Scrimshaw: one man's obsession

The craft of carving whalebone or whale teeth into decorative or useful items is called scrimshaw. Seamen and especially whalers carved their works during long periods of inactivity when there were no whales or no wind.

Incised designs, made with basic tools such as knives or needles, were coloured by rubbing soot, lamp black or even tobacco juice into the grooves. Sometimes the scrimshander copied an illustration by pricking the design through the paper onto the whalebone and then joining the dots.


This wonderful collection of scrimshaw, tools and decorative items has been loaned by Colin Thomas.

View the collection in our Carnegie Gallery until June 24 2019