Tools Used in Scrimshaw

The most basic tools anyone needs for scrimshaw are a sharp needle and a rag–the needle for piercing or scratching the material to be scrimmed and the rag for rubbing away excess pigment.

Of course, you won’t get the best results with only these two tools. Other basic tools needed for serious scrimshanding include:

  • Sandpaper (from coarse to extra fine) and/or a buffing wheel to smooth and polish the surface to be scrimmed. A buffing wheel will also need buffing compound.
  • Tracing and sketching paper for working out your rough drafts.
  • A special graphite pencil for writing on glass or other highly polished surfaces.
  • Fine, hardened steel needles in various thicknesses.
  • A pin vise to hold your needle while you work. A pin vise is very similar to an X-acto knife handle.
  • A sharpening stone for sharpening your needles.
  • A good light source that can be directed on your work as you need it.
  • A sand bag, usually made out of suede leather. You hold the piece on this as you are scrimming it. You will move the piece slightly in different directions as you work, so that the area you are scrimming catches your light source. This is how you “see” what areas you have scrimmed, by catching the glare off the piece.
  • Magnification (a lighted magnifying lamp, jeweler’s loupe, or even a stereo microscope).

And of course, you need inks or paints (pigments).

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