Turning Volcanic Rock into a Blade that’s Sharper than Steel


This year, I’m starting a series of making a variety of weapons and roughly following their evolution through history starting from basic Metallurgy of various bladed weapons to bows and arrows and eventually working my way up to gunpowder and even a gun. Oh, Well We’ll see what happens there a key element of this will be finally mastering one material that’s been holding me back Metals, but before I get started on metal making I want to explore the weapons materials are used before metalworking was discovered stones, Using a specific woman to be sharper than even steel… An obsidian blade. Well, I was in Utah last summer, and I made a stop in the Black Rock Desert in West Central Utah. An area known for its volcanic activity with his last eruption around seven hundred and twenty years ago. This area has a variety of geological formations caused by it’s volcanic activity. But the one I’m after is volcanic glass, local geologist pointed out one location to find some. Located seemingly in the middle of nowhere and travelling on terrain not ideally suited for my compact car. I found the area, filled with Black Obsidian Rock. Obsidian forms when lava high in silica cools rapidly. Preventing the formation of crystals, a type of glass is composed of at least 70% silica. There’s often tinted dark black due to impurity. It can also form other colors depending on what impurities are present. Pretty cool. We’re gonna collect a bucket of it and use it for making sharp objects. After loading up with some stones I brought them back home, And met with Dr. Tostaden at the University of Minnesota. I previously worked with Tostaden in a past video where you taught me how to nap Flint to make a basic hand axe. This time I want to learn how to apply this skill to forming a blade out of obsidian. These samples are pretty big, but they have lots of INCLUSIONS in them, But I can show you how to make some cutting edges that you could actually set them into a haft, Such you can make as long as cutting edges you want without having to make the actual stone in one piece. Obsidian is a VERY VERY sharp Rock. It is the… Technology is pretty much the same as as what you did last time you’re here. So this is actually sharper than Flint because… Obsidian being a volcanic glass can get to be one molecule thick at the edge. Oh, yeah, so that’s why it’s it’s so Powerfully sharpened and people will use it for eye surgery, but in terms of what the.. the.. Aztecs did with with their obsidian, They’re famous for taking the technology to it’s utmost refineness. They really were experts at working obsidian and they did it with a technique that made…Prismatic blades. Those swords, they had segments of these blades and they put them in the edges on both sides of these long swords. I’m more afraid of the concept of an obsidian hafted sword there than I am a steel sword So from that being tools like this is kind of a refined skill, that… They have to learn over years, then? This takes, you know, many many years of craft specialization to be able to pull it off. So it’s probably not something I can just sit down and do right away, No, unfortunately, and if even- even the other ways of making blades are… MUCH trickier then, let’s say the hand axe you made. One unsuccessful blow on the blade core… OFTEN means that you’ve ruined the whole piece. So what I thought to do- There are several ways of going about it. You could actually just apply that same technology that you already learned with making a hand axe. You can actually take flakes and… Use those as inserts much like the Aztecs did but they used long,LONG blades to do that, We’ll just use small flakes. Okay? It’s probably…The most ACHIEVABLE thing for me to do. Yeah, Yeah. So this is actually the plastic cast of a piece from well… 240 thousand years ago in Siberia and.. On the edges they made grooves into which they set blazing but this is the general idea of making something. Shorter like a knife rather than the big…Yeah. The big sword. So, how do I get started? Okay, so so give you just a refresher to make a flake. You need to hit one surface that intersects with another at an angle less than 90 degrees. And… You need the direction of the blow to be away from.. The… The piece. You don’t come… INTO this thing directly. So with a hard hammer, I might come down like THAT. Strike. and it takes off the flake like that and then your gesture would be Like that and you make sure you have a follow-through don’t pull back at the last minute And it doesn’t have to be very hard with obsidian prepared to the Flint There you go. All right, look at that, yeah There you go Okay much bigger but you can see how hitting further back made a bigger flake yeah in and of themselves These are very useful cutting tools Okay That’s a nice relatively continuous edge right now We’re just looking for things that are slightly thinner and thing is the palm is just getting your accuracy down a really where you want To hit because all these are very useful cutting edges, you know, this edge might work. Yeah this is already fairly loops vertical so it would be relatively the same thickness as this one and You could put them back to back with that house are those so you’re getting sort of that much cutting edge But also I think you have enough raw material here that you can just keep Practicing and with more hand-eye coordination. I think you’ll you’ll get it certainly getting the right kind of breakage. Well, good luck I think it’ll be pretty cool. Thanks for doing a little refresher. And yeah, yeah, just be careful with it. Yeah, very sharp. Yeah Thanks to dr. Toss Steven I know both a plan for making the blade that’s Achievable with my skill level and a rough understanding of how to napa Citian to hold the