Antique Shops Threaten to Leave NY and Other News

According to BusinessWeek, antique dealers are threatening to leave New York over the ivory ban.  Not that they want brand new fresh ivory, they have lots of antique ivory that will be reduced to next to nothing if they don’t do something about the latest state laws. (read more).

Aside from writing fiction (Samuel Shinpike – soon to be a series), we’ve been working with casein/galalith and have been pleased with the results.  We’ll be offering cabs here soon on our products page.

We’ve also been focusing in on scrimshaw techniques on our newsletter, so far creating  fur and whiskers.  We’ll soon be testing out cattle horn often used for powder horns as well as further focus on techniques to create finer scrimshaw.

You can get these exclusive articles by signing up for our newsletter which comes out approximately weekly.  We don’t spam, and we only want people who are genuinely interested in creating beautiful scrimshaw on alternative and eco-friendly materials. You can sign up below:

Subscribe to’s Newsletter

* indicates required

View previous campaigns.

Powered by MailChimp

Posted in FYI

Check Twice, Drill Once (preferably from the front…)

Casein Scrimshaw drilled at the bottom by mistakeI was setting up the “Sun Motif” scrimshaw I had created on a casein cabochon and decided I should go ahead and drill the one-off light house to put on a chain as well.  Carefully measuring I marked the back and drilled a hole through – on the bottom.  Oops. Oh well, sour grapes, we’ll see how it holds up to a second sanding.


The sun came out better, checked and sure enough, I’d marked it at the bottom instead of the top.  Think drilling face-up should be my preferred method.

Sun motif scrimshaw on casein

Posted in Projects

Ivory Ban News: Ivory (including mammoth ivory) Illegal for Sale in New Jersey

Ivory Ban News Update:

Sadly, mammoth ivory got the ax as well as elephant ivory. This same knee-jerk reaction may hit New York as well. see MongaBay for more…

You can’t hide an elephant (or ivory clad bagpipes) under your kilt and cross the border…

US Fish and Wildlife confiscated two bagpipes from a pair of 17-year-olds who were to compete on an international level. Ivory harvested since 1976 is banned in the U.S. … – read more.

Posted in FYI

Ivory Alternative – Piano Key Tops: Some Aren’t so Great for Scrimshaw

Abandoned Grand Piano

Photo Credit: Rick Harris on

Reclaimed Piano Keys…


Reclaiming piano keys have been a great way to utilize a resource that would otherwise curl away on abandoned pianos or get put into the trash after being replaced.  They are often chipped, discolored and are otherwise useless for their intended purpose.  Sadly, they are from elephants and though long-since dead, are unsellable in today’s market or will be soon.


Piano key ivory is thin, usually 1mm thick but made great bookmarks or when glued to the outside of a box or zippo lighter made a great miniature canvas for the modern scrimshander.

So far, we have only tried one supplier of alternative ivory keytops and frankly we are not impressed.  While the material looks alot like ivory keytops, they fall short for our use.

The piano keytops we purchased online probably work very well for replacement keytops and would blend in quite well with little effort, so realize it’s not a slight on their intended purpose, but for scrimshaw, they are soft – too soft for anyone who wishes to create a treasure to sell or give as a gift.  That being said, they are very inexpensive and would work great for beginners or the young if you were to create a class project that students or day campers could try their hands at and would give them a treasure of their own design.

alt-piano key ivory and other alternatives lovingly scribed by my 10 yr oldMy set of keys have been used by my industrious daughter to create a bagful of her own scrimshaw, and she has had a great time working with it. She also found my other material including some very nice mammoth ivory which now has her beginning scrimshaw art carefully tucked away, since she created them and presented them to me for my birthday.  Can’t get angry for that, it was a thoughtful idea, and I wouldn’t sand them down if they were the last pieces of mammoth ivory on earth.

