View Full Version : scrimshaw? help please

01-20-2006, 11:34 AM
i want to get in to scrimshaw but have no idea how to get started i have two questions
1) what tools do i need and are they hard to get or expencive and if so could i make my own
and 2) how to you do it i have no idea what to do any help would be appricieated
thanks vic

Ray Rogers
01-20-2006, 11:46 AM
I don't do scrim myself so take what I have to say with a grain of salt, but I believe the techniques for doing scrim are simple and the tools are almost always made by the scrinshander himself.

The basic process is to simply scratch the pattern into the ivory with a sharp metal point, then push ink into the scratch. It can get more complex when a real master does it, and making it look artistic definitely takes talent, but the basic process is pretty simple.

There is a book on how to do it called How to "Scrimshaw and Carve Ivory" by Blackie and Michael Collins. You should be able to buy it through my website at

01-20-2006, 11:55 AM
thanks ray ill look in to that book do you know any other places i can get info i dont have a credit card and mom dosent like to buy things off the inter net (she dosent trust it )

01-20-2006, 12:22 PM
Vic- Bob Hergert from Oregon sells an instructional course in Scrimshaw... Here's the link, the info is at the bottom of his home page.. If you have never seen Bob's work...Prepare to be blown away.. He is amazing... Good Luck, Rich

01-20-2006, 12:34 PM
thanks ill check it out when i get home the school has it blocked under the catogorie of sex i was like what! but any way thanks again and ill be sure to check out his work

Ray Rogers
01-20-2006, 01:33 PM
Any book store should be able to special order it for you ...

Andrew Garrett
01-20-2006, 02:37 PM
I own the Collins book which is listed on Ray's site. It's a great little manual that covers the basics. Certainly worth what I payed for it. I'll bet your local bookseller can get it for you. Mine was about $8.

Mitch Edwards
01-20-2006, 03:09 PM
First question is, can you draw? If you can freehand whatever your mind can see, then scrim work will be no problem. If not, then you can run into some frustrating moments. Anyway, there are some books out there on scrim work. The Second Scrimshaw Connection by Bob Engath is a very valuable resource. There are 2 basic types of cutting you will do. Line cut and stipple. I would practice on something like white macarta. Don't start out on a piece of expensive material until you feel confident. Another source of scrim work will be found on a lot of old powder horns. There are many on the market. If you would like more information and I can be of any help you can contact me at I have a few pieces on my web site at Good luck in your pursuit of a fine art.

Lori Ristinen
01-21-2006, 02:33 PM
When I first started out I used an x-acto knife and later found a metal scribe (the tip was basically cone-shaped). Now I use a needle in a pin vise. The needle is the thinnest one I could find. It is a needle used for sewing by hand, that I sharpen as needed. I am basically self-taught. I learned as I went, tried different tools, found easier ways of getting the result I wanted.

The material you will work on has to be sanded smooth and polished very well. Any scratch or pit will take in ink. Basically, when you scrim, you are taking off the polished surface so it will accept the ink. The ink will wipe off the polished surface. I will scratch in, for example, the hairs of an animal, but the rest is stipple (dots). I use ink for black and regular artist's oil paints for color.

My practice pieces were on plastic spoons (there is a picture of them on my website). I also worked on deer antler, paper-based micarta (don't use linen or canvas micarta), and even corian (countertop material). If you try any of these materials and find scrimshaw is too hard to do, I strongly suggest scrimming on ivory. It is by far the easiest material to scrim (elephant ivory to be exact). sells a scrimshaw kit that I believe comes with everything you would need to start scrimming. I have also seen the kit as some knife shows.

Good luck!


01-21-2006, 04:53 PM
If your interested in learning scrimshaw, there's a workshop held at the Batson Hammer-in in Alabama. The lady who teaches it will walk you through the entire process and show you anything you want to know. I hope this helps , I know it's a long way to go, but the knowledge that is walking around at this event is nothing short of amazing, you can't turn around without seeing another knife "super star". Come on down south and see the show, you'll be glad you did.:welcome:

01-22-2006, 01:33 PM
As one does it, for color scrim, and rubs in ink of different colors, do you just wipe
off the excess and then you can dot/scribe for the next color right away and apply
it, or do you wait till the prev color dries off ? Same for b&W ?

What inks are good to use ?

While I can not draw that well, my wife is quite an artiste :) - I figure I'd ask
her for a favor.

Lori Ristinen
01-22-2006, 08:45 PM
When you scrim in color you should scrim the darkest colors first and work your way up to the lightest. You have to be careful. If you add blue, and then scrim yellow next to it, be sure to wipe the excess ink or paint away from the blue or you will get green. I just be careful not to "paint myself into a corner".

Scrimming in black and white is easier. You are only using one color of ink (black on a light colored material such as ivory or white on something black like buffalo horn). It doesn't matter where you put the black ink or which way you wipe it off because you are only using one color.