The Art Of Scrimshaw

American Hand Ep.5 from Jon Walley on Vimeo.

18th-century sailors on whaling ships were sometimes at sea for years at a time. The whalers whiled away their idle hours by fashioning jewelry and articles from whale bone and whale teeth. This craft, known as scrimshaw, is still practiced by masters like Brian Kiracofe, featured in this video by the filmmakers at American Hand.
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  1. When in the maritime museum in Hull, England, I was fascinated by the scenes sailors carved on ivory tusks and bone.

    And interested to find it was often more than a pastime. They were ordered to do it in their off-watches, because bored sailors get up to mischief, and fights were to be avoided. So captains ordered all hands to be busy, and a good carver could make a generous bonus by selling his work when, and if, eventually he came home. (voyages of four years were not unknown.)


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