If you need piano key replacements or an inexpensive miniature alternative ivory “canvas” for busy industrious hands you can pick them up here:

Ivory Ban News

iKnifeCollector has introduced two bills to protect knife collectors from the ivory ban
Legislation to stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from seriously harming millions of Americans by unnecessarily banning interstate commerce of decades-old legal ivory and products containing legal ivory, such as ivory handled and ivory decorated knives, was introduced in both the House and the Senate. Representatives Steve Daines (MT) and Jeff Miller (FL) sponsored H.R. 5052, and Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) sponsored S. 2587. These bills complement a House appropriations bill passed out of sub-committee on July 9th that would defund Fish and Wildlife Service’ enforcement of its irrational new ivory policy that needlessly punishes innocent Americans, while allowing the Administration to protect African elephants and other wildlife from poaching.

Please CALL or EMAIL your Representative and Senators TODAY and ask them to Co-Sponsor H.R. 5052 and S. 2587.

Find your Representative:
Find your Senators:…nators_cfm.cfm

From iKnifecollector

We’re on vacation for a week, may bring some tools and pieces to pass the time. I’ve been working on a couple of cougars, one on “Alternative Ivory” and one on Tagua nut, So far, they’re shaping up nicely, though a snack on a chewy granola type bar has cracked one of my ivories and will be going to get the rest of it extracted later today…

Coming up soon: Casein Revisited: we’ll be reviewing casein made in 3mm sheet form from England (it’s on a tall ship making its way across the “pond” as I write), more ivory alternatives and then we’ll be starting to focus on techniques in the newsletter.  Any suggestions, any frustrations you may be experiencing either starting or finishing a piece of scrimshaw? Write to “” and we’ll be glad to help

Posted in Uncategorized

Bone – An Abundant Ivory Alternative for Scrimshaw

Scrimshaw can be performed on any hard material that will hold a contrasting pigment.  Scrimshaw on bone handled knives as well as bone cabochons or beads are popular alternatives to ivory, and there are plenty of materials out there.

Bone is a naturally porous material which will take on moisture and oils as well as expand and contract with the variations in temperature and humidity. It is best to either find a stabilized source or to stabilize it yourself before you take the time to ply your craft.

Stabilized bone can be found in most knifemaker supply houses as either cow bone, camel bone or in some cases other “bush meat” bone that has been cleaned and preserved.

You can find blank material to work on in several places depending on your end product. Amazon has bone knife scales from time to time, and there are also buffalo bone nut blanks often used in the luthier trade. You can sometimes find them oversized which works well for smaller knife handle material or for creating cabochons or inlay.

As to the material when it comes from the source, unless it clearly states that it has been or is stabilized, figure that it is not, and it will be porous.  There are several ways you can stabilize or seal them yourself, or you can re-ship them out to a stabilizing service – they often do the same for bone, antler, spalted wood, etc.

Stablilizing Bone for Scrimshaw – top coat:

  1. The first Method requires dry bone cut roughly or completely to the shape intended,
  • cyanoacrylate glue (super glue like Loctiteor Bob Smith 103 )
  • small paint brushes – don’t use good ones, get cheap ones you can throw away or use q-tips
  • Newspaper to cover the area you’ll be working on.
  • gloves
  • ventilation
  • eye protection

Coat the piece you intend to scrimshaw by squirting the glue on then coating the rest of the surface using the brush. Let the piece dry.

Once dry, sand it down lightly so it’s smooth. We tend to use 320 grit sandpaper then wipe off any dust and recoat it.  Second time we sand it we move up to a 600 grit and inspect it carefully.  Sometimes two coats is all you need to fill in any voids.  If it’s good, we work up to 3000 grit, then a polish with HUT wax and start to scrim.


bone blank slightly yellow

Stabilized bone after minwax vacuum immersion

Stabilizing Bone for scrimshaw – method 2: Immersion

We tried this using Minwax Wood Hardener and came up with useable but “antiqued” looking bone and tagua nut buttons.  They ended up with a yellowish patina.  In this method you’ll use a glass mason jar or ball jar with the vacuum type lid, you will be standing the jar upright and immersing your pieces in either the Minwax wood preservative or a mixture of acetone and duco cement as mentioned in

Either one should be done in a well ventilated area with no open flames sparks etc.  Realize also that any rubber or plastic (like the wine stopper and the lid) will disintegrate – wear gloves when removing it and discard appropriately.

