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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

Becky Stern (sternlab.org is a DIY guru and director of wearable electronics at Adafruit. She publishes a new project video every week and hosts a live show on YouTube. Formerly Becky was Senior Video Producer for MAKE. Becky lives in Brooklyn, NY and belongs to art groups Free Art & Technology (“release early, often, and with rap music”) and Madagascar Institute (“fear is never boring”).


  • Laura in Portland

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

  • Anonymous

    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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