About Scrimshaw.com

sperm-whale-and-whalemen antique print

Illustration from “The Scrimshander’s Secret Scrapbook of Whaling Era Images”

Welcome to Scrimshaw.com – on the net since 1998!

We’re in the middle of redoing our about page to tell more about and less news.  The news can be found above.   We have an excellent picture of a lighthouse for beginning scrimshaw artists as well as a basis for more accomplished scrimshanders.  We’ve created a pdf so you can print it out then choose your size, plus at the bottom there is a large size image for reference. See http://www.scrimshaw.com/lighthouse-point-scrimshaw-patterns-template/ for more information and a link to the pdf. I want to thank Chris Amelung again for putting this up as a creative commons photo, and his gracious email when I asked him if I could use it in my beginner’s scrimshaw book   Mystery Artist Found (actually the Mystery Artist found us!) See Mystery Artist #3 for more!

Scrimshaw.com shows scrimshaw on eco-friendly and other materials. We hope you find your visit enjoyable and educational.   The origin of the word Scrimshaw is uncertain, but we know that this art has been practiced since revolutionary times. It did not, however, receive wide spread recognition until President John F. Kennedy, an enthusiastic collector, brought scrimshaw to the public eye. The American Whaling Fleet has ceased to exist. However, this art is being carried on by a few American artisans.

Scrimshaw book and kitScrimshaw is the indigenous art form of the American Whaleman. In his idle hours of cruising for whale, he devoted himself to fashioning articles and jewelry of whale ivory. Today, the ivory trade in the United States has been reduced to “pre-embargo ivory” - ivory that was brought into the states before sanctions were set in place; hippo ivory – which is taken from animals that have been culled from the herds or that have killed human population; and fossilized ivory – ivory from ancient walrus and mastodons. Here at scrimshaw.com, we are utilizing this and other alternatives. One of which is a nut palm (also called “vegetable ivory”) which polishes to an incredible likeness of ivory, and whose hardness and durability rivals that of ivory as well. There are also other resources, such as fossilized ivory, antler (which drop off every year – if you can get them before the raccoons do!), and more. Calling scrimshaw done on powder horns scrimshaw is sometimes debated, since it was not done on whale bone by sailors.  The technique is the same, and a lot of the artwork created ranges from stunningly photo-realistic to old world “folk art”.  Some artists like to scrimshaw maps or quarry on their powderhorns, while others like to create personalized lettering or portraits. To us, it is still scrimshaw: painstakingly scribing images on any material and filling in the lines with some type of pigment is an artform that is not for the impatient. If you are a Scrimshander and would like to show your work here, I’d be more than happy to provide links to your site for free. Simply contact me at aperkins@scrimshaw.com

Last updated by at .

35 comments on “About Scrimshaw.com
  1. Sara Purdy says:

    I love the concept & your beliefs on material sourcing. Iv`e seen some beautiful EXAMPLES adorning beautiful people in the form of jewelry pieces.I would love to own a piece ,how do I browse your (if indeed you produce in quantity) collections & any available catalogues?

  2. Sara Purdy says:

    I do hope you recieved my comment it dissapeared & the page with it .Beautifull Iconic pieces of timeless art one can wear please help me view anything you may sell in jewery form & in meantime I`ll carry on the journey into History that makes the name “Scrimshaw”.

    • admin says:

      Hi Sara, and thanks for inquiring! Currently I don’t have many pieces in quantity, and I am slowly rebuilding my site after we outgrew our previous host. I can recommend Mark Thogerson very highly, as he is a prolific creator of many fine pieces of jewelry. Also one of my favorite artists would have to be Katherine Plumer, Sandra Brady, and there are many others – if you’d like to get overwhelmed, go to etsy.com and type in “scrimshaw” – you will find many fine artists there who work on mammoth, antler, paper micarta, corian and other materials. My initial site had many artists featured, and I hope to bring them back soon. Hope this helps, and please let me know if there is anything in particular you are looking for, since I am always up to a challenge when it comes to scrimshaw. One other artist you should see is Scot Kimel – the list goes on… Sincerely, Andrew Perkins

  3. Hi Andrew,

    I really enjoyed looking through your site. I was wondering if you could add me to your Artists page? You can find examples of my work at:



    • admin says:

      Sure thing, Michael! Glad to have you aboard! Picked one of your ships as an example, you may choose a different one if you’d like. You have quite a variety of designs – we should do an interview at some point so my viewers can get to know you better.

