This material is scarcely at all used by the amateur, and the few remarks that are offered arc principally extracted from Mr. Aikin's paper.
"Whalebone, as I have already stated, (says Mr. Aikin,) may be considered as a kind of horn; which latter substance it resembles perfectly, both in its chemical and principal physical properties; and is particularly interesting as forming the transition from horn to hair."
"It is the substitute for teeth in the Greenland whale, and in the black southern whale; but is not found in any of the cetaceous animals that have teeth.
"From the roof of the mouth hang down on each side the tongue about three hundred plates of whalebone, all the blades on one side being parallel to each other and at right angles to the jaw-bone." "The average length of the middle blades is about nine feet, but they have occasionally occurred of the length of fourteen or fifteen feet."
"The general colour of whalebone is a dusky greyish black, intermixed with thin stripes or layers of a pale colour, which are often almost white - very rarely the entire flake is milk-white."
"The preparation of the whalebone for use is very simple. It is boiled in water for several hours, by which it becomes soft enough to be cut up while hot, in lengths of different dimensions according to the use to which it is to be applied." "Whalebone that has been boiled, and has become cold again, is harder and of a deeper colour than at first; but the jet-black whalebone has been dyed, and by the usual processes it takes very bright and durable colours."*
Whalebone is now principally used for the stretchers for umbrellas, and as a substitute for bristles in common brushes; it is also plaited into whips, and solid pieces of mixed shades are twisted for walking-sticks; but it does not admit of being soldered or joined together like tortoiseshell. Whalebone also furnishes a very neat and durable covering for pocket telescopes. Narrow pieces of the material are grooved or made into ribs, by drawing them like wire through a corresponding aperture in a steel plate, after which they are wound round the tube, and "tucked under" the rings at the extremities. Broad flat strips of the parti-coloured whalebone, (the light portions of which absorb the green dye,) are also used: these are secured by narrow black bands which overlap the two edges, and other bauds are wound around the ends also.
* Trans, of the Society of Arte, Vol. LII., pp. 347 - 9.