ANTIQUES AND COLLECTABLES

Sperm whale tooth scrimshaw depicting a whale hunt – 1830-1850s

Enjoy collecting the past and invest for your future.

After an annus horribilus for 2020, hopefully 2021 will bring health, happiness and much goodwill to all our families, friends, neighbours an d community. What we give in kindness brings an inner glow. So, I hope you are shining brightly. 

Our daughter has two little girls and each year they choose one new decoration each, for the tree, from the Christmas shop. The year and decorations are recorded in a special Christmas book. A wonderful memory that they can share through the years. A great idea!

Lovely to see some more rain, hopefully with more to come! Dams will fill, grass will green up and farmers and gardeners will be smiling. Hopefully a good season to come for all of us.

Which leads to the fact that it is always a great season for collecting! Find that special piece that makes you smile.

Don’t forget to visit the local haunts throughout the holidays. Visit the Museum in Wingham (the best Regional display in the state). Now is the time to get out there and find! Don and Kate at Antique Solutions in Muldoon Street in Taree, Sue at Delinquent Funk in Isabella Street in Wingham and Barry at “Isadora’s” in Victoria Street, Taree.

Dave and I have been collectors for forty plus years and have started a shop in Isabella Street, Wingham – Antiques And Old Wares. A retirement project for both our families. We have received lots of positive comments and we have enjoyed meeting many locals as well as visitors to the area. Drop in, browse our wares and say hello.

Every year, whales migrate along the NSW coastline. They head north to the warm coastal waters of Queensland and the Coral Sea to mate and give birth from late April to August and return southwards from around September to November. Whaling led to the development of scrimshaw. 

Scrimshaw

Scrimshaw are objects created by whalers from the by-product of the whale, such as bones, teeth, baleen and bones. It was first done by sailors working on whaling ships out of the coast of New England between 1745 and 1759 until the moratorium of commercial whaling in 1986.

The word scrimshaw was thought to be derived from a Dutch nautical expression that meant to waste time. Indeed, scrimshaw did take quite a bit of time from the sailor’s idle hours as the surface had to be prepared first and designs had to be thought through. But time was something that the whalers had in abundance, as whaling trips could last several years and months could pass between any whale sightings.

The most common material used by the scrimshanders (person who makes scrimshaw) were the sperm whale teeth as they were plentiful and small enough to be kept inside the sailor’s sea chests. These bones or teeth were either engraved or scratched with a picture. Other scrimshaw objects would be carved out of the whale teeth. The engraved works depicted a broad range of subjects, the most common being, portraits of the ships were they worked, captains, wives or girlfriends back home and all kind of sea and mythical creatures.

These engravings were mostly done with pocket knives and sometimes, with a bit of luck, a discarded needle from the ship’s sail maker. The sailor would first make the surface of the teeth and bones smooth and even by removing the natural imperfections with pumice or shark’s skin.  Once the surface was clean, the sailor would engrave the picture into the surface and rub a pigment into the cuts to make it visible. As ink wasn’t readily available in those days, this step was normally done with soot from the ship’s ovens, squid ink, lampblack, tobacco juice or gun powder mixed with whale oil.

For the carved objects, the whale bones or teeth were cut and shaped into everyday utensils such as needles, knives, ditty boxes, jars, buttons, pill boxes, cutlery, yarn winders, pie cutters, pins, pegs and many more. At the time, these objects were traditionally given to ship captains, relatives, loved ones as gifts or swapped between sailors. Today, both types of scrimshaw are highly sought after by collectors around the world.

Scrimshaw displays a history of what life was like for these sailors in years passed. Like all history it is hoped that humanity learns from the mistakes, in this case whaling, and  those mistakes are never repeated.

If you have interesting antique items you are not sure about, I may be able to help with information, appraisals and/or sales. I am still collecting and I love the history an d stories of old and unique items (from old shed goods to household gems). 

Take care and stay safe. Happy collecting!

Phone Rex – 0427 880 546

Peace, happiness, joy & goodwill for the Christmas season to everyone. 

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