  4. charles Lebeck says:

    thank you for the opportunity to leave my question. I have two pieces of very nice scrimshaw,they are large ships one is the constitution and the other is the Bonhomme Richard and Serapis. I have had these for somr time and in all my searching I can not find the artists mark or any name or initials. my question is how can I post pictures of these on your site under mystery artist. CRL Scrimshander.

    • admin says:

      Dear Charles,
      Thanks for inquiring. You may send the pictures to aperkins@scrimshaw.com, with “mystery artist” in the subject line. If you would, please indicate the state in which you purchased them, if you can remember, or the general whereabouts you acquired them, as this may help us track down the artist. We’ll be happy to add your pics to the “Mystery Artist” page! In fact, one of my favorite haunts, the engravers forum has a stunning example (http://engravingcafe.com/showthread.php?t=8158) by Darrel Morris.

  5. Chuck Parham says:

    I have started doing research to get immersed into Scrimshaw. Lining up books and videos to buy and locating material suppliers and so on. I do have one question. Evcerything I see is almost entirely a white base material (ivory, walrus tusk, mastadon, bone, antler, etc.) I would like to also explore the idea of scrimshaw onto things like black buffalo horn with a white pigment but haven’t seen anything like it yet. Is this possible or have folks found there are problems with this type of medium? Thanks for any information you may provide to someone looking to start into this fascinating, almost lost art form.

    Chuck Parham

    • admin says:

      Hi Chuck, that’s a good question, and the answer is YES – you can (and people do) work on buffalo horn, as well as dark mammoth ivory and other dark materials, using light or white pigments. Popular with not only the blade forums (see http://scrimshaw.com/knife-forum-buffalo-horn-scrimshaw ), but on many other artistic items as well. Want a little creative brain candy? Click on this search on google (or other search engine – my link goes directly to the images) reverse scrimshaw. Many different ideas and a wellspring of creativity shows up. As I recall, some of the artists on the artists page have also done reverse scrimshaw, but I can’t bring one to mind at the moment, and it’s bed time for my little one. Hope this helps, and if I run into any step-by-steps, or if anyone knows of one, please comment it and I’ll check it and put it up for all interested parties.

  6. Sandra Brady says:

    HI Andrew , Nice job on the site. you give a good overview, and this makes a great place for people to learn more about scrimshaw. BTW I love your iPhone cases! great idea.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Sandy! I have been a fan of your work for many years. I am wondering how you are dealing with the recent California ban on ivory? I am thinking of retooling my kits to use some more eco-friendly alternatives. Also – is there an image you would like me to use on my Artists page for the link to your site?

  7. Michael says:

    My father was an engineer on whaling ships in the late 50s / early 60s and I have a few tooth relics from his time at sea, one of which I believe to be absolutely unique – it is a hand carved figurine of a British character, Andy Capp. This character featured in the daily mirror for many years, first appearing around 1957. How would I go about getting a valuation on the little guy ?

    • admin says:

      Wow. I remember Andy Capp. Can you send several pics? I can contact some collectors, but they will want some high res. pics. Thanks for writing!

  8. Ags says:

    I have 3 whale teeth given to me by my g. grandfather. the smaller one is raw 6 inches long and 4 inches wide. The middle one was scrimshawed with a ship on it and the large one is raw has “sandpaper scratches on it” but is 9 1/2 inches long and 4 1/2 inches wide. It weighs about 2 1/2 lbs. I would like to get the smaller and larger scrimshawed so I am interested in artist in the Florida area. It would be great to have ships or whaling scenes done on these. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Andrew Perkins Andrew Perkins says:

      I’ve just “approved” your inquiry, so hopefully an artist in your area would be able to help. You can also contact maritime museums in your state to see if they know of any reputable artists.

      Hope this helps,


  9. ron newton says:

    i have been teaching scrimshaw at the jc campbell folk school and the wooden boat school for several years now. i am scheduled to teach at the wooden boat school in july but because of health problems its looking like i may not be able to follow thru. the people at wooden boat are great and i very much enjoyed teaching there. if anyone is interested in teaching please contact me and i will do what i can to make it happen for you and the school. tomorrow 3/1/13 i go under the knife so give me time to reply.

    • Andrew Perkins Andrew Perkins says:

      Hope things went well, Ron. Anyone interested in helping the Wooden Boat School and teaching scrimshaw, please contact Ron at his email address.

  10. Robin McDermott says:

    I have bought 2-8×10 photos on scrimshaw at estate sale 1 of a man and woman and 1 of a lady looks like she is making sausage or something there is a 10cent sign on the 2nd one if anyone has any ideal who the artist is please email

    • Andrew Perkins Andrew Perkins says:

      Hi Robin, and thanks for writing! Sorry about the late response, it’s been a bit hectic here this spring. Are these photos etched into ivory? We’d love to see pictures if you can supply any and will be glad to post them. We’ve had some success finding both artists and information on them and would be glad to help.

