Juma – A Composite Ivory Alternative

Block of Juma

Thick block form – great for knife handles.

What is Juma?

Juma consists of a mixture of different mineral based materials in a resin component. Unlike casein juma can be thermoformed using boiling water (according to Atlas Billiard supply.  Haven’t tried it yet myself).

Where does it come from?

Sources include Atlas Billiard Supply (cuestik.com) and suppliers in Europe (cuestik.eu)


It cuts well, dusting a lot like corian, but doesn’t have a scent.

How well does it cut?

Juma is a different chemical makeup – it tends to cut similar to casein though it’s chip size is similar to Corian.  Juma also does not have any distinct odor when it’s sanded, unlike Casein (which smells like bone) or Corian (which smells like acrylic).  According to Atlas Billiard Supply, Juma is also FDA approved and can be used for smoking pipes and kitchen utensils.

Rosebud on Juma, scrimmed and inked with color ink.

Holds ink and oil paint well if left to dry.

How well does it scrim?

Juma stipples well, cratering only slightly when stippled deeply, unlike polyester.  It scribes well with a sharp tool, dusting on a long line rather than curling like ivory. Appears to be only slightly softer than ivory.

How well does it stain?

When polished, India ink and oil paint wipe off easily. If unpolished or only sanded to 400 grit the crevices will hold your pigment and make it look cloudy.  Scribed and stippled lines come out crisp and well defined if the pigment is allowed to dry. Colored India inks hold well also.

Originally posted in the Scrimshaw.com Newsletter on June 14, 2015. For the latest information, tips and templates, subscribe to the newsletter – it’s low-carb, no spam, and you don’t need dramamine!

Posted in FYI, Reviews Tagged with: , ,

Just a quick note – Artists Page Updated

We’ve added a map to the Artists page (as I’ve been wanting to do for some time). The states in green are active with at least one artist linked to them on their own state page. This makes it easier for those interested to find out if there are artists in their area who may be able to do custom work.  Let me know if you’re interested in having a link on the state page you reside in, I’ll be happy to add you (no charge). With enough interest I may add other countries as well.  Thanks!

Posted in FYI

Nostalgic “Grandpa” Scrimshaws

This is an excerpt from the May 2015 Scrimshaw.com Newsletter.  You can get these delivered to your inbox free by subscribing to the right —->


Small hand holding Grandpa's finger

Remembering Grandpa Photo Credit: Wes Browning

Thinking back to my grandparents, the Grampy’s  always had some little thing that was special. They had the tiny pocket knife that always came in handy when you were fishing, the lighter with its trademark “click” before you smelled the sweet sceent of Borkum Riff tobacco curling from the pipe or the tie-tack or lapel pin they wore in church or on their hat along with their favorite fly fishing fly.


What are the nostalgic doo-dads, gee-gaws and keepsakes You or your significant other will pass down? Pocket knives still come in handy, lighters are used much less unless you’re a camper or fisher and tie tacks have given way to clips if a tie is worn at all. Electronics are swapped out every three years, so unless you make a cover or other contrivance that holds something electronic which will look nice as a standalone or incorporated into something else, it may not last as a piece of personal memorabilia.  Here’s a list of scrimshaw-able items I was able to come up with:

  • Keychains – people still need keys for their vehicles and homes. Depending on the number of keys you carry this may or may not work for scrimshaws, though “monkey fists” will work as an alternative (see “Weavers of Eternity” video to start, many more videos there).
  • Knives – small knives are still great for every day use, coming in handy do open letters, packages, and those cursed hermetically sealed packages they put children’s toys in. There are many inexpensive small knives out there that use bone scales.  You can also look for knives you can modify such as many of the Spyderco and Magnum. Look for hex nuts on the knife scales: you want to be able to disassemble and reassemble them. Also, be aware that some of the “assisted opening knives can be difficult to reassemble. You can also look for inexpensive kits.
  • Money Clips – handy, flashy, great as a theft deterrent (several ones with a $10 around the outside can be thrown in one direction as you run in the other – what’s a thief going to do: run after you or go for the money?)
  • Cufflinks – small but memorable, they can be passed down to the kids or grand kids and will be cherished for years
  • Business Card Holders – these are more of the things that the kids see on the dresser and remember, though they do come in handy as well for every day use, and can hold other small items as well.
  • Lapel Pins – I still remember the Moose Club lapel pins and the Masons lapel pins.
  • Lighters – The ubiquitous Zippo lighters.  This is where you have to be careful to use materials and adhesives that won’t melt from coming into contact with lighter fluid.  Adhesives I’ve found: Seal-All Gas & Oil Resistant Adhesive

