It seemed only fitting that while in Alpena master knife maker Webb Hammond of Seabeck, Wash., would demonstrate his craft, at least for one day, surrounded by display cases full of ancient weapons and tools in the Besser Museum's Gallery of Ancient Man.
Hammond duplicates some of the same materials and techniques used by woolly mammoth hunters more than 9,000 to 12,000 years ago. In town for the Safari Club International Northeast Michigan Chapter's 13th annual banquet and auction today at the APlex, Hammond and fellow demonstrator Terry Christian spent Wedsnesday at the museum.
"I started when I was about 7 or 8 - very basic stuff. My father got me started," said Hammond, who went on to hone his skills studying under other master knife makers and today practices the ancient art of what is called "flintknapping." He specializes in flint and obsidian blade knives, replicated in ancient styles from around the world, such as Clovis and Mayan.
Flintknapper Webb Hammond shows off a piece of obsidian, a natural volcanic material, that he uses to create arrowheads and other tools. He incorporates many of the same techniques that ancient man once used.
Hammond showed how a chunk of obsidian a natural glass material made through volcanic activity is chipped or "knapped" into the arrowheads and tools early man used thousands of years ago across North America. He collects the raw obsidian he works with from excursion sites in Oregon or Northern California, often coming away with 400 to 500 pounds of it at a time.
Besides the flintknapping, Hammond also forges Damascus steel knife blades with handles created from a variety of exotic materials so that the finished products are just as much a beautiful piece of art as they are a functional tool. Among his pieces on exhibit at the museum was unusual knife Hammond fashioned from fishing hooks.
"I used nickel-plated fish hooks forged together for the blade," he said. "They were heated at 2300 degree and forged into a block of 1,500 hooks. I had enough then for four knives from that block."
Hammond, along with Christian, usually does four to six museum demonstrations a year as well as exhibits at numerous hunting or western-themed shows. He also travels across the country and teaches his skills to others.
Hammond's pieces range in price from $30 for stone arrowheads to as much as $5,000 for his works of art sought by collectors. For more information about his work, go to firstname.lastname@example.org.