Virginia: Catoctin Greenstone

ToddsPoint

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Mar 2, 2018
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I started knapping in '85 and started pecking and polishing celts about the same time. Before the internet, information was sometimes hard to get. I had read about "greenstone" in a book. Superior material for making celts and axes. The celts we find around here are often made of green stone, so I thought that was Greenstone. Went to the lake and found me a nice green rock and proceeded to peck and polish it into a celt. Here it is, my first celt, pecked and over polished.

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Much later, after I got the internet, I discovered my green rocks were just igneous rocks. True Greenstone is a metamorphic rock and it is found in the mountains and there is none around here. Luckily, a knapper friend took a trip out east to the Gulf Branch Nature Center in Arlington, VA. He met Scott Silsby, a primitive technologist, and managed to get me a piece of Greenstone. It was tough stuff to work. The piece had cracks but Scott told my friend the cracks are generally healed from the metamorphosis. I worked it into a celt over a period of a couple months. Material is tough, dense, and heavy. Ideal for a celt. With this rock, it's possible to get a very sharp edge. Sharper than any celt made from our local igneous rocks.

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Here is a map of where the Greenstone outcrops in VA. It's called the Catoctin Formation. I don't know exactly where Silsby got the piece of Greenstone, but I imagine it's within the range shown on the map. Gary

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Quartzite Keith

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Dec 17, 2018
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I'm in central Virginia so have access to it. Quite common on the eastern slope of the Appalachians. which is the closest source for me (Greene, Madison, Orange counties). It does occasionally show up in cobble form in the James River here in Richmond. Scott Silsby's work with the material is brilliant as was Errett Callahan's. In recent years Pete Davis in Rockbridge County, VA has been working extensively with it and while he would be too humble to agree, he knows the material as well as anyone. I've only dabbled in it.

First project was a small three quarter grove axe. Took 25 hours! And yes, that crack you see in it is completely healed, as strong as the surrounding rock:



I also did a small celt. I knapped out the bit before pecking and grinding, so I think I only have 10 hours in this one:



The material is somewhat knapable, but this is my only real success out of half a dozen tries. A 3.5 inch Savannah River:



It is said the best material comes from high up on the mountain. As the material erodes out and comes down the slopes it slowly weathers into a softer rock called "Catoctin schist". Being softer, it makes a good mortar:

 
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ToddsPoint

ToddsPoint

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I'm in central Virginia so have access to it. Quite common on the eastern slope of the Appalachians. which is the closest source for me (Greene, Madison, Orange counties). It does occasionally show up in cobble form in the James River here in Richmond. Scott Silsby's work with the material is brilliant as was Errett Callahan's. In recent years Pete Davis in Rockbridge County, VA has been working extensively with it and while he would be too humble to agree, he knows the material as well as anyone. I've only dabbled in it.

First project was a small three quarter grove axe. Took 25 hours! And yes, that crack you see in it is completely healed, as strong as the surrounding rock:



I also did a small celt. I knapped out the bit before pecking and grinding, so I think I only have 10 hours in this one:



The material is somewhat knapable, but this is my only real success out of half a dozen tries. A 3.5 inch Savannah River:



It is said the best material comes from high up on the mountain. As the material erodes out and comes down the slopes it slowly weathers into a softer rock called "Catoctin schist". Being softer, it makes a good mortar:


Nice work on the axe, celt, and point. When I started on my celt I didn't know you could chip it. I did it entirely by pecking. 25 hrs.? It took me 25 WEEKS! Maybe not quite that long, but a long time. I should have kept track of the time. Gary
 

Indian Steve

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I had heard that the big cliff side on Interstate 64 as you cross Afton Mountain is greenstone.
 

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