Richard "HutcH" Hutchings
Scrimshaw Artist

HutcH has gained quite a reputation as a  fine scrimshaw artist over the last several years. By the way, HutcH is not a typo, it is the way he signs his work with a a capital H on each end so that is the way I will refer to him. His excellent artwork can be seen on custom knives, cigar cutters, mammoth ivory tusks, belt buckles and jewelry.

For those of you who are not familiar with scrimshaw, it is the art of creating drawings by cutting or scribing fine lines into materials such as ivory or bone and then filling those scribed lines with ink to make them show up. It is an art form believed to have originated from sailors on whaling ships who would scratch images into whale bones and teeth using the pointed rope picks that were commonly found on ships as a tool for helping to untie knots in wet ropes. Modern scrimshaw artists work with a wide variety of materials and often use colored inks for photo-realistic artwork. Another variation is reverse scrimshaw which is a popular application for black buffalo horn because the inscribed lines naturally show up as white and a negative images is created. Scrimshaw has long been a popular method for decorating knife and gun handles, powder horns, belt buckles, jewelry and stand alone art pieces such as whales teeth and elephant tusks. HutcH recently has been doing a lot of work using 10,000 year old fossilized wooly mammoth tusk ivory. (Note: The import of African elephant ivory into the U.S. was banned in 1989. Ivory imported before the ban can be legally sold and traded within the U.S. There are no restrictions on the trade of mammoth ivory.) A scrimshaw artist is known as a "scrimshander" and the artwork itself is often referred to as "scrim".

HutcH has been doing pen and ink artwork most of his life and has sold many of his wildlife drawings over the years. He remembers noticing that President Kennedy had several scrimshawed whales teeth on his desk in the oval office and he became interested in the art form at an early age. In his youth, HuctH discovered that he was color blind and scrimshaw is an art form that came easily to him since it is primarily black and white artwork. In fact, he feels that his color blindness may even be an asset in this type of art because he feels that he sees shades of gray perhaps better than most people.

At the urging of some well known knifemakers such as Gil Hibben and Ed Wallace, about 12 years ago HutcH began doing scrim on the handles of custom knives and has since gained quite a following of knifemakers and knife collectors who send him their knives to be adorned with his scrimshaw art. He has "scrimmed" about seventy or eighty highly collectable Randall Made knives over the years as well as many custom handmade knifes worth thousands of dollars. HutcH also scrims some of his own knives that he makes in his home workshop.

HutcH has also found other niche markets for his work.

As a cigar afianado, HutcH met Xikar, the makers of cigar cutters. He made few custom cutters and couple of knives for them and they proved to be very popular. He has since made hundreds of pieces for Xikar and his work has been featured in numerous magazines. He typically uses mammoth ivory on the cutters and scrims cave art images into it. "It's been really a lot of fun to get recognized outside of the knife industry" Hutch says.











In 2005, on a whim, HutcH started making scrimshaw jewelry from smaller pieces of ivory he had laying around. "I had seen a movie with Pierce Brosnan, I can't even remember the name of it, but he had a whale pendant, that looked like carved ivory to me, so I immediately came home after seeing that movie and made up a few pendants. Then people started saying it would be nice if you had ear rings to match the pendants so I started taking the ivory that I couldn't use for knife handles and cigar cutters and started making earrings, pendants and necklaces."  Hutch took $6000 worth of his jewelry to a show and sold out before the end of the second day. HutcH says "I never imagined that it would go like that." This year HutcH is expanding his line of jewelry to include more pieces for both men and women with the hope that it leads to more people appreciating the scrimshaw art form. HutcH says, "I'm fifty two years old and by the time I die, I hope if nothing else, I have accomplished being able to make scrimshaw something that just about everybody knows and make it an accepted main-line art form. If I have it my way, there will be so many scrimshanders out there that everybody will appreciate scrimshaw. I want more people to scrim."

I asked HutcH if scrimshaw is a hard art form to learn and if he ever teaches people to scrimshaw and he replied, "I have taught scrimshaw on an individual basis. The main thing about scrimshaw is that you can teach somebody the basics, how to accomplish the scrim, how to prepare the surface, and after that, it's how that person develops their individual technique." HutcH say that he can often identify various scrimshaw artist's work just by their technique, even before seeing the signature. "Gary Williams, who signs all his work Garbo, I can tell his work above anyone else's. He is the one that I aspire to someday be as good as. But I will never be able to match the amount of color that he does, being color blind. I always use color incidentally, I don't use it as a major form. But, I also create better values being color blind because I see more black and white gradients."

HutcH generally does not work by tracing or drawing his images on the scrimshaw material before starting to inscribe. He usually works by looking at a photo and drawing what he sees, or his interpretation of it. He sometimes traces a basic outline to define the areas he wants to work on or sometimes tapes a paper guide to the piece to help him with keeping words in a straight line and the letters properly spaced.

HutcH tells me that people often do not understand or appreciate the amount time and and preparation that goes into scrimshaw, particularly when doing photo-realistic work. He says, "That's the number one thing that I think most people don't realize with scrimshaw, is the amount of research that you have to do to find the proper artwork to work from, to take three or four pictures and compose a piece of art for it. Every time you do a piece of scrim, you are actually doing a commissioned piece of art and that requires all of the prep and everything that someone would do for a painting. You've got to have it right or else there's no point in doing it. When you have someone that walks up and says "All I know is that I want a mermaid on that piece of ivory, but I don't know whether I want a realistic looking one or a fantasy one or I don't don't know if I want it to be erotic or what." Scrimshaw is the art of putting the artwork on the handle (material). It is not the art of reading somebody's mind and the biggest thing that you get into is accumulating something for that person to see before you start scratching on their ivory."


HutcH is currently working on a project to scrim a depiction of the Vietnam War Memorial onto the handles of a limited edition commemorative set of fifty Randall Made knives. Hutch collaborated with Richard Schuchmann of SCAR Custom Knives to come up with the design and get the project off the ground. He is using the reverse scrimshaw technique on the black buffalo horn knife handles and works from photographs to inscribe an image of the three soldiers in the War Memorial statue behind some of the names inscribed on the Memorial wall. The reverse side of the handle is scrimmed with the words "Remember Vietnam" and has more names from the memorial wall scrimmed above and below in a lighter inscription. HutcH said "Richard (Schuchmann) is a Vietnam vet, I have cousins who are Vietnam veterans, and I have the deepest respect for them. I hope that this is something that pleases them and it is meant as an expression of appreciation more than anything else."

HutcH also makes and sells custom pipe tamps of ivory and Damascus steel.

HutcH frequently shows and sells his scrimshaw art at knife shows and cigar shows. His custom Xikar cigar cutters can be ordered through the Xikar web site at You can contact HutcH by email at .

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