blades I still have several leftover chunks from the tree. I fell for my eyeglasses from scratch since I’m making a Stone Age weapon I thought I’d try to limit myself to only Stone Age tools to make a wooden portion of the blade the Flint hand axe I made before a few granite hammer stones and of course my obsidian itself The jagged edges of obsidian worked decently – saw the narrow portion of the board not too bad Although it was a pretty slow process Duct tape there we go. We’re done and with some obsidian scissors snip it off Cutting the thicker side was going to be a challenge though So I switched up to the front and back side previously met as it’s a bit more resistant to shattering than the Obsidian After a very long and slow process to sign through it I eventually got bored of that in decide Try splitting the board to the desired width Using some napped chunks of Flint I tried to use them as a wedge just put the board down the green After moderate success with that I went back to the thick end and finally got it cut enough so that I could break it Then back to the narrowing and splitting of the wood While sharp the Flint and obsidian was prone to breakage and was very difficult to make work I Suspected I might have been able to get enough force. So attempted to construct a simple stone-age tool called an adze Well that kind of helps it just still wasn’t enough With some progress but mostly frustration and moved on to napping the blades They’d figure the woodworking would be the easier part while the napping would be the challenge both a method, dr Kostov in recommended for me. The napping was actually pretty easy. I just needed to break off pieces So we’re thin narrow and long enough for the blade After wasting over two days trying to carve the wood using only Stone Age tools So they are against it you are not watching peer of Technology I decided throw in the towel and switch to some modern equipment The difference was amazing. Well, the Flint in obsidian were razor-sharp Sharp enough to cut my finger through the gloves. They just couldn’t compare to professionally made hardened steel tools With the wood portion on a blade finally done I now just need to attach everything for glue I’ll just need to boil some leftover hide from the pigskin. I used to make a football before After boiling overnight it produces a very sticky animal hide glue gooey With enough pieces laid out to fill at least one side of the blade I just need to carve out all the slots in the wood and then glue in each blade piece For letting that sit for a couple days the glue should hopefully be hard and ready to be used So in the end I’ve made it kind of a crude blade bit of a far cry from the more advanced blades you would see in like Mesoamerica But without spending five years to learn that skill. It’s probably pretty decent cutting edge o Citians been a rather interesting material to work with and in pop culture has kind of a mystical view whether it’s dragon glass and Game of Thrones or opening portals and minecraft Beds core it’s just glass and I’ve spent a lot of time and past projects trying to both make glass as well as cut it and shape it into you things like lenses and Napping is just a different way of working with the glass itself. And one of the things I was surprised to learn from dr Costigan is that you can actually use the same technique on just regular glass try to make a good portion of this blade using just the Stone Age tools really reveal the challenges of Nonmetallic tools and just how big of a difference they are So, let me see a little skeptical of how well this will actually work at cutting It’s definitely razor sharp but I don’t know how well it’s actually gonna cut so I’m gonna try it out on a few different things and Get an idea how well it works First up to see how well it cuts paper All right, it’s not the sharpest I guess in that regard suppose are the Aztecs with their full swords We’re able to be sharp enough to cut the head off of a horse. So I think that would be the true test I’m just knees pork chop instead. I Got some penetration definitely cuts real deep Paid it when you can’t open bananas try the ANU obsidian blade Mmm Works for circumcision as well. Alright, so Actually, we’re good first thing to point out Is that the tip fell off so my glue not the greatest Russell Moore actually pretty good Didn’t do too great at the paper test that might be more because of its jagged nature But it really obliterated that pork chop It would cut pretty deep and the nice jagged nature makes a really effective saw and flesh So I’m actually pretty impressed I did a lot better than I thought it would it’s probably not gonna cut the head off of a horse But it would definitely do some serious damage. Maybe make an artery or something I would not want to face this a lot of times when you see obsidian They make these really long beautiful daggers, but I worked with obsidian and realized how fragile it is I feel like they aren’t very practical like they kind of one time you wear something like this Like you can break one of these and it easily replace it and you’re good to go and keep going So, uh terms of practicality, I think it’s pretty good so as I continue this series of making weapons and eventually get into making some metal ones such as bronze and iron and Then I’ll be able to see how the Stone Age compares to those metallic ones But before that my next video is actually gonna be on a different metal that often served a different purpose Gold If you enjoyed this video be sure to subscribe and check out other content we have covering a wide variety of topics Also, if you enjoy these series consider supporting us on patreon We are largely a fan funded channel and depend on the support of our viewers in order to keep our series going Thanks for watching

