This week’s mystery object is a seam rubber. Like its name implies, it was used to smooth and flatten the heavy canvas, making creases in sails before the seams were stitched.
The fact that it is carved from whalebone adds another interesting component. Originally, the term “scrimshaw” referred to objects made by sailors from the byproducts of whaling, such as bone, teeth and baleen. A seam rubber would have been an important tool in a sailor’s kit. Over time, the term scrimshaw has come to include the more whimsical pieces made by sailors in their spare time.