My name is Bruce Lanham. By profession I am a construction worker and commercial diver. However, I have always been an avid sportsman, and since 1975 I have made a hobby of scrimshaw art.
About three years ago I discovered swordfish swords. Fishing boat crews do not normally save the bills or swords, but I befriended several boat captains that sail from San Francisco, and they saved me enough material to work with.
I pay special attention to cleaning and polishing the swords so that they are as perfect as possible before I draw on them. I have more ideas than I can produce, but always love making special projects for others.
The traditional material for scrimshaw is ivory from marine mammals—mainly whale bone, baleen, and teeth, and walrus tusks. Unless the material (and scrimshaw) is old, or done by native Alaskans, it is illegal in the USA. Swordfish and their bills, are products of a legal, sustainable fishery.
The term “scrimshaw” may be derived from a Dutch word meaning “idle fellow,” referring to the leisure time of whalers, when they would use needles and pigments to inscribe stories and marine subjects on whale bone. Cavemen used similar methods to draw on the bones from their hunts, but modern scrimshaw began to flourish on whaling ships in the Pacific in the mid-eighteenth century and lasted until the ban on commercial whaling.
In my studio, I sketch ideas on paper and then transfer them to the polished swords in the traditional way with needles and ink, although I use a wider range of colors than sailors had available.
Since I am an avid sportsman and diver, I usually think of drawing sea life first. However, many of my friends and clients are hunters, and I enjoy rendering their photographs and taxidermy. The length of the sword is perfect for composing a narrative or story in several images.
I really enjoy hearing about your once-in-a-lifetime hunts or fishing expeditions and discussing the best way to portray them in scrimshaw. Just supply me with photos, sketches, and text.
The result is a piece of life history, a one-of-a-kind gift, and
a future family heirloom.
If you happen to have legal ivory, I can also scrimshaw on it.
Please contact me to discuss the possibilities!
Bruce Lanham—Scrimshaw Art FOR SALe
I specialize in custom scrimshaw engraving on sporting and historical subjects.