  11. I have two oval scrimshaw drawings with a backing of paper & the writing is with a quill pen which I believe the language to be French. One picture is of the Bonhomme, Richard and the other is of The Constitution. The wood surrounding the scrimshaw is black, very heavy, both in excellent condition except for the paper yellowing on the back. Are they of value is my question? Thank you for taking the time.

    • Andrew Perkins Andrew Perkins says:

      Hello Jacqueline,
      we responded off of the site, but after thinking about it we wanted to add that many scrimshaw collectors as well as museums may be interested in your drawings as well. We could put up a couple of images of the artwork and see if there is any interest, we would just need any info you have, and we could have them reply to us, where we will forward the emails on to you.
      Thanks for writing,

      Andrew Perkins

  12. Thank you for including me in your scrimshander listing. Your site looks great and there is a ton of useful information. You have provided a link to my Etsy page which doesn’t have a lot of scrimshaw. My website, darrelmorris.finartstudioonline.com has more for your viewers to see. Either way, I appreciate being included here. Thank you.

  13. C. Willis Jackson says:

    My wife and I picked up a trinket box with beautiful engraving on top, sides and inside the lid. I thought it must be machine engraved because of the detail and precision. However, it has an artist signature and date. We are wondering if it is a true scrimshaw and, if so, who the artist is. It looks like Kovago. I have pictures of it and would love to uplaod them but the comments link doesn’t seem to include this function.

  14. jean smith says:

    Could you please tell me who does scrimshaw in stpaul mn.

    I need to have a small piece done.


  15. Don’t know if we’ve ever met but have been doing scrimshaw full time for about 13 years. How can I get represented with a scrimshaw piece or link? Thanks, Terry C

    • Andrew Perkins Andrew Perkins says:

      Hey Terry,
      don’t know if we’d responded to you yet, it’s been a little crazy here. Would love to add you to our growing list of scrimshaw artists. Send about three pics and a bio (approximate location – people ask for local artists to do custom work, we try to match them up as close as we can), how long you’ve been scrimming, your favorite media such as mammoth ivory, man-made materials, types of inks you prefer, your website if you have one, and your favorite subjects. We’ll put up a post and add a page with your name and information you’d like to share with other scrimshaw artists and collectors. Oops – forgot to tell you where to send the pics: aperkins[at]scrimshaw.com – just replace the [at] with the @ when you put the address in (posting it this way helps keep the ‘bots from sending me junk mail).

  16. Jeff "Fuzzy" Fozard says:

    I’ve been scrimming for about six yrs now and I’m still learning. I just received your book, “Scrimshaw? But I can’t draw”, and Ron Newton’s “Learning How to Scrimshaw”. Still learning and getting better with each piece I do.

  17. Jeff "Fuzzy" Fozard says:

    I love your website. I’ve been looking through it for over an hour today and I’m still looking and learning. I get ideas and learn my mistakes that I’ve done and hope not to make them again. I’ve talked with Sandy Brady a few times and have a copy of her CD. Keep the site building. It’s great.

  18. Jeff Fozard says:

    I’ve been doing scrimshaw for about 6 yrs now and I would like to post one or two of my pieces on your site. I have a hippo upper tusk and a fossilized Wooly Mammoth tusk. The hippo tusk stands upright and the Mammoth is now a broach with a Mammoth on the front.

  19. David says:

    Dear Folks,
    I ran across your website and would like to know if a person needs to register somewhere to become a member of this forum.
    I have some very unusual walrus tusk carvings left to me by my grandfather in the 50′s. One of the tusks is 23″ long and has some of the most unusual, scrimshaw on it depicting Inuit lives. I also have a smaller tusk that was made into a smoking pipe.
    I can give you more information in the future but I would like to know how I can join in with the rest of you and post some photos of the two tusks. I also have some photos that I can mail. I am wanting to sell these but don’t know if that is proper for this site. I have been in touch with some auctions and museums since the 1980′s when my grandfather died. He was originally from Ontario, Canada and spent most of his life hunting & fishing in Canada and Alaska. His Inuit guide, who became a close friend over the years, gave him these two pieces as a gift when my grandfather was no longer able to hunt & fish due to his age. My grandfather passed them on to me in his will.
    Sothebys said they are ‘primitive’. Maybe there is a similar site which does what you are doing? Please help me or direct me to the proper site.
    Thanks very much,
    David Lloyd

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>