Scrimshawing with Dad: A Knife Carving Tale

Hands On

If anyone in my life is a knife fanatic and aficionado, it’s my dear, old dad. He was an art major in college, but has always been an active outdoorsman, so when he got the opportunity to combine two of his lifelong passions with the Scrimshaw Knife Kit from Man Crates, he was ALL THE WAY in.

My husband, stepdaughter and I flew from California to Pennsylvania to spend a week at my parent’s place for vacation. Of course we chose the day with questionable weather to sit outside and work on the knife (and got rained into moving the whole operation inside), but before the sky opened up, dad got his mad skills underway.

He also spent a good couple minutes oo-ing and ah-ing over the knife itself, how gorgeous it is in person, and how impressively sharp it is.

What’s In the Box

  • Boker Gents Lockback White Knife
  • Scrimshaw Kit:
    • Steel Wool
    • Renaissance Wax, .25 oz.
    • Higgins Black Ink
    • Lansky Dual Grit Sharpener
    • Scrimshaw Scribe
    • Golf Pencil
    • Cotton Tip Applicators
    • 4 Carbon Sheets, 2″ x 4″
    • Practice Micarta Ivory, 1/8″ x 2.5″ x 5″
    • Vellum Paper Stencil

Here he is very briefly glancing at the manual. He didn’t even crack it open until he was halfway through preparing to carve, and then was mostly interested in the humor and affirmation that he already knew exactly what he was doing.

Case in point. Like I said, he’s an artist and outdoorsman. These are two walking sticks he hand-carved and broke out to show off before the knife carving extravaganza began.

The Preparation Process

Dad had been talking about wanting to carve the feather design into the knife for weeks, but once he saw all the options, decided to go with his own spin on the anchor. My husband has an anchor tattooed on his foot, so we used that as a secondary stylistic reference.

When I asked him about his prep process, he said, “If I was doing this on my own and wasn’t just following the instructions, I’d get a pair of jewelers magnifying glasses so when I look at it, the image is gigantic and makes it much easier to draw fine lines.”

We later realized upon the instruction-glance that he instinctively utilized the pro tips mentioned. Not only did he use a magnifying glass, but he also covered the knife with tape before beginning to carve.

Next came the steel wool. The knife’s bone handle has a shiny finish and in order to etch the design, you’ve got to lose some shine.

“The cutting tool will lose traction otherwise and won’t track the way you want it to. You don’t want it to slide since you have to gouge it into the material. The wool makes it a flat matte, so it’s not slippery when you cut into it.”

After he cut out his design and prepped the handle, it was time to place the design. He taped one side down first so it was centered, then placed it exactly where he wanted it.

Once taped, he slid the shiny part of the carbon paper underneath to transfer the image and was ready to rock!

Okay, okay, I’m getting slightly ahead of myself. Before any “rocking” happened, he made sure to sharpen the tip of his tracing tool on the sandpaper.

The Craftsman at Work

AND NOW, WE ROCK. The first thing my dad did to prep for the ultimate carve-concentration was bust out his monster magnifying glass. This is obviously a pro move and makes the initial transfer way easier to nail.

One word of advice—if you break concentration, remember where you left off. Guessing games are only fun when there’s a cash prize involved.

After the transfer, he removed the carbon paper and tape and broke out the sharp objects.

He quickly discovered that it’s okay to be a bit heavy-handed as you etch. He carved into his design a couple times to ensure it was deep enough to handle the ink overlay.

This is the exact moment the rain ushered us indoors. Undeterred, he finished swabbing on the first swipe of ink.

This is another process you’ll likely want to complete a couple times to get the ink stained deep and beautifully into the bone.

The finished product! What I love most about this carving is that it LOOKS like my dad’s. The etching looks exactly like something he’d draw.

When I asked him what he loved most about the process, he said, “Whenever I create any kind of image, drawing or painting, I enjoy the process. And the reason I enjoy it is because I know that when I’m finished, I’ll be able to enjoy what I’ve created for a long time. Every time I pick up this knife, I’ll have fond memories of you trusting me enough to create an interesting design on what was already a beautiful knife.

It’s always a good feeling creating something from nothing and knowing that you’re going to be able to enjoy that art for a long time and have pleasant memories. When I was as in college, one of my art professors would always say to us, ‘If you do it right, you’ll enjoy it forever.'”

If you’ve got a knife lover in your midst, the Scrimshaw Knife Kit is a MAJOR win!