So what fits on these tiny canvasses? Lapel pins, tie tacks/clips and cufflinks are so small, often times initials or basic shapes work the best. People need to be able to glance at it and identify it first, then be able to look at the details.  I learned this lesson on a set of iris earrings I’d made.  They looked beautiful under the microscope, I was especially proud of the shading I was able to achieve.  Sadly when seen under normal viewing conditions, they looked like a purple blob and a green blob.

My initial thought on knife handles as canvasses were tall ships, lighthouses and shapely figures of beautiful women. Looking for examples I was pleasantly astounded to see so much more, including Katherine Plumer’s excellent Zebras. Garbo’s amazing tigers and so many more. (google scrimshaw knives).

Money clips usually have larger areas to scrimshaw (25mm and larger) and business card holders have a nice landscape or portrait area and lighters have up to two areas that can be utilized (the lid and the body).


Any of grandpa’s keepsake’s we’re missing?  Let us know and we’ll include them in a future post.

Posted in accessories, Finished Goods, FYI, jewelry

Sealing Bone Scales – Take 2

Last time, we tried just filling the voids in the bone scales with wax. This gave us spotty results – literally. Working with a couple of different formulations of cyanoacylate, we’re at the point of – still looking.

Loctite Plastic bonding with separate accellerator pen

Good for intended purpose, not so much for ours.

We attempted to follow the luthier’s method of building up the material with the bone dust from sanding the bone smooth and used  Loctite Plastic Bonding System which had an “accelerator” in the form of a marker made for gluing difficult materials.  This didn’t work well at all.

Loctite Super Glue

Liquid – not gel. Wear safety goggles as the vapors burn your eyes!

Next, we attempted to use some more off the shelf superglue – Loctite Super Glue LIQUID (not the gel, as we want this to seep into the cracks and fill them in). Piling the bone dust up and squirting the glue on made – a mess, though it might look better once it’s sanded down.



powdered bone and superglue on the left, just liquid on the right

Powdered bone on the left, liquid alone on the right


While we were waiting we looked at the other side of the bone and decided to just lay the glue straight down on that side to see if it worked any better.  My thoughts at the moment are that either (1) the bone dust is too fine and can’t saturate well (like lumps in the pancake batter when you make it from scratch) or (2) I need an even slower curing superglue.



After letting it dry thoroughly, I proceeded to sand down both sides with 220 grit sandpaper, followed by 600, 1000, 1800, 3200 and finally 8000 grit pads.  Wiping some oil paint across the whole piece and wiping it off, I find that the bone dust side is just as bad or worse than the untreated area (center), but the right side where we used no dust is looking pretty good! After 30 minutes the glue is still somewhat soft for scrimshawing. I’ll be testing it for “scrimmability” later in the week and will update my findings.


Left=superglue alone, middle - no glue, right glue and bone

Here, the liquid alone was on the left, the “naked bone” in the middle, and the powdered bone/superglue on the right after sanding. the “clear” winner so far is the plain superglue



Posted in FYI, How-To, Reviews

Oso-Famoso – Scrimshaw from the Masters


Scrimshaw goldfish by Jesus Arich, shared by OsoFamoso.com

Photo by Rob Johnson, shared by OsoFamoso.com

Oso Famoso is a name many older “scrimshaw geeks” may remember, as he was one of the first to show and sell scrimshaw and fossil ivory online.  I especially remember the goldfish by Jesus Areck, and seeing the raw mammoth ivory so close yet financially out of reach for me at the time.  I’d frequent his site and pause for up to an hour just to look at the fine artwork he had there.  “I had started being a supplier of fossil ivories and scrimshaw artist’s representative in the early 1970’s. I would spend some weeks every summer on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska getting fossilized walrus ivory from the Yupik natives. I would provide material and money for various artists, mostly in Bellingham, Wa. and they would give me back what was generally excellent work.