I used a Vacu Vin, drilling a hole into the top of the metal ball jar lid that fit the stopper almost perfectly.

Jar mouth sealerAnother way to accomplish this would be to use a FoodSaver T03-0006-02P Regular-Mouth Jar Sealer which may last longer if you can remove it quickly enough.

Here’s a video of someone stabilizing some material similar to what we’ve just described:

Here’s another one from another individual:

Pre-stabilized bone can be found in cow, camel and giraffe, though many times it is died or “jigged” – where a pattern is cut into it to allow for a better grip. Texas KnifeMaker’s Supply has some nice supplies including cow,



Here are several links to knives you can scrimshaw. Most have bone handles from

  •  Bone Handles Barlow
  • Magnum Damascus
  • Browning Folder


Posted in FYI, Projects

Quiet Sunday Morning Updates

Added a couple of pics to existing posts.

Buffalo scrimshaw on paper micarta in progressFinished Buffalo on Micarta next to quarter on left
The Buffalo on Paper Micarta is slowly ambling its way to completion as I experiment with textures. It is a medium that can capture lines far better than I first imagined, but it is still softer than ivory.

Update 5:00pm EDT  Decided to finish it off this afternoon after a frenzied camper dropoff.

Rose on Tagua Nut using Oil for the initial black and India Ink for the color. Test scribes below the rose
Added the final pic of the Tagua Nut Rose experiment, carefully inking the colors using India ink and a 000 brush. Like the effect but you have to be real careful with the ink.

Owl on Casein - finished
The “Merlyn’s Owl” is finished and the recipient is thrilled. Coated it with a final layer of Renaissance wax once it dried and sent it off.


Look into the comments section, too – have an inquiry for a husband and wife scrimshaw team that worked in Ohio in the 1970′s that an individual has asked about.  Preliminary search didn’t find them, hoping to get some pics of their work so we can put them up as a “Mystery Artist”.

Posted in FYI, Projects

The “Ivory Boom” of the Mid-1800′s

What better way to celebrate Independence Day than to write about the ingenuity of the U.S. inventors and things that can go boom?

So what do you get when you mix alcohol, testosterone, gambling and gunpowder? A saloon. Now ­ mix in spherical ivory alternatives that strike each other and what do you have? You have a crowded saloon.

In the mid-1800′s a $10,000 reward was raised by Phelan & Collander, one of the largest billiard ball manufacturers for the first usable ivory alternative. John Wesley Hyatt, most likely spurred by this, not only came up with an alternative, but also created processes that would create perfectly round billiard balls. (Site down for maintenance as of the writing of this article, see the “wayback machine” for an archived version of this)

Celluloid was one of the first plastics to be used in place of elephant ivory. The Hyatt Manufacturing Company created billiard balls that were similar to the size weight and resilience of their elephant ivory counterpart. Unfortunately the chemical composition of these new billiard balls had a couple of downsides: they were extremely flammable, exploding with the sound of a gunshot when a careless cigar or ash came in contact with them (there are stories of everyone in the saloon drawing their guns due to this fact), and they would form a paper thin skin that dust and dirt would adhere to. By mixing camphor in with the ground cellulose nitrate and adding heat, they were able to make a more stable compound.

Celluloid from this period was used to make many items that were popular in the day which tortois, ivory and wood were made of, including dolls, toys, handles for every conceivable item including razors, combs brushes and more. It was also useful as an alternative to ivory in the luthier trade.

Today, celluloid nitrate is still available but it is considered a hazardous material due to it’s flammable nature. You can find it in various forms from 0.020” thick to 0.25” thick.

It’s flashpoint is 165 degrees C (329 degrees F).

You can still get this material if you wish from Axiom, Inc.

Posted in FYI

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!

How Do I Start?

Notable Scrimshaw for Sale

Jason's first scrimshaw ship on mammoth ivory is now for sale! Click on the ship for more information..

Scrimshaw Templates

Images to Scrimshaw

The Scrimshander's Secret Scrapbook of Whaling Era Images