Bentwood Boxes by Jim Vaccarino

In the 19th Century, sailors – often those crewing whaleships – made boxes to store personal effects and as love tokens for family back home. These boxes were highly prized and the few remaining original examples are in private collections and nautical museums such as the Peabody Essex Museum and the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

Jim Vaccarino is a ship model builder and restorer for both museums and a member of the Scrimshaw Forensics Laboratory in New Bedford. He specializes in whaling vessels – whaleships and whaleboats – and the scrimshaw artifacts created by the crews. He acquires antique pantry boxes from the 19th Century, restores them and inlays them in the style of the ditty boxes created by the whalemen of that era.

The motifs are classic scrimshaw designs, many copied from designs in museum and private collections. The inlays are comprised of exotic woods and material including Mother of Pearl, Holly, Burled Elm, Ebony and bone from various non-protected species such as camel or giraffe. The early ditty boxes were often made of whalebone and these substitutes are essentially indistinct from the original material.

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