The Hoko Knife
2,700 years ago on the Hoko River in the state of Washington, a massive landslide wiped out a thriving village full of industrious
native people. The focus of our interest amid all the artifacts was a knife of stunning beauty in its simplicity. Hafted in
a split cedar handle was a delicate small stone flake. It was very sharp. A spruce root tied it together.
If you do not have
a cedar or spruce handy, you can substitute many kinds of wood. Willow is found almost everywhere and is easy to work with.
Any wood, where you can control the split, will work well.
The Hoko knife can
be crafted in many sizes, but as a tool for fine work, it shines. Plus, it has an advantage over the discoidal blade —
leverage. After all, that is what all handles do.
The Hoko knives that
have been found had super tiny blade/flakes, with a length of the wood handles at about 5 inches. The blades were the size
of a quarter or your thumbnail. They appear to be just the right size for skinning small critters or gutting fish or cutting
small pieces of meat. My experience with the Hoko style is that you work it with a slicing and a sawing motion. We may never
know what these simple knives were really used for, but logic and common sense have not changed over these past thousands
How to Make the
For our Hoko knife, we are going to stay close to the original size of 5 or 6 inches. Cut your twig to the length you wish.
The twig should be about the size of your thumb. You can start your split with your discoidal blade. As you split the wood
apart, bend it in the opposite direction slowly and work your fingers down the length of the stick, pulling firmly apart.
we need some type of cordage to tie this tool together. For cordage, you could use willow bark, cattail leaves, yucca leaves,
rawhide, dogbane, or whatever you have in your area that makes good cordage. I am using yucca cordage for this project.
A Tiny Flake,
Chip, Discoidal Blade
We also need a little flake. Since this is a working knife, we are not concerned with how the
flake looks, just as long as the cutting edge is sharp and runs the length of the flake. You do want the flake as flat as
you can make it. As an experiment, you can substitute a piece of broken glass if you wish.
We have our materials…
let’s do it. Tie a knot on the end of your cordage, then place the flake between the split wood. Slip the cordage just
behind the flake and press down with your forefinger and thumb, pulling the cordage through until the knot binds against the
split handle/twig. Now wrap the cordage around and through the split twigs, tying it with half hitches.
have options here. You can tie both ends, you can place the blade in the middle of the handle (or near the end or anywhere
over the length of the handle), or you can tie the handle only on one end. By holding the handle with your fingers, the flake
will remain tight within the handle like a vise.
I prefer to wrap
my cordage from the flake to the end of the handle. This gives the knife a pleasing look and feels good to me while I work
with this tool.
Make a bunch of
Once you have made a few of the Hoko-style knives, it becomes ad-dicting and soon you will have made several
sizes and blade shapes. Experiment. Try some hide glue, some arrowhead shapes… make them longer and bigger