100 comments

  1. Wait, Aztecs used obsidian blade to cut of heads of the horses? I thought there were no horses in Americas in that time.

  2. I always thought our generation was too weak to make stuff like these without tech but u proved me wrong by creating obsidian with stone age tools good job even though you did use a boiler and a automatic filer to do it xD

    im not joking our generation is getting softer and softer

  3. Incredible production quality. You’ve earned my sub. Very interesting and I like how you’ve stuck with it even with failed attempts. Just like those who leaned these ways long ago

  4. A single dagger for a single life seems to be pretty worth back when these were used frequently…

  5. Think you can help Primitive Technology reach the bronze age? Last I checked he's still in the stone age.

  6. Oh yeah, obsidian blade: Neverwinter nights 2, Knights of the old republic 2, Fallout New Vegas, South Park: Stick of truth. Great blade indeed.

  7. Use tree pitch as glue. The process is to boil the pitch, add finely ground wood charcoal, and some form of fiber (i.e. fresh rabit droppings). Stir thuroughly till it is a smooth consistent texture. While hot, put the glue in the groove where the blade will be placed, then while still hot, insert your blades and let the pitch cool and harden. Be careful, when the glue is in liquid form, it's hot enough to melt straight through skin (personal experience).

  8. You’re also Not cutting it right. It’s more of a sliding motion not a hack and slash motion. I think more of it as I saw not a sword

  9. Those are the worst knapped obsidian blades I have ever seen. Real primitive technology uses much smaller blades napped off of a core to be inset in a bone/horn (not wood!) frame. You just took chunks of broken obsidian and stuck em in wood and expected it to cut? Jesus man, at least spend a few hours doing research before you spread ignorance to millions of people. Knapping is a very instensive technology that takes years to master.

  10. wow if stoneage people had been so wasteful with their flint…. to work wood you can make actually quite neat chisels from bone….
    of course steel tools are much sturdier and better, but if you know how to use stone tools they are actually quite productive. if you use harded steel at the wrong angle, probanly nothing bad happens. if you do that with stone or bone tools there's a big chance you break them, if you use the right angle and right amount of force, take the wood grain into consideration etc. they can work a charm, it's craftmanship!
    there are daggers from stone, google "flintdolch" (but these are prestige items probably not actually "used") or "ripple flaked knive" to see what could be achieved
    … i won't start on archaeology as a study subject people dedicate their lives to…. workable stone and obsidian was transported over insanely long distances, it was extremely useful and precious. nobody would have beat the shit out of it to split wood. it was mined before people were mining ores. flint industries are high tec, just chopping stone… that's the stage of oldowan period not neolithic. over a million (!) years later….

  11. 5:00 right, use a stone and you can break obsidian…so i tried…yes i did…but it failed…in minecraft lol 😭

  12. These videos are great, but I feel like he gets too stressed, and just needs to try to stay calm and focused. take a little longer to sharpen everything, it will make the process much less frustrating

  13. Nice video..it proves we call our ancestors primitive..but they were highly skilled using only tools available to them.

  14. The idea that an obsidian blade is scarier than a steel one is ridiculous, they'd be worthless for cutting through bone, and would probably get caught in the flesh due to the wide wooden core before even reaching bone anyway.

  15. 0.9% of comments: related to the video
    99% of comments: “OMG MINECRAFT” or “OMG DRAGONGLASS”
    0.1% of comments: these percentage charts showing an exaggeration of the comment percentages while also being self aware

  16. I wish I had a solid rock of obsidian, it is really awesome to look at and its glorifying at any level of any mineral that exists

  17. Personally, I prefer pitch for the glue, it's a little more time consuming but I like working with it better. it's pretty cool, and also if you want to expand those skills then there are tons of primitive skills gatherings all over the country like Rabbitstick or Between the River. (Or Wintercount, although I've never been)

  18. Dumb, innacurate, ridiculous…….. Welcome to playschool tech channel!! Early neanderthals had way better skill compared to your "wasted free time stick of awesomeness"

  19. Still not sure how a clown like Pewdeepie gets so many subs and y
    a channel like yours "only" a million… Today's world is messed up.

  20. Obsidian in real life: Quiet easy to find, very easy to break, doesn't require any type of pickaxe to take it, is kinda rare to find underground, and is high quality looking, does NOT make a portal to a whole new dimension

    Obsidian in Minecraft: Quiet hard to find, very HARD to break in fact it's the hardest thing in you can break even tho in real life when you drop an obsidian it's most likely to shatter, requires a DIAMOND pickaxe to get it, is VERY common to find underground, pixels quality, does make a portal to a whole new dimension

    I've got a lot more that I can compare about obsidian in real life and obsidian in minecraft but it's currently 4 AM, nobody has sent me any food, I've got no food left, help.

  21. Just get a garnet, pink diamond, pearl, and amethyst then fuse them together. The new obsidian would be able to make the sword on its own

  22. didn't anyone tell you they had secret chainsaws in those days lol….this is why its taken so long to get to the modern era

  23. Imagine how painful it would have been to have one of those swords swinging into your body. The jagged rocks tear through your flesh with immense pain and make the wound almost impossible to heal.

  24. Early age weapons are more for crushing an opponent rather than cut. So I believe that it is not a farfetched thing that an edged weapon of sort combined with the crushing martial arts CAN behead a horse. Obviously slicing come farther in history after mankind learned how to forge metal that cut without breaking.

  25. I was recommended this video by a steel forging video and shamefully assumed from the previous video that you proposed to forge obsidian. Completely coming here to watch and say to you it can't be done.
    But by watching this video fully and re-reading the title. I am pleasantly surprised and enjoyed it. I would even try to attempt a similar project myself.
    You've earned a like from me.

  26. This blade at 2:52 looks amazing. Could you please make more about this blade.
    How they make obsidian scalpel? Couldn't this method be used for making also a knife?

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