Casein “Plastic” for Scrimshaw – an Excellent Ivory Alternative

We have been working with a sheet form of casein for several months now and so far it’s the best alternative material we’ve found.  Made in England, the material comes as either one extremely large sheet, or the company is kind enough to quarter it so you can save on shipping, plus it’s easier to handle.

Rounded corner of casein sheet showing slightly rough edge

Rounded corner of casein sheet


Each quarter sheet comes with one rounded corner and one side that is rough and one side that is smooth.  Out of the box it is not scrimshaw ready, but it does sand and polish easily, giving off a bone-like smell when cutting and sanding. I’d asked for a material safety data sheet and they had sent me something similar which I may be able to dig up if you need.

When it comes to scrimming, it is about as dense as ivory and scribes easily once you’ve sanded and polished it. It takes both ink and oil paint very well, and sharpies tend to stain.

Like most sheet-form materials, this should be stored laying flat. I didn’t do this and came up with warped material after about five months. Laying it flat will allow it to settle back down.  All of my material began to get a slight bow to it with the exception of the paper micarta.  Interestingly, the material scorches easier than some of the plastic, but doesn’t catch fire if you put a flame to it.  I had a couple of thin scraps along with some pyralin which is pretty close to cellulose nitrate. The acrylic and pyralin burned, pyralin quite fast, but the casein just went out with a scorched end. I also tried doing an “iron on transfer” using an image created on a laser printer to see if that would work (I think it was the day I was wearing my lab coat: whenever I’m wearing it the dog runs off, my wife sets the extinguisher near me and says she’s going shopping with the kids).  The initial cost may put some people off, but it’s a lot of material: one sheet is 40cm x 50cm (15-¾”x19-½”) – cut down as I’d gotten them they’re an easily handled 20cm x 25cm (7-¾”x9-½”).  I tend to use a scroll saw to cut the roughs out then sand them to their final shape. Much harder than other companies poly “ivory alternative”, it’s worthwhile to start with a sharp blade.

quarter sheet of casein with ruler at the bottom.

One quarter sheet of casein


Our initial purchase cost us a bit over $100, and we’re just about in need of another order (I had sent ¼ sheet to a friend of mine to test but family matters and other obligations have taken precedence), so I’ll be reordering again.  Emailing an enquiry or phoning them, GPS is always pleasant and friendly to work with. The material is available in sheet, rod and bar form depending on your needs.

You can see their offerings at these two sites:

They offer many different materials for luthiers, knifemakers and craftsman.  Let them know sent you.

This article was originally posted on January 31, 2015 in the newsletter.

Posted in FYI, Reviews

Mystery Artist #19 signed “Goudis”

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a mystery artist.  Philippe has inquired about this piece of scrimshaw. It’s 57cm long, signed GOUDIS:

Portion of mystery artist scrimshaw 19 featuring something in the water and a bird to the right

Mystery Artist 19 pic 1

Possibly the opposite side of pic1 showing a ship and several whale tales

Opposing side of pic 1?

Mystery artist 19 whale breaching the water to the right

Whale breaching the water

Tip of the piece from mystery artist 19 showing a large brown spot.

Tip of the piece of scrimshaw from Mystery artist 19

full length of the scrimshaw piece mystery 19

Full pic of the mystery scrimshaw 19

signature of mystery artist 19 - goudis

Mystery Artist 19s signature

By the looks of it, it may be an “oosic” or “oosik” – the penile bone of a walrus (you can see other examples of unadorned oosik at and here).

We’re currently not sure where Philippe had acquired it, but we’ll update this post with more information as we can.  Feel free to comment on this and if you know the mystery artist Philippe would be thrilled to get more information about them.

Posted in Mystery Artist

Scrimshaw Cabin Fever Roundup – Go Build Something

Scrimshaw Cabin Fever Roundup – Go Build Something  (or find someone who does) to Showcase Your Scrimshaw

It’s been bitter cold here, and I’ve been getting cabin fever as well as the need for making something bigger to showcase my art.  After looking around a bit on the net I found several items that could be enhanced with some smaller pieces of scrimshaw.  Either braving the cold and going into the garage to cut some pieces of nice wood or braving the wet and going into the cellar to cut (I could raise cold water fish in my cellar if I could get a permit – and move the furnace and electrical…), but there are also other alternatives.

I’ve broken the options down into ready-made  (just add scrimshaw) and Inpirations – where you can either purchase and modify or go into your (hopefully heated and dry) workshop and create something.


Insignia Desk Accessories – shows great ideas for DIY projects for desk accessories – This is a great way to show off multiple pieces of scrimshaw on the fronts.

