We are more than excited to host local artist Anna Landewe to teach students how to do scrimshaw and create their own beautifully customized pocket knife!
Date: Saturday, August 13, 10AM-3PM
Tuition: General Public: $128, Individual Member: $115, Household Member: $109
Material Fee: $40
The art of scrimshaw is considered to be the only truly American Folk Art. The term “scrimshaw” came into usage in the early American whalers’ logbooks in the later 1700s and early 1800s. It was coined to describe the art of carving on ivory or bone that the whalemen practiced to pass the time between whale sightings.
These whaling expeditions sometimes lasted 3 or 4 years, with the largest downtime being in between whale hunts. These hunts’ primary goal was the oil produced by rendering down the whale’s blubber and the ambergris (a black tarry substance used in the production of perfume).
A by-product of the hunt was the whale’s bones and teeth, which were given to the sailors to carve. This served the dual purpose of keeping them out of trouble on the voyage and providing them with a saleable product to increase their earnings at the end of the voyage.
The men would take the raw sperm whale teeth, smooth down the rough outer ridges with knives and use shark skin as natural sandpaper to smooth it further. The final stop before starting to scrim was to polish the tooth with chamois.
The earliest scrimshanders sometimes used a crude version of the stipple method, which pricks small holes into the ivory and fills them with pigment. A more common method was using their sailors’ needles to carve lines into the teeth, which they then filled with pigment. Different pigments were used according to what was available. For black, they used lamp black, a combination of carbon and whale oil. Tea, vinegar, berries, and octopus dye were also used to provide a change of color.
Subject matter varies from tales of a whale hunt gone wrong to portraits of their wives and sweethearts. The bone and ivory were made into various practical frivolous objects, including corset stays, hat boxes, rolling pins, swifts, cooking utensils, cribbage boards, and many other things their imaginations could come up with.
While the first scrimshaw was mostly done on whalebone and teeth, other ivories were substituted as available. Elephant, hippo, and walrus ivories were not uncommon Pacific dreamscapes. Today we use a variety of ivories, woolly mammoth, fossil walrus, hippo, antique piano keys and ivory cue balls, pre-embargo elephant ivory, antler bone, buffalo horn, and other ivory substitutes. These are used to create intricate pieces of jewelry, pocket knives, and display pieces.
Image: young sailors learning on board a Capri 14.5 centerboard sailboat with friends,
as part of The Sailing School at the Hudson River Maritime Museum.
So you've gone sailing with a friend a couple of times, and you've decided, "I love this!" Now, you're wondering what you can do to learn more about sailing.
The first step is to take a class - or better yet, several classes, to really get the wind in your sails and be as safe as possible. And what better place to learn than on the beautiful Hudson River? The Sailing School at the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston, NY, is certified by US Sailing, and offers on-the-water classes for both youth and adults. Signing up for classes is easy on our website.
In addition to taking on-the-water classes, you might consider reading a few books and online articles, even take additional online classes. Check out resources such as US Sailing, Practical Sailor, and Scuttlebutt.
After you have taken some lessons, you will discover that there is so much more to know, and we sailors learn every time we get out on the water. So the next step is definitely the best one: get out on the water as often as possible!
If you are fortunate, you may be able to sail with friends. But if you haven't made any boat-owning friends yet (we could all use more of those!), why not check out a local sailing club or yacht club? The Kingston Sailing Club welcomes new members to join, and you don't even have to own a boat! The club offers community sailing opportunities at an affordable price for associate members, so until you make friends or acquire your own boat, see what the Kingston Sailing Club has to offer new sailors!
(You might even want to try out racing! The Kingston Sailing Club offers a Spring Racing Series and a Fall Racing Series every season, and it sponsors two regattas as well.)
Image: two sailboats racing in May, 2022, as part of Kingston Sailing Club's Spring Racing Series
However you decide to build your sailing skills, just get out on the water and do it! You will be glad you did!
For sailors, knowing your knots is a must!
Take the bowline, for example. It's most often used to fasten a mooring line to the buoy, or to tie a boat to a post or ring. It can also be used to attach one boat to another boat for the purposes of towing.
The bowline is a very secure knot - if there is a load on the line. If there is no consistent load, then another knot should be selected because the bowline can open up. The bowline can be easily undone if there is no load pulling on it, which is can be a good thing, To undo the knot, we simply release the load on the knot and bend back the loop of the bowline. And sometimes when sailing, you've got to be quick! All the more reason to know your knots!
Many of us sailors learned to tie a bowline by leading the "rabbit" through the hole, around the "tree" and back down the "hole"! But if you have not yet mastered tying this helpful knot, you can go to Animated Knots (https://www.animatedknots.com/bowline-knot) and watch a super easy-to-follow animated video which demonstrates how to tie a bowline.
According to Animated Knots, "The name Bowline derives from “bow line“. The Bow Line Knot secured the line holding the weather leech of a square sail forward to prevent it being taken aback." You can learn to tie dozens of useful knots at Animated Knots (https://www.animatedknots.com/)
Staff and volunteers of the Hudson River Maritime Museum's Wooden Boat School and Sailing & Rowing School.
Hudson River Maritime Museum
50 Rondout Landing
Kingston, NY 12401
The Hudson River Maritime Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the maritime history of the Hudson River, its tributaries, and related industries.
Become a member and receive benefits like unlimited free museum admission, discounts on classes, programs, and in the museum store, plus invitations to members-only events.
The Hudson River Maritime Museum receives no federal, state, or municipal funding except through competitive, project-based grants. Your donation helps support our mission of education and preservation.