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Fine Embellishment Everything from hand engraving and scrimshaw to filework and carving. The fine art end of the knifemaker's craft.

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Old 03-11-2017, 08:56 AM
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Andrew Garrett Andrew Garrett is offline
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Scrimshaw Discovery

For a long time now, I've been wanting to dive into scrimshaw.

As a recently retired tattoo artist, I thought scrimshaw would be a natural transition for me. It draws on the same disciplines, attention to detail, fine dexterity, etc. I even wanted to re-tune a tattoo machine to attempt some powered scrimshaw. However, wanting to walk before I run, I started with a hand scrim on the polished crown of a Kansas White-tail Deer antler.

Having read a book or two on scrimshaw, I made my own scribe from a round file handle. I tried a few different types of point geometry before I found one I liked.

I used a pencil eraser on the polished antler to give it the correct surface for drawing and scrimming. I drew a compass rose on the crown and dove in.

For ink, I used Kuro Sumi tattoo/calligraphy ink which I already had, of course.

Learnings:
Antler is harder than skin. It is also harder than ivory. It was incredibly difficult to get uniform line weights for the outline. Failing to meet expectations, I switched to a bulino style (stippling). Leaving impressions deep enough to take ink was almost impossible.

I retired from tattooing after 13 years because of the toll it was taking on my body--specifically, the tendons in my wrist, shoulders, and elbows. As much as it was true that scrimshaw draws on the same motions and techniques as tattooing, it is exponentially more true that scrimshaw abuses the same tendons. Two minutes into the job, the writing was on the wall. I am embarrassed I didn't make that mental connection sooner.

Rounded surfaces are tough to scrimshaw. Some sort of vice will be in order for future jobs. Yes..., I said future jobs. I'm going to convert my tattoo machine for some scrim work. It will be all bulino since that's what those machines do. I'll try a test piece and make a decision from there.

Needless to say, my rudimentary 'artwork' was sanded off and polished again. Good riddance.

I have mad respect for scrimshanders even more than I did before.


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Old 03-11-2017, 12:51 PM
jimmontg jimmontg is online now
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I have a friend who is an artist, water colors and her pictures are so lifelike that from just 10 feet away they look like photos, she is that good. I have bought her a scrimshaw book and hopefully she'll be able to transfer her artististic ability to ivory or the many substitutes for it. What would be the best plastic ivory substitute? I have heard that white paper micarta is one of the best. Any ideas?

Good luck Mr. Garrett and I hope you get good at scrim.
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Old 03-12-2017, 05:04 AM
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salzwedelknives salzwedelknives is offline
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This is a pic of a handle I just completed. Ready to go up for sale.



This one took at least 25 hours to complete. It was done on buffalo horn.

I found reading books and watching videos is all good, but at the end of the day, the more you do it the better you get.

I use oil-based artist paint like Winsor & Newton. I find that it gives the best colour, after trying many inks and paints.
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Old 03-12-2017, 08:16 AM
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Andrew Garrett Andrew Garrett is offline
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That's cool! Typically, when I think of scrimshaw, I think black on white. This is a cool departure from the norm. Well done!


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Old 03-12-2017, 08:17 AM
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To answer the other question: I've heard good things about paper micarta as a scrim base, but I don't know for certain.

I'm gonna steer clear of antler for a while though. lol!


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Old 03-13-2017, 02:48 AM
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salzwedelknives salzwedelknives is offline
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Thanks for the kind comment, Andy. I enjoy scrimshaw on the black. The only thing I have found is that light shading doesn't work as well like it does on white surfaces. I haven't tried paper micarta yet. I have heard that corian, made by DuPont, can also be used as an alternative for ivory, but again, I haven't tried it yet.

Another thing I found is that different inks and paints seem to suit different surfaces better.


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Old 03-16-2017, 11:53 PM
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Shakudo Shakudo is offline
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I don't know about using a tattoo machine,but for materials and other questions try here ...."site:www.engraverscafe.com scrimshaw" into Google.
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Old 03-29-2017, 09:46 PM
DAN VAN DAN VAN is offline
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Maybe cow bone will be a substitute, I buy the bones for my dogs at fleet/ farm stores. Dan
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