SCRIMSHAW STEP BY STEP


If colorization is to be added, it would be done at this point, after finishing with the black ink. Each color must be done in a separate step with separate etchings, starting with the dark colors and finishing with lighter colors. This helps prevent colors from overlapping and blending. Using this method means that, if an accidental overlap does occur, a lighter color will be overflowing onto a dark color. That's not nearly as disastrous as vice versa, because the light colors are hardly visible on top of the dark colors. A dark color on top of a light one would completely overshadow it. If that happens, though, all is not lost. The area can be carefully re-etched. 

HISTORY

Scrimshaw is the art of ectching designs on ivory. It also applies to carving objects out of ivory. Both the technique and the items themselves are referred to as scrimshaw. 

During the 1700's & 1800's whales were hunted mainly for the blubber, used as lamp oil. As the whales decreased, the hunting voyages became longer, often lasting many months & even years at a time. This led to long periods of boredom. In fact, the word "scrimshaw" is thought to be derived from a scandinavian term meaning lazy or do-less. 

To pass the idle time, the whalemen began to carve designs on ivory whale teeth & bones, since these materials had no commercial use. Using a pocket knife or sail needle, the sailors would etch familiar scenes like ships, the whale hunt or perhaps a sweetheart back home. The lines were then filled in with ink, tar, lamp black, or tobacco juice. 

These pieces, as well as small carved items like pie crimpers, fans or jewelry, made ideal gifts for loved ones. 

Today small amounts of ivory are still legally available, but bone, mother of pearl, or an ivory substitute is often used instead. However, genuine ivory produces the finest results.