Transportation troop is caught 'knapping'

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scott Leas
  • 384th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
People on deployment find many ways to pass the time. Some chip away at calendars marking the days left until they return home. For Staff Sgt. Barry Hester, a special purpose vehicle mechanic with the 384th Expeditionary Logistics Squadron, it is chipping away at stones.

Hester, from the 56th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., spends his spare time here in pursuit of the fine art of flintknapping: the primitive technology of chipping stone into arrowheads, tomahawks, jewelry and other objects.

"When I came here, I didn't bring my tools," said the native of Selma, Ala. "I really didn't think I would have a place to do it.

However, after arriving, Hester's love of his hobby was too great not to continue. It did not take long for him to ask someone back home to send him his flintknapping tools.

Traditional flintknapping tools are made of natural materials such as hammer-stones, antler or wooden billets and punches, and are used to flake or chip away the stone to a desired shape.

Hester's love of the art began early.

"It all started as a kid growing up in Alabama when I would find arrowheads from time to time," he said. "When I was about 13 years old I got serious about collecting.

His collection came with him into the Air Force.

While stationed in England, Hester heard about an archeological showing where primitive artifacts from the Stone Age to Roman Empire were being exhibited.

"There was a special exhibit on stone artifacts where a guy told me all about flintknapping," he said.

Hester's curiosity was piqued. The man told him to check the Internet and join a forum. There he gained a wealth of knowledge about the art of flintknapping.

"From there the rest is history," he said. "I talked to others who knew about it, ordered tools and started doing it all the time. I've been doing it for about three years now."

Now Hester's hobby follows him everywhere the Air Force sends him. Often with his face to the ground, he searches for an allusive arrowhead or the perfect piece of flint.

"I like all kinds of primitive technology," said Hester who also uses natural fibers to make rope and learned how to start fires using a bow. "I enjoy learning as much as I can about primitive technologies, things like building snares, living off the land. Things like that interest me."

But knapping is his focus. The majority of his spare time is spent on his hobby.

"Basically I like the challenge," he said. "I enjoy making nice things with my hands. I don't make things for myself, I give most of them away. I've made about 200 pieces and most everyone I know has one. I do it mainly because of the craftsmanship involved in making these things and the challenge it presents."

Hester uses a variety of tools, many of which are patterned after the ones used by a Native American known as Ishi.

Ishi, the last surviving member of the Yahi Indian tribe, lived at the Anthropology Museum of the University of California in San Francisco in 1911 where he shared his knowledge about his culture and beliefs with anthropologists.

"That's where we get a lot of what we know today about flintknapping," said Hester.

One of the tools Hester uses in called an "Ishi stick," a long stick with prongs on either end used to chip shards of stone away to make arrowheads.

"When I'm not flintknapping, I'm hunting for rock or arrowheads, or teaching others about flintknapping."

Hester says it takes him about two hours to make a point. "Every time I sit down to knap I learn something new."

He also enjoys makeing jewelry using primitive technologies.

"I think it's my desire to learn that drives my interest in knapping," said Hester. "It's an art form. It's like when an artist is making a picture. It's another way people express themselves."