Scrimshaw is the name of the engraving technique on bone. In my Product gallery is a picture of a boot knife engraved with the head of a badger. These two new knives are engraved with animal motives too, although in one case the animal is, alas, extinct.
The works began with a rough biro sketch made from a photograph, with the pose slightly altered in order to fit on the scale. In a second biro sketch, I added a bit of detail. The third sketch was made on PC, where I added even more details and decorative elements like frames etc.
The wild boar head was a more complicated design so I have decided to first try it out on an offcut of bone in order to test how to best approach it.
For the actual work, I first fixed the knives to a board in order to have a stable yet adjustable base. I printed the designs on paper labels, glued them onto the scales, and cut and scratched the outlines. Once the outlines were done, I filled them with pigment, removed the rest of the adhesive paper, and continued with the shading, etc.
It is possible to use oil colors, tempera, or even watercolors as pigments, but I currently own neither. However, I only needed two colors – black and brown – thus it was enough to scrape a bit of soot out of the chimney and scrape and crush a bit of rust from old nails. As a binder, I have used strongly diluted water-based wood glue.
Once the pigment dried out, it was necessary to sand down the excess back to the bone. And when the design was done, I have fixated/waterproofed it with epoxy resin. It is also possible to use lacquer, shellac, or drying oil.
All this is easier said than done. Each scale took one to two days of work, not counting the sketching and tests. Bone is very hard and difficult to engrave, but it is not homogenous. It is easy to overshoot a line because the material suddenly gives in and the needle goes too far. It is possible to correct mistakes to a degree, but not too much. It is better to be careful and avoid mistakes.
I was lucky and I did not make any major blunders, the engravings look acceptable. I can continue to work on the sheaths. For that, however, I needed to work in the workshop despite the freezing temperatures. I needed to make some new tools.