Laser scrimshaw


I’ve been playing around at a friends house doing some forging to make a custom knife. I wanted to make a Sgian Dubh to go with my kilts. So, I’ve been doing some prototyping with forging my own cable damascus which has been fun,

but I’ve been looking for ways to customize the handle, sheath and/or blade. Made some good progress today though with an etching test on the handle. I’d gotten hold of an antler shed from a couple of friends and was able to etch it in the Glowforge today. It’s kind of tricky since it’s a very dynamic shape and not flat. Though the focus was off on one side (because it curved away), it looked good coming out of the Glowforge.

unfortunately after washing it off to clean it up, the soot came out and lost the contrast.

I may try some ink or something to bring it out again, but need to do some more tests and research I think. I may try and find a more flat piece or maybe sand it down more flat in the handle forming. Not sure yet. I was able to cut out a nice leather sheath for it though with the Glowforge.

looked nice stained.


Sure beats a pocket knife! Fantastic! :grinning:


Cool! Traditional scrimshaw is done with India ink rubbed into the etching, so you are on the right track. I think it will look great!


Some kind of sealant on top before zapping to act as a mask, and then rub ink into it and wipe back off. Should work fine. Might be able to get away without the sealant depending.

(My only experience with this is with glazed tile – zapped a halftone image, went over it with sharpie, wiped off with paper towel and it looks amazing.)

Etching Tile

I think you will find the surface of the antler will be porous (slightly, at least) where the cut surface should be very porous. So I think a sealant layer would be a good idea, even if only around the work area.
That latex that artists use as a resist when they’re doing watercolour painting ?


Nice work! I agree with the sealant, if you have a scrap of the antler give it a test with the ink or whatever your choice for the color is to judge the porosity.


Bet you were smiling when you pulled it out of the Glowforge! Also, nice that you made a sheath, as well.


Thinking seal before lasering so that the ink can only penetrate where it should?


it’s actually a wax that you use to seal bone or ivory with…
this stuff from the UK is awesome…


Nice work! Can we see that blade?


Yeah! Show us that metal.


Thanks for that reference! I’ve got some of that wax–will have to give it a try.


will have to try some of that :slight_smile:
for folks who are curious about the blade, here’s a pic of the whole knife.

somewhat hard to see the Damascus pattern though so here’s a shot of it before it was put into the handle.


I think it looks great. We must always remember to have extras with our kilts.