as the new arrow points or the previously documented atlatl point diagnostics. Since they no longer have the basal structure or notching, they are listed as a non-diagnostic biface or "performs." In reality, they are simple and effective knife blades that would have been set into wood handles with pitch glue and likely never even wrapped with sinew or any other bindings. They lack the basal diagnostic signature because they are no longer built with the intent to repurpose as projectiles once exhausted.
Handle materials are pretty cut and dry. Although there are a few examples of knife blades hafted into bone or antler, those are the exception to the rule and likely done as either a status symbol, fun project, or found in an area with minimal resources available at the time the knife was constructed. Wooden knife handles undoubtedly don't preserve well over time, yet they are the most practical handle material. Wood is typically readily available, easier to cut and notch, and comfortable to hold without odd burrs of antler or joints of bone. Antler and bone handles with single edge blades are more modern constructs. Don't get me wrong, they look cool, and we build and sell a lot of them to folks that want them, but true contextual knives are symmetrical double edges blades set into wood handles and likely often not even wrapped with sinew or any other bindings.
When it comes to edge depletion, obviously, the edge depletes faster when used on bone, wood, and even hair. Flesh alone takes a very long time to deplete an edge. When making incisions, a sharp flake gets you in there really quick and a hafted biface knife running along the same incision line from the flesh-side out rather than the hair-side in will cut hide exceptionally efficiently. The technique is not terribly unlike steel knives. When making an incision, the blade avoids edge depletion on hair when used in a pulling-up motion and cutting the inside of the skin rather than forcing it down and cutting through hair and then skin. There are a few spots on an animal, especially within the legs, that a single-edged sharp flake, used in the same manner, has superior cutting ability in tight corners and tight against bone.  
The first bison I killed with an atlatl, we had 3 capable guys working on it with less understanding of the tools, and in about an hour and a half of work, we had one side of the skin and only a little bit of meat removed. We ran out of time because the tools were not optimized, and we didn't completely understand how they worked. We used many single-edged blades and didn't get into the hafted knives until much closer to dark. When dark came, we quit and later on finished the job with steel knives out of exhaustion from the day's events. That shouldn't take anything away from the group of folks I had involved in the first bison experience. I just didn't have the tools and infrastructure for everyone to succeed and play to their strengths. After that, I devoted a lot more time to truly understanding how to work with stone knives and processed several smaller animals with stone to gain better knowledge.
When it was time to process a second bison, I had tools and a working knowledge of how they worked. With some help from an occasional 4th hand, three of us not only skinned but deboned all major muscle groups and dis-articulated an entire bison down to bare spinal column with nothing but hafted stone knives and a few incision flakes in less than 2 hours. By putting the proper tools into the experienced hands of Jason Smith, Joe McConnell, Myself, and some occasional extra help from Cameraman (in between filming), Jim Dussias, and guide, Mike Towle, we went from dead, whole, adult bison to fully deboned meat, heart and liver, gutted, and dis-articulated Appendicular skeleton in less than 2 hours. We removed all the meat from the bones except for the ribs, which we scored and broke backward off the spine to remove in 4 sections (2 each per side). We went a step further to dis-articulate the Appendicular skeleton to be later able to remove the remaining sinew bundles in the massive leg and shoulder bones, and save the important tool-use bones within the legs for a future project and study. If that isn't efficient with stone age tools, I don't know what is. I am still amazed at the short amount of time it took to accomplish that with contextual tools in experienced hands. 
Aside from Jason's experienced hands that had previously processed a moose with inferior localized stone tools; I have to give a special shout out to Jason Smith, who not only worked his butt off but was so mission-oriented that he refused to let any of us fail or quit on the job until it was complete. "Close enough" wasn't good enough, and Jason not only led by example but challenged the rest of us, even me, to finish the job before dark. Joe McConnell is just an animal. He has a phenomenal amount of experience in tanning and woodworking with stone tools and quite a bit of modern cattle processing, but this was his first time processing a large animal with purely stone age tools. I think Joe had his doubts at times, but that man doesn't know the meaning of quit. He had no shame in being the guy that held legs or pulled on the rib cage while others cut dangerously close to him with sharp stone knives. Joe had more blood and mud on him than any of us and earned every bit of it. If Joe were a horse, he'd be a Shire horse. Jim's primary job was to film, and that he did and did relentlessly. He didn't miss very much in the grand scheme of things. Jim has selflessly filmed me on several other hunts, including my first milestone, atlatl hog hunting film. We just met Mike that day, and he was the guide. Mike was instrumental in predicting the pattern-ability and habits of the bison on this 1500 acre ranch. Neither Jim nor Mike had been a part of the breakdown of an animal with stone age tools, but both eagerly joined in when needed and were instrumental in accelerating the process so we could finish before dark. Jim got to play less than all of us because he had to film, even though I know he wanted more than anything to just get in there with us. Mike jumped right in and handled the stone knife like he'd been doing it his whole life. I don't think you could have asked for a more selfless, team-oriented group to complete the task at hand, and that in large is why this monumental task was completed both before dark and in less than 2 hours.
In that entire experience, we used a total of maybe 6 incision flakes and 5 hafted stone knives. By the end of the whole process, all the edges were depleted. We probably should have stopped to chip a new edge on some of the knives, but a sense of urgency pushed us further. The pitch glue haft failed on 4 of the 5 knives by the end of the job. Jason broke maybe 3 of those 4 single-handedly. He is just an animal and is not afraid to put a knife through its paces when it comes to working. I appreciate his unabashed approach to product testing. I typically handle stone blades with a little more finesse, but Jason will push those right to the limit. While we all found it funny that he systematically broke the haft on each knife he used, It helped me collect data to produce even stronger knives moving forward. I don't see that as a failure at all—5 knives and 3.5 people processing a whole bison in less than 2 hours is a massive success. Not a single knife wasn't repairable. They just had dislodged hafts between the blade and the wood handle. 30 seconds of heat on each one and the pitch would reset the blades and be ready to sharpen and process another bison. I learn from each one of these I do. Instead of 1 knife per skinner plus a couple of extra, I would just plan on having two knives per skinner. That accounts for both dulling edges and any potential haft breaks. The surviving knives were getting dull in the last little bit, and we were getting pretty tired. Having a couple of extra fresh blades would have been an asset in the situation. If we had more daylight left, spinning up a friction fire and resetting the hafts, and chipping a new edge would have made the last quarter of the job much easier. We never once resharpened a single blade despite having the tools to do such. I think there was a certain sense of pride in just working through it rather than stopping to sharpen or reset hafts. That was probably our pride and overall inexperience shining through. In hindsight, that is what we should have done instead of forcing through the job. Yet, when fatigue sets in, oftentimes, optimizing the situation sounds like more work than just muscling through, even though it rarely is. The time constraints of fatigue and darkness are very real. Having experience and planning ahead are real game-changers. That is where it helps to have a tribe. I think this is an excellent example of showing how far you can push tools before needing repair. By the end, the knives were in total disarray. Having a couple of extra knives would be advantageous but not always necessary. When the job is finally complete in prehistoric times, I imagine everyone collapsed by the fire to rest and fix/sharpen all the tattered tools in preparation for the following day.