Canadian Scrimshaw Artist Wanted

We just received an inquiry about an interesting project for a scrimshaw artist in or around Nova Scotia:

“… Hi,

I live in Nova Scotia (Canada) and am looking for a scrimshander who can do a traditional 19th century monogram on top of an old wooden pocket watch box. (There’s a small ivory plate in the middle of the top cover that was intended for just such a monogram.)

It’s a very small job, but I’d like it to be completely in keeping with the style of the pocket watch box, which was made in the mid-1800’s. I’d like to get it just right.

Can you recommend someone close by us? If there’s no one here in Eastern Canada, we do often travel down to Maine and Massachusetts.

Thanks for your help!


Interested scrimshanders should contact Catherine at catherine.mckinnon[at], replacing the [at] with the proper @ (writing it this way helps keep spam out of Catherine’s mailbox).

Posted in Artists, FYI Tagged with:

Lighthouses, Ghosts and Selling Scrimshaw

Point of Ayr Lighthouse, Wales

Photo Credit: Lukasz Lukomski, cc-sa-3.0

“A scrimshaw without a story is just scratches on bones.” – Saul T.; Sailor


Okay, I made that up, though if you think about it awhile you’ll find it’s basically true. Visiting an old whaling town and walking the decks of the Charles W. Morgan and learning her story, most people would be compelled to pick up a memento of their vacation. Memories of a trip to the cape with a loved one could be revisited with the bracelet or the key fob.

While most of us don’t live in Mystic seaport or on Cape Cod, if we’re creating scrimshaw to sell at a craft fair or on line, a memorable story about the subject of your work is far more interesting than “I saw a picture of a ship and I scrimshawed it.”

A story for every piece would be next to impossible for most of us, especially if you’re selling multiple pieces such as jewelry, but for some of the larger pieces a story can be compelling and may bring you more sales, giving you something to talk about. With jewelry, many pieces should be without a story – so people can make their own. Scrimshaw of a twelve point buck will illicit hunting stories, a modern ship or boat the stories of that time on that shore when that thing happened, a rose the love interest or the lover who presented it, or perhaps the silent look into the distance, hopefully with a slight smile.

I’d come across a picture of a lighthouse on the Point of Ayr in Wales. The first article was of the hauntings and got me intrigued. The pics were clear and great for creating some scrimshaw from. The next article described a couple who had come there on their 50th wedding anniversary and asked the person who was painting it to take their picture, as this was where they had their first kiss. Ah, memories.

Scrimshaw based on the Talacre lighthouse.I based my scrimshaw on this picture, adding a ship in the background and a seagull, leaving the rocky outcroppings aside. After I’d finished it, I looked back at the pictures I’d seen and found there was one I liked a little more than the first, so I’ll probably scrimshaw the second view shortly. The first one was head-on, the second you can see the stairway a bit better and I find it more interesting, and I’ll also review the stories and find a few others so my mind and my mood are on the subject.


Posted in FYI, Projects Tagged with: , ,

Mystery Artist 20 – Two Teeth from “Mageee”

From Florida we recently had an inquiry regarding two scrimshawed whale teeth, from what appears to be two different artists.  John writes:
“… I came across your website looking for some info on two pieces of Scrimshaw Art that my father left for me when he died. I know nothing about the art, so I figured I should find an expert.
Is there anyway you can help me identify these two pieces? Artist, medium, worth?
I will eventually sell them in case you do that. Thanks in advance for any help you can lend me. …”

Below you can see the artwork and two drastically different teeth – one very pointy and one very rounded. Both could have been from the same whale, but it’s doubtful.  The first tooth has the initials “E F” while the second has the interesting signature of a number and a seagull, which should lead us to at least the second artist quickly (we hope):

Rounded whale tooth with a ship and a lighthouse scrimshawed on the one side.

Whale Tooth 1 from Mystery Artist(s) #20


Base showing the nerve cavity of Mystery Artist #20 - the rounded whale tooth with the ship and the lighthouse

Base of Mystery Artist 20


Left side of Mystery Artist #20 tooth #2 showing a ship

Left Side of Mystery Artist #20 tooth #2


Base of Mystery Artist #20 tooth #2 showing the nerve cavity

Mystery Artist #20, tooth #2 base


Opposite side of Mystery Artist #20 tooth #2 with the signature 140 and the seagull

The mysterious signature “140” with the Seagull


Sperm Whale Teeth, Oxford

From, a photo of the lower jaw of a sperm whale with the different shapes of it’s teeth

Any ideas?  Feel free to comment below, we hope to find more information about the artist(s) if at all possible.

Posted in Mystery Artist

1/4″ Corian Sheets from Inventables

Corian Sheet thicknessCorian sheet 10" x 12" fresh from InventablesSome of the joys of living rural include having bear, moose and coyote traipse through your yard and sample your garden, send the dog into chaotic spasms of barking and howling and having neighbors farther away from you than you can throw a rock (unless you sneak up on them). The downside is unless you know what delivery service your vendor is going to use and the exact address they have for you in their database, your material can come maddeningly close to your house only to get shipped back halfway across the United States.  This is what almost happened to the corian (pronounced “CORE-ian”).  If you use the people in the brown trucks you need to be sure the street address starts with “S.” and not “South”.  If it’s the people with the eagle on their shoulder, it’s another matter altogether.  Fortunately our USPS employees are friendly and helpful, and held the package for me as I raced down to pick it up.

"Bone" colored corian sample (1/2" thick) sits atop the white 1/4" thick sheet of Corian

“Bone” colored 1/2″ sample scrimshawed atop the white 1/4″ sheet

Corian is actually a mixture of acrylic and alumina trihydrate – which is refined from bauxite to a fine white powder and makes the material opaque.  By adding other colorants and materials a whole host of textures can be created.

It can be difficult to get Corian in the colors you want, since you usually need to pick up a full 48″ x 96″ sheet.  Instructables has black and white, though if you hunt around on eBay you can find smaller pieces from suppliers in many different colors.

As the material is acrylic with a powder in suspension, it tends to dust rather than curl even with an extremely sharp tool when you scribe. When stippling it doesn’t crater like polyester, making this technique a viable means of creating an image too.  Jigsaws and “rotozip” tools cut through it well, just don’t have the speed too high or you will melt rather than cut and make a big stink.

As in previous tests, India ink appears to work the best, oil wiping out easily unless you let it set for several days to a week.  Nick Finocchio regularly uses Corian, while others such as Katherine Plumer have used it on occasion.

Corian Cab set in antique barrette setting - top  Buying two sheets from Inventables will bring the cost down to about $0.46 per square inch in the US, while if you can find ¼” sheets on eBay it can drop to $0.14 per square inch and sometimes less and in a variety of colors, patterns and more.

side view of corian cab in antique barrette setting showing the thickness.  We had purchased the 1/4″ sheets in hopes of being able to cut and polish the material without much further prep work in order to use it as jewelry cabochons.  As you can see in the pic, they’re a bit too thick still to be used as such, but this thickness would be perfect for domed cabs and for knife handles, as well as for display pieces, thicker inlay work and more – coasters, ornaments… any other ideas for projects with 1/4″ Corian?

Posted in FYI, Reviews

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

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