‘Meet the Makers’ is an ongoing series which highlights exhibitors of the 2014 New Braunfels Mini Maker Faire.
Maker: Dave Dean
Makes: Flint Knapper
Interviewed by: Shawn Chapman, New Braunfels Mini Maker Faire Organizer
“Turns out I’ve been doing this for thousands of years!”
When he’s not teaching classes at New Braunfels Public Library, baking bread or traveling with his wife, you can find Maker Dave Dean knapping. Dave is a flint knapper and a 2014 New Braunfels Mini Maker Faire exhibitor. Here is our discussion of his Maker craft.
Shawn: This is such a fascinating craft. How did you become interested in it?
Dave Dean: Well, I’ve always had a real interest in it, and recently I had my DNA analyzed and I got the partial results today. I’m 2.8 percent Neanderthal! It turns out that I’ve been doing this for thousands of years!
S: How did you actually start flint knapping?
DD: Like I said, I’ve always kind of had an interest in it. Then, four years ago, while vacationing in Wisconsin, my wife and I attended a stone tools demonstration that really piqued my interest in knapping. I talked to the guy who did the demonstration and he told me how to get started. It was pretty easy to get going.
S: What was his advice?
DD: He said if I wanted to get started that I could knock the bottom out of an empty beer bottle and start knapping on glass. He recommended that I search online videos that would show me how to make tools and different procedures to knap. And that’s what I did.
Dave Dean, knapping
S: You’re completely self-taught?
DD: Yes, and with the help of YouTube. There are a lot of lessons on YouTube on knapping. Later, I found out that my grandson in Minneapolis was also starting to knap. We didn’t know that we were both working on the same thing. When he came to visit later that year, we took our tools and stuff to the park and did some knapping.
S: You started with glass. What other materials are you knapping on?
DD: Well, there are all kinds of flint. The flint around here isn’t perfect, so we have to work with it to get it to the quality we need. I really like Georgetown and Pedernales River flint; both are really good to work with. Peoria flint is from up in Illinois; it’s good quality. The volcanic glass, obsidian, is beautiful; it’s hardened and rare. It makes some really nice pieces. Alibates flint is my favorite; it’s from the Panhandle of Texas. It’s beautiful.
S: Tell me about the tools you use when knapping.
DD: Most knappers make their own tools. I use a variety of materials to make my tools. I use things like copper wire, antler, leather and stone to work with. Each tool I use does something different and in some cases different materials require different tools to knap them.
Some of Dave Dean’s knapping tools.
S: Is there an association of knappers?
DD: No, but we do have what we call ‘knap-ins’. There’s one in Llano, Texas, and one in Johnson City, Texas, each year. This April, we had almost 40 registered knappers in attendance. All age groups, and some of these guys are so good at what they do. We get together and knap and talk about the process. Some people craft stone tools to sell. There are also vendors selling knapping tools and materials. I make some tools and sell them. I make a little money, buy some more stuff for knapping.
S: What’s your favorite part of talking about flint knapping?
DD: It’s just fun to talk about it. I’ve had other hobbies, but this one is just very fun. I like to take a “rock” and ask the kids in my group demonstrations if they think a rock can cut a piece of leather. They all say, “No!” and then I can show them how a sharpened piece of flint can cut right through a piece of leather. The looks on their faces is just shock. And it’s just so unusual, most people have no idea how it works. When I get to talk to kids about it, they have such good questions, and they’re so interested. It’s a really good time when we go to things like Folk Fest and do demonstrations.
A small display of Dave Dean’s flint and glass creations.
S: Thank you so much for talking about this with me.
DD: You bet! It’s fun to talk about, and I really enjoy just showing it to other people.
Passionate curiosity coupled with ingenuity drives Dave Dean to create beautiful one-of-a-kind stone art pieces. Dave’s work gives us a glimpse at the tools that were used by early man. He is enthusiastic about teaching his craft, and he is a great example of the makers and the maker culture you will experience at this year’s first ever New Braunfels Mini Maker Faire, August 2, 2014!
Check back soon for another Meet the Maker post!