– Where Passion Drives Creativity

Tiger scrimshaw on display stand

Rod Lacey’s “Wet and Wild”

While the word “addiction” often conjures up negative images of a dependency on a substance, it is also defined as “enthusiastically devoted to a particular thing or activity.” It is in the latter definition that Rod Lacey has his addiction to scrimshaw.  His site, is not only an information site but also an illustrated diary of some of his beautiful work.  In his “Scrimshaw Walkthroughs” section, Rod shows you from start to finish not only his abilities as a scrimshaw artist, but as an innovative craftsman as well, showing his unique presentation stands from concept to finished piece.

Bluefin tuna scrimshaw on custom stand

Rod’s custom stands are unique and innovative.

Rod has plenty of tips and ideas for where to get ivory, how to scrimshaw, scrimshaw shortcuts and more.  His site is worth a morning coffee’s worth of relaxing and reading for both the scrimshander and the scrimshaw enthusiast.

He has also mastered the technique of acetone transfer – a time-saving way to transfer a stable image onto the surface of the ivory to begin the initial task of scribing the outline onto the material. Either due to impatience or improper technique, I have yet to do this with any consistency – but I’ll keep trying.

Partial sequence of "Bamboo Tiger" walkthrough

Just a couple of images from Walkthrough.

Rod and I had corresponded via email a couple of times, and he had shown interest in Galalith, the casein-based ivory alternative that is still one of my favorites.  He bought a special order 3″ x 4″ panel, I sent it off to him sure that he’d send me a picture or two of some of his finished work in due time.  After a little over one month, I got a small package from Queensland, Australia.  Inside was a note from Rod and a finished, full-color portrait of me from the back of my book “Scrimshaw? But I Can’t Draw!” completely covering the 3″ x 4″ panel. I was shocked and elated that he took the time and considerable effort to create the piece, as well as fascinated and impressed by his work (I was also grateful that he gave me a little more hair).  Rod’s abilities as a scrimshaw artist as well as a painter (inker?) shows an extreme attention to detail and a keen eye for color and shading.

While I have scrimshawed for over thirty years, my collection is truly meager, having only a few pieces from my original teacher and a couple of pieces of my own on various materials.

Scrimshaw Portrait of Andrew Perkins by Rod Lacey

Am I Narcissistic or is that a great likeness of me?

This piece is one of those few that I will be coveting.

Rod’s artwork can be seen at his site You can contact him via his contact page on the site.

Posted in Artists

Mystery Artist #22 – Pirate, bought in Paris France…

Pirate scrimshawed on a whale tooth

The stance as well as the angle of the guns creates a memorable pic. He seems to be compensating for the rolling waves or has just come from the tavern, but either way it’s time to duck!

Another shot of David Weir's Pirate on a whale tooth

Clicking on the image will bring it up full size.

Mystery Artist #22 was purchased in Paris France about ten years ago.  The signature appears to be “EC”, or perhaps “CC” in the lower left corner.  The stance along with the “toothpick” in his mouth shows him steadying himself either due to heavy seas or perhaps he just came out of the tavern?  Either way, it’s a memorable pic.  Anyone who knows the artist or their whereabouts and can let us know more about them it would be greatly appreciated. it’s a wonderful piece of scrimshaw!


UPDATE – Found the original illustrator: Howard Pyle

From the late 19th to the early 20th century, Howard Pyle wrote and illustrated during this time, being one of “the founders of present-day Illustration”.  A brief history can be found here:

The original illustration can also be found there.

Posted in Artists

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 ( and suppliers in Europe (


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 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 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

Photo by Rob Johnson, shared by

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

Posted in Artists, Finished Goods

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