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Scrimshaw is the old whaling art of engraving intricate patterns and images into ivory. If you have some old piano keys hanging around, you can make some interesting art pieces using this scrimshaw tutorial by Paul Baxendale of Providence, RI. Growing up I used to go to Mystic Seaport and learn all about whaling culture, and the scrimshaw and blacksmith stops were right up there in coolness factor with the printing press and ship rigging for me.

Becky Stern

Becky Stern is head of wearable electronics at Adafruit Industries. Her personal site:



  1. Laura in Portland says:

    what about white plastic dominoes, or tagua nut? just a thought so we don’t rip up vintage pianos

  2. Anonymous says:

    As a weird kid growing up in a rural area with no TV & loads of free time, I used to do scrimshaw using cut up plastic milk jugs, sewing needles and india ink, so plastic does work quite well.
    I must say though, as an adult, I am now tempted to try this with some of the sheep bones that I’ve collected from the family farm…

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