Alaskan Native holding a ceremonial mask by Terry Nelson. Photo by Rod Johnson

Alaskan Native by Terry Nelson. Photo by Rod Johnson

“My mountings were mostly produced by Ken Fredericks of Bellingham, who is now deceased. I haven’t been active in commissioning scrimshaw in a number of years. …”

Oso: “Whatever is legally able to be sold is available for new ownership, and on the market. I am not seeking any business that violates existing law.” So – California, New York and New Jersey sales are definitely out, and you will need to check your local state laws to see if it’s legal to purchase any of these beautiful pieces.

“None of these pieces have been recently made. The artists include Chris Lehwalder, Gary Dorning, Heidi Robichaud, Jesus Arick, Kevin Pettelle, Kurt Sperry, Susan Ford, Scott Halligan, Scott Judge, Terry Nelson. The great majority of these pieces use mammoth ivory or fossil walrus ivory.”  Some of the pieces may not be available at the time of this publication since they will be sold, others may not be obtainable due to specific state restrictions.

I’ve got some small pics below the fold. Contact Oso for larger pics that really do the pieces justice

Anyone interested in acquiring any of these one-of-a-kind pieces may contact Oso at oso@osofamoso.com

Posted in Artists, Finished Goods

Alibaba’s Bone – Review of Ox Bone for Scrimshaw

(This article originally appeared in the April 4, 2015 edition of the newsletter)

Raw bone scale from Alibaba.com

Raw bone from Alibaba.com

While our dog is a bit upset he wasn’t able to participate in this article, he (and I) really needs more walks and less calories after our incredibly long winter and will get over it.

The easiest place to acquire bone was shared by one of our readers – they go to the big box store for pets and walk down the aisle until they see the nicely cleaned and bleached bones for dogs, picks one up and then goes about cutting, polishing and scrimming it. Smart! Most of the work I’m about to write about is done for you.

The second easiest way is to buy a soup bone from your local grocer or butcher. You can get stew or soup bones in various sizes but for scrimshaw you will want the one that flairs out at one end since this area is not only thicker but also has less voids where capillaries once ran.

After simmering the bone for about an hour and letting it cool, hand it to your four-legged friend to clean the meat out of it and move on to other things.  If they haven’t faithfully buried it, the bone should be stripped of most of the meat. Rinse and rewash it, or run it through the dishwasher for a few cycles* .

If you’re going to be gluing this onto or into wood, degreasing the bone is essential. There are two schools of thought when it comes to degreasing: BLTC and natural. BLTC (better living through chemistry) has you soak the bone in white gas or acetone (both flammable, use glass or metal containers and follow safety guidelines and common sense). The natural method is to soak them in a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide (topical 3%, not the hair bleach type) as noted in “Bonelust: Bad Words: Boil and Bleach“.  The third way is to let them sit in the sun and the rain to the oils work out naturally, though this can take several months.

After reading this I wonder if the ox bones I’ve received from Alibaba have been degreased? I’ll be dropping the rest of the lot in a 50/50 mix of H202 just to be sure.

The third way, which we’re finally getting to is to purchase the bone as knife scales.  You can get these from Alibaba.com as I have, through Texas Knife Supply,
Amazon, etc.

Same bone scale after polishing.

“Alibaba’s Bone” after polishing

We started with the rough-cut bone, sanding and polishing it to 4000 grit, then coating it with Renaissance Wax and setting it aside for a week.  Two days is usually a sufficient rest period for sealing. You can also use beeswax, coating and buffing it into the bone. As you can see here there are micro-fine occlusions where capillaries were. When we polished the bone they became more apparent.  I’m curious if stabilized bone has the same qualities.

