Little Scrimshaws

Lady and Dragon scrimshawed into alt. ivory for a letter opener

Lady and Dragon scrimshawed into alt. ivory for a letter openerFamily illnesses and busy schedules keep me from larger works such as the “Lady and the Dragon” (or – as the iPhone tried to correct “Lady and Dragged on”…), but smaller scrimshaws for local venues can be dovetailed into a busy day.  Twenty minutes here, fifteen minutes there allows me to keep the muscle memory for post-holiday times when I may actually be able to devote more time to scrimshaw.

Continuing to work with ivory alternatives due to more states making mammoth ivory illegal to sell, I’m still finding galalith the closest material to ivory, though I am impressed with some of the other alternatives offered by   I have some of the cattle bone in the drawer waiting to try.  Hopefully in 2018 I’ll have the time to devote to finding the best way to seal it, there may be a way to use an ABS “slurry” to fill the gaps that I’m formulating, and will post my results once it’s completed.  Meanwhile, have a great holiday season, and feel free to email any questions to on Etsy.comG-Clef scrimshawed into alt ivory on walnut hair stick

Leopard in the Night – Initial Scrimming

Leopard-On-CowhornBeen so busy with gardening (and a gardening book) I haven’t had time to scrimshaw. Kept my eye out for materials, though, finding cow hooves (which I may give to the dog), then I ran across horn tips and decided it was time to do this piece.  Have to find a better pigment, but here it is so far:

Thinking the next one should be higher, though the same size. This will allow the whole scrimshaw to be seen at once, and will be somewhat easier to scrim.  During the process, I had taken a couple of pictures where in some cases it looked more like a bear than a leopard.

Starting a New Scrimshaw

Galalith cabochon taped behind the image of a lighthouse
Galalith taped behind the image


Finally starting a new piece of scrimshaw!  It’s been awhile, and I needed something away from most of the electronics.  With the phone in my back pocket and turned off so I don’t accidentally dial anyone (“Sorry, I fat – er – fingered the phone and hit your number….”). I started the lighthouse that I really liked by Dennis Jarvis (see previous post).  Sadly the crashing waves to the left are off the picture, but I may take artistic license and create similar waves closer to the lighthouse itself.

I debated on whether or not to sketch it on, but with such a tight schedule I opted for the “Whaleman’s Way” – putting the “tooth” shaped piece of galalith behind the picture, securing it in place and piercing through the picture.  After a few more pieces I’ll probably sketch something on a piece and go totally freehand.

lighthouse image on paper, pierced through the lines into the galalith underneath
Pierced Lighthouse

It doesn’t take a lot of pressure to get through and make an indentation. As you do more pieces you get a feel for the right amount. Most of my stipple-dots are pretty even, thanks in part to the modified Coulter Precision scribe (via Etsy).  I’ve tried a steel point with another project I’m working on, though the length makes it difficult to do perpendicular dots with my current low-power microscope (if anyone wants to buy me an opti-visor for Christmas, I’ll gladly call you Santa!).


Lighthouse stippled onto galalith cabochon next to a quarter
Lighthouse initial phase completed.

Wiping away a small smear of oil paint revealed not only the lighthouse, but a small scratch that will become a distant cloud when I’m done.  That’s all for tonight, back to the 12-14 hour days I currently call my week.  Will post further as the lighthouse takes shape.

Clicking on the pictures will reveal them in full size.



Scrimshaw lighthouse on galalith with tool to the right
Roof and lines darkened

Darkened in the roof and lines, added some initial shading to the building itself.  May continue on as it’s cold and wet outside, and I need to take a break from the computer today.  My hands are doing better after decorating 50+ cookies for my daughter’s school’s “Men Who Cook” event.  My wife (who is the owner of needed help since she baked the cookies along with her mom and her hands ache more than mine making the cookies themselves. Piping the decorative icing on the cookies took about four hours, but they came out great.

Lighthouse scrimshaw on galalith with a quarter to the right to show the scale
Added some shading and started in on the shoreline.

Added more shading this afternoon and worked in the wave at the edge.  Note to self: don’t make the horizon line during initial scrim – I could have had larger waves crashing if I hadn’t done that. This is going to be one of those pieces where I will go over the whole thing several times darkening areas to add more detail, then darkening other areas to balance it.  It’s a good piece to get my hand and eyes back in shape, since I have a couple of large pieces coming up. I’m still debating on lines, stipples or a combination on the large piece, and I still have the Kraken ogling me to my left, so when I finish this one, he’s next!


Finally done, on a faux leather 20″ necklace.  Added the clouds and the seagull, all done in stipple style with the exception of the initials.  Now: on to the Kraken!

Lighthouse Done
Subtle clouds in the background and the ever-present seagull. On a faux leather necklace.

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.


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