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This activity is from a wonderful book by Brian J. Heinz called Beachcraft Bonanza and Mr. Heinz kindly gave us permission to share it with you on the Virtual Nature Club.

Scrimshaw was practiced by seafarers while on long whaling voyages. The whalers would carve line drawings into whale teeth and jawbones. Then lampblack (a kind of ink made from soot) would be rubbed into the lines so they would stand out.


  • Clamshells (the larger the better)

  • A sharp pencil

  • A black permanent marker with a fine tip

You will need to make sure your clamshell is clean, so spend some time scrubbing it off. While you are scrubbing your clamshell clean think about your design. Will it be a ship? A fish? A fish hook? An anchor? Or something totally from your imagination?

Next trace your clamshell on a piece of scrap paper, cut it out and then turn it over so it looks exactly like the inside of your clamshell.Use this outline to plan and draw your design. You may have to do this a few times to get it right. Take your time and you'll have a great design. When you are ready, put it in the real clam to see what it will look like.

Now, lightly copy your design on the inside of your clamshell with the sharp pencil. When you are happy with it trace over that with your marker.

If you would like to share your findings with us or your friends, be sure to tag us @thirdhousenaturecenter and use #THNCvirtualnatureclub so we can see what you're doing!

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