Marking the bone with various pigments including aquarelle pencil, India Ink and oil paint, I set it to dry for about 30 minutes.

Various pigments applied to bone scale to test for staining

Alibaba’s bone with various pigments.

All of the pigment wiped away with a damp cloth except where there were voids in the bone

After wiping off the pigment with a damp cloth, only the occlusions remain


Initially wiping off the bone left some of the India ink, but using a moist towel wiped the rest off easily.





Preliminary lighthouse drawing on bone scale

Preliminary drawing with Aquarelle pencil

Falling short of my goal to do a lighthouse per day, I have improved with the six I’ve managed to sketch, and the one on the bone I’ll count as my seventh (the whole family got sick one after another, and my dog quickly became jealous of the bucket that was my best friend for a couple of days). The aquarelle pencil marks the bone easily.


Lighthouse scrimmed into bone and stained with India ink

Initial scrimshaw of lighthouse

Using the tungsten scrimshaw bit from Coulter Tool the scrimming went easily. Coating the lines with India ink, I took a slurp of coffee and wiped it away, then used a dampened cloth to wipe away the excess. Most of the ink wiped away thanks to my impatience.  Next time I’ll ink it, walk the dog so it’s nice and dry, then wipe it away.


After adding more detail I switched over to oil paint to see if it would stand out better but it yielded similar results.

Having started on ivory, any occlusions like those in bone and tagua nut stand out to my eyes, though I’m starting to like the texture of the bone more now, kind of like moving from painting on smooth paper to canvas.

Second Scrim

After adding some detail, it was time to finish the article.


As the bone is too thick at the moment to just cut into cabochons, a cross-cut on the subsequent pieces will need to be performed as well as more sanding and shaping.  The material would be excellent for luthiers wanting to make nuts and other parts for their stringed instruments, and would do well for smaller knife handles, also.


Posted in Uncategorized

Perennial Scrimshaw Requests

37450005There are many things you can scrimshaw that your customers would cherish but the three perennial patterns in the world of scrimshaw: the ship, the lighthouse and the whale will be asked for again and again. For some like me, the lighthouse can be the greatest challenge with it’s symmetry and straight lines, while others find the clouds or the ocean with it’s many moods the most daunting. Still others find themselves caught up in the rigging like a shanghaied landlubber, overwhelmed by the many tenuous supports that keep the masts and sails aloft. Inevitably a request will come for your most challenging subject, so what can you do?

tall-ships-2-22-07_1 Practice, practice, practice. Not obsessively, but consistently – a drawing or a sketch every day – even a doodle-a-day, then move on to other things.  By incorporating this into your day you will be creating a small habit, a commitment to taking the time, how ever short to practicing and enhancing your art. I’m reticent to say “perfect” since that is not achievable as my inner critic is always quick to point out, but you also never reach the sun when you walk to the sunset.


FinYour subconscious will pick up subtle nuances and techniques that will allow you to master your subject if you keep at it and find at least one good point in every sketch you make. Keep them in a scrapbook if you can, not to look at this week or this month, but perhaps next month over a morning coffee to see how you’ve progressed. You will be surprised I’m sure at the difference five or more weeks of small consistent efforts will make.

I’m setting aside fifteen minutes to draw one lighthouse per day for the next thirty days. By day 15 I’ll be cursing the small landlocked lighthouse I see on my way to work and by day 30 I’m sure I’ll be rejoicing in triumph, choosing another subject several times during this small challenge.


(Along with the great images from the talented photographers above, I’m including this link to an excellent book about habits. I’d listened to it via Audible and it helped me understand habits to the point where I could “break” a couple of persistent ones. I’m going through it again to now instill some better habits like the one above.  It’s not so much a “how to” book but a history of habits and many of their disasterous shortcomings. Worth the read/listen.  You can find it at your local library or pick it up on Amazon or Audible)

Posted in FYI, How-To

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