Scrimshaw Artwork on an Israeli Ram's Horn Shofar, Blowing Horn for a Call-to-Worship, or Battle

  • Advertise with us
Project by Mark A. DeCou posted 07-28-2008 10:35 PM 7219 views 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was a commissioned piece, and so it has been sold.

If you have something that you would like to have custom scrimshaw artwork added to, please email me:

[email protected]

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

Project Story:

Late last year I met a nice woman at an art show where I was showing pieces of my scrimshaw artwork and powder horns. She approached me with a special project to consider.

She had visited Israel in 2001 as a tourist right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Towers in New York City. Tourism to Israel and the region had come to a screeching halt, and she decided it was a good time to visit. She said the time was wonderful, she felt very safe, and the local people treated her better than on previous trips where she enjoyed the local hospitality.

During her visit to the land of the Bible, she bought a Ram’s Horn that had been made into a blowing horn called a Shofar, or Shophar. She asked if I would do some scrimshaw style artwork on the horn depicting a verse in the Book of Isaiah of the Holy Bible, and some text from the Book of Ezekiel.

Here is a very thorough collection of information on the Shofar by Michael Chusid

I started the project with a few hours of hand sanding and polishing to get the rough surface of the horn smooth, and crack free. I have worked on a lot of different animal parts from deer, elk, big horn sheep, cow, bull, bison, water buffalo, elephant ivory, sea shell, abalone shell, river muscle shell, and others, and this Ram’s Horn was by far the hardest, and the stinkiest.

By “stinky,” I mean that the dust from the horn has a horrible smell. All animal horn, antler, and bone has some bad smell to it, and after a few years of working with it, I’ve gotten to where I hardly notice it. However, just try going to the supper table without changing your clothes at the end of the day after working Ram’s Horn! Doesn’t work, unless you live alone. I don’t. Ha.

Normally, Scrimshaw artwork is done by scratching and cutting with a knife and scribe, and darkened with black India Ink. Any scratches, delaminations, cracks, or porosity in the base material will cause the ink to spread, blurring the picture. So, there is a quite a bit of prep work involved.

After the polishing, I made an original drawing of the Lamb laying down with the Wolf, and transfered the artwork to the horn with carbon paper.

I started the work with a knife and round pointed scribe, and after a couple of hours of hard work I realized that the Ram’s Horn material was just too hard to do an adequate job of scrimshaw artwork. So, I decided that I was going to have to compromise and add some rotary engraving with the scrimshaw lines to develop the dark outlines, and text on the horn. Jim Steven’s is also a Scrimshaw Artist, and I just received his second book called “Advanced Scrimshaw Techniques” where he shows how to do rotary engraving. So, I skimmed through his photos, and went to work.

This is a hard decision for a staunch scrimshaw artist, as myself, and it is probably comparable to doing drawer dovetails with a router for a staunch handtool woodworker. But, I swallowed my pride, and proceeded with the rotary engraving, and used the old style knife/scribe scrimshaw artwork for the details and shadowing.

The white lettering is a process that many artists call “reverse scrimshaw” where white paint is used to highlight artwork on a dark surface. I have done this type of reverse artwork on American Bison Horn before, and so I adapted that concept to this Ram’s Horn.

To give you a sense of scale from the photos, the horn was about 36 inches long measured down it’s length.

What’s Scrimshaw Artwork?:
A Scrimshaw Art Journey: What it is & How to Do it; Five Simple Steps to Success

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

I often have pieces of Scrimshaw for viewing and sale at the following retail locations:
  1. Hatman Jack’s Wichita Hat Works in Wichita, KS
  2. Hutchinson Art Center in Hutchinson, KS
  3. Cottonwood Mercantile in Cottonwood Falls, KS

You can contact these gallery stores directly and see what they still have in stock. They will ship to you if you buy something. If you prefer, you can also email me, as I keep fairly current on what is “unsold.”

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

(This text, all photos, project design, and anything else you want to steal, is protected by copyright 2008, M.A.DeCou, all rights reserved and protected, ask permission first! Weblinks to this page are permitted)

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

5 comments so far

View Roger Strautman's profile

Roger Strautman

657 posts in 5467 days

#1 posted 07-28-2008 10:50 PM

This turned out very nice Mark!! Keep them coming.

-- " All Things At First Appear Difficult"

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 5100 days

#2 posted 07-28-2008 11:46 PM

Neat project and story. Thanks for sharing Mark.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Mike 's profile


50 posts in 4923 days

#3 posted 07-29-2008 01:27 AM

I love any work done with horn or antler, well done.

-- One does things through mania, through obsession, through an automatic need that escapes understanding.

View Karson's profile


35295 posts in 5733 days

#4 posted 07-29-2008 04:56 AM


Another great creation. Nice job.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View Dick, & Barb Cain's profile

Dick, & Barb Cain

8693 posts in 5632 days

#5 posted 07-29-2008 06:04 AM

Beautiful, as usual.

-- -** You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream ****************** Dick, & Barb Cain, Hibbing, MN.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics