WoodCentral's Book Reviews

by Steve Paszkiewicz and Roger Schroeder

Fox Chapel Publishing: 2nd Ed., 2005
Paperback, 68 pp., $14.95
ISBN 1-56523-241-0

    In the 1800s, when the great whaling fleets plied the world's oceans in search of their quarry, sailors had plenty of idle time on their hands -- and plenty of whale teeth and bones at their disposal. It was during those long voyages that the uniquely American decorative craft of scrimshaw evolved.
    The term scrimshaw generally pertains to the engraving of pictures and designs-- typically complicated maritime themes -- onto a dense background material -- usually ivory, teeth or bone -- and the subsequent coloring of the incised scratch patterns with ink.
    Over the past 50 years or so, scrimshaw has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity among artists and crafters of all abilities, and with collectors. Over the same period, supplies of whale and elephant ivory have declined, mostly as a result of conservation efforts and the end of commercial whaling. In their place, modern scrimshanders have adopted more politically correct alternatives -- such as fossil ivory, tagua nuts, bone, antler and polymers -- while at the same time taking the art form to new heights of creativity and technical accomplishment.
    This book, an update of the original 1998 edition, is aimed at novices who would like to try their hand at scrimshaw. Its 68 pages are packed with how-to photos of every step of the process, from stock preparation to tools to etching techniques to the inks and dyes that bring the finished product to life. There is also a 17-page gallery of work by nine modern scrimshanders, including co-author Paszkiewicz. And, at the end of the book, there is a ten-page chapter of large, detailed patterns that you can resize on a copy machine for transferring to your own projects.
    For any woodworker who wants to add a special decorative touch to his/her work -- or anyone with artistic aspirations who wants to create stand-alone objets d'art in this exciting medium, you couldn't find a better starting point than this book.

. . . Ellis Walentine