Two new “reverse scrimshaws”

leopard scrimshawed onto water buffalo horn with faux suede cordJust posted two new “reverse scrimshaw” pieces on Etsy – a lion and two leopards on water buffalo horn. Reverse scrimshaw can be a daunting task even with modern technology. Was able to keep things in perspective by starting with an image that I inverted the colors on and following the “Whaleman’s Way” – piercing through the paper to create an outline, then filling in carefully, referring to the original picture. The leopards are all stipple-dots, while the lion I experimented with scribed lines to see how it came out. Both types of scrimshaw work, though I’m leaning toward the stipple technique.

It can take a long time to get the levels right – had to go over several areas to brighten or darken the whites by creating smaller dots closer together or larger dots deeper into the horn.  Clicking on the pictures will bring them up to full size.Lion scrimshawed on water buffalo horn



Leopard in the Night scrimshawed onto water buffalo horn with a sterling silver box chain

“Nevermore.” – Scrimshaw on Alternative Piano Key Ivory

Necklace and Earrings with raven and the words: "Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.'"

Necklace and Earrings with raven and the words: "Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.'"Finished these a few weeks ago but never got them onto Etsy until today,  VD sometimes gets in the way (that’s Valentine’s Day!). Engraved and hand scrimmed after cutting them out, they’re on an ivory alternative.  Recently purchased some real piano key ivory from an 1800 vintage piano, but I’m holding that for some special projects that won’t be going interstate.  These were fun to make, but I really want to get back to the antler buttons.  Now that it’s warming up, I may be able to cut them and create some interesting jewelry.

Available on Etsy

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.

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

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