Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What is Scrimshaw?

The word Scrimshaw came from a slang expression that was used to refer to anything that was the product of a seaman's idle time, or items that were produced while engaged in the act of loafing. Today, a good example of Scrimshaw would be whittling on a stick and ending up with something that would be either decorative or even useful. While out at sea there were often several weeks, or even months, that would pass between whale sightings. It was during that time that the sailors would practice their Scrimshaw.  

Hence the name of the pocket knife pictured above (scrimshaw knife).  Every man and women needs a pocket knife, and while there are many available to suit particular tastes, the Scrimshaw pocket knife is one of the earliest representations of North American folk art, and is widely considered the only art form that has its origins in the New World.  Historically made of whale bone, the modern knife is now made of cow bone, bakelight or plastic, but still depicts the usual New England sea motif.  The best part of the scrimshaw knife aside from the old timey appeal is all the valuable uses; cleaning your nails, cutting paper, turning a loose screw, stabbing an enemy...the list goes on.  There are plenty for sale on eBay, and for a really good price...but the link below will take you to a higher quality version, like the one pictured above.

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