– Desktop Name Plate (available from Amazon) would work out great with scrimshaw on either side or both,

– Notepad Caddy (also available from Amazon) has a nice space in the front for a large scene. has a great set of desk accessories you could base your work on or replace the insignia with your own scrimshaw.

Sustainable Bamboo Pencil Holder (available at Amazon) – Easily made by a woodworker or purchase and add scrimshaw. You’ll have to dig around to find them or other inspiring ideas.
– This Desk Clock has room or a nautical scene or other scrimshaw below (via Amazon) – More Desk Accessories…

Medium_cd_holder_1 Plans – CD/DVD Holder. Also other great plans there, including a recipe box with a holder on the top.

(no picture)
Using a magnet and your imagination (along with some scrimshaw) you can create a paperclip “organizer”. Is this where your ship ran aground?

This article was originally appeared on 1-17-2015 in the newsletter.  Get the latest information and inspiring templates free when you sign up for the newsletter

Posted in FYI, Projects

Oklahoma Attempts to Prevent the Future Poaching of Extinct Species


Oklahoma’s  HB1787 is primarily aimed at preventing the sale of elephant ivory and rhino horn. Like New York and New Jersey they also hope to prevent the sale of mammoth ivory – the tusks of an animal that has not roamed the earth for at least four thousand years.  Mammoth ivory is discernible by the Schreger Lines when cut cross-wise as well as by other means (see Robert Weisblut‘s site for more information) as noted in the US Fish and Wildlife’s guide.

It’s easy to entertain conspiracy theories where the government or some other entity with deep pockets and some geeks who are good with genomics are planning on bringing these furry beasts back, especially with the amount of snow we’ve been getting in the northeast, but the real issue is the livelihood of craftspeople, artisans and others who use this finite supply of material to ply their trade.  Knifemakers, jewelers, carvers and others all use this material which reaches the surface annually thanks to frost heaves.

So what do we do – have Alaskans and Canadians gather this material and burn it, possibly powder it and use it for fertilizer? I hear there are even older fossils out there, buried in the earth in sedimentary rock – perhaps we should make trilobite fossils illegal as well.

Posted in FYI

Of Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders

609px-2005-06-27_-_Smithsonian_Srimshaw_closeupSteve Shane of Falmouth will present “Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders: How Whalers spent their off hours” on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 6:30 p.m., at the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Rockland, Maine. This is a free program as per the Penobscot Bay Pilot

Posted in FYI

Jason Webb’s Second Mammoth Scrimshaw Sailing Ship – SOLD

Jason R. Webb's Mammoth Display Piece #2 front - a ship in full sail. Jason Webb is a new dad but still finds time to scrimshaw beautiful works of art. His second mammoth ivory ship has Jason’s signature style.  At 4″x 2-1/2″ it’s astounding how much detail is packed into the piece without making it too “busy”.  Jason has a keen eye for balance as well.

The piece is signed and dated by Jason, and comes with it’s own stand (which I believe may be mahogany, but you’ll need to verify that with him).  Inquiries can be made to Jason by emailing with “Mammoth 2″ in the subject line.  Congratulations on your fatherhood Jason, and to finding the small pockets  of time to recharge with a creative outlet like scrimshaw and sharing it with everyone.Back of Jason R. Webb's second Mammoth Scrimshaw  Ship with Date, Signature and "Mammoth Display Piece #2"

Update: 1/31/2015 Jason’s second sailing ship on Mammoth ivory has sold.  Have any designs you’d like Jason to create, or have a special scrimshaw project in mind?  You can contact Jason at

Posted in Artists, Finished Goods

Basket Topper Coloring and Setting

Finished my present to my lovely bride – she requested lavender and blue for the flowers so I set to work. Below are the progressive pics up through gluing and the finished product.

The scrimshaw “basket topper” was made of casein plastic, the best alternative to ivory we’ve found to date, though we keep looking. The basket was purchased some time ago at basketville in Vermont, though we recently found another basket maker who creates wonderful baskets on Etsy by the name of DiannesBaskets.

Posted in Projects

Sign up for our Newsletter

Get the latest from right in your inbox. We don't spam, we will only send you pertinent information about scrimshaw and the site
Sign up today and get three scrimshaw illustration templates free!
* = required field

powered by MailChimp!

Scrimshaw on Etsy

Scrimshaw for Sale

Portrait of Lucille Ball on Mammoth Ivory by award winning scrimshaw artist Jason R. Webb $275. Contact: Jason Webb

How Do I Start?

Scrimshaw Templates

Images to Scrimshaw

The Scrimshander's Secret Scrapbook of Whaling Era Images