Scottish Fisheries Museum

Carved Sperm Whale Tooth (Scrimshaw)

Object Name

Check out this 3D model of this engraved whole tooth.

An engraved Sperm Whale Tooth with a farewell maritime scene.

The art of engraving designs on to the teeth, bones or baleen of sperm whales and other marine mammals is called a scrimshaw. It was a common pastime of sailers on long whaling voyages.

Sperm whales have 23 pairs of teeth which were particularly prized for scrimshaw. After extraction, the teeth were scraped smooth and polished. The design could be engraved freehand or copied using a template.