DIY Faux Scrimshaw Hardware

by Natalie Stopka

D_S scrimshaw 6
Scrimshaw is the art of engraving or carving images into whale bone or ivory harkening back to 18th century whalers. Luckily today we can use similar techniques to ornament ordinary plastic drawer pulls, knobs, and even switchplates. An awl or needle is used to scratch the image into the plastic surface, a Sharpie marker covers the surface and penetrates the scratch marks, and the excess ink is removed with rubbing alcohol. Look for nautical imagery such as period text for monograms, illustrations of ropework or sea creatures, or a compass rose. For more authentic hardware, experiment with knobs made from the eco-friendly ivory substitute the tagua nut. –Natalie



plastic knobs or drawer pulls
awl, or tapestry needle affixed to an X-Acto handle Sharpie
rubbing alcohol
paper towels or cotton swabs


Use a fine point Sharpie draw your image onto the knob, or transfer it from a print or tracing paper. To transfer, tape the paper to the knob. Use your awl or needle to make a series of pricks outlining the basic image through the paper and lightly into the surface of the plastic. Remove the paper, ink the entire surface with the Sharpie, and wipe the ink off using the rubbing alcohol. You should be left with an outline of tiny black dots.

Follow the dots to draw the image by scraping into the plastic with the awl. You can repeatedly check your progress by inking and wiping the plastic surface. Use cross hatching or stippling to add shading. Give the knob one final layer of ink with the Sharpie, then wipe off the excess and shine it up using the rubbing alcohol. Show your work around to your shipmates with pride!


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