The Imperial Fists practice scrimshaw using bones from the hands of their dead. After battle, Space Marines who distinguished themselves in the recent combat are awarded the skeletal hands of fallen battle-brothers, the individual bones of which are adorned with carvings, designs, and ornamentations. Scrimshaw is undertaken solemnly by members of the Chapter as an opportunity to practice mental discipline, focus, attention to detail and coping with battle stress. Finished scrimshaws are worn as decorations, particularly by officers, but are also collected and used to decorate the facilities of the Imperial Fists generally.[1b]
Although the bones of the hand are the most commonly used, there are recorded instances of other types of bones being used.
The designs used in scrimshaw vary widely and include mellow scenes, weapons, armor and depictions of battle.[1a]
- “We believe in meticulous, scrupulous conduct and tactics. Hence, the renowned courtesy and the artistry of our Chapter. As you mature, the fingers of your fists, when idle, may well itch to scribe wondrous designs upon the finger bones of your dead Brethren, honouring and adorning their now fleshless fists. This is how we love to express our dextrous craftsmanship. Within the mighty power glove which can crush an alien skull like a puffball, there resides such microscopic discipline!...Aye, after a battle once you have recited your thanksgivings, or prior to a campaign, while you are girding your soul for a crusade...many of you may yearn to kneel in your cell with saw and magnilens, with rasp and buffing wheel and carbide graver, with brush and inkhorn. And with the hand bones of a slaughtered or euthanised comrade in front of you...”[1a]
- -Battle-Brother Rhetoricus introducing the practice of scrimshaw to new recruits.
- "Fists of beauty,
- Fingers of death;
- Emperors fists,
- With death is our tryst"[1a]
- -Battle-Brother Rhetoricus reciting a poem on the cultural significance of scrimshaw to the Chapter.
Notable Instances of Scrimshaw
- In order to overcome the deaths of his battle-brothers Biff Tundrish and Yeremi Valence, Lexandro D'Arquebus removed the flesh from his hand and scrimshawed their names on his bare bones along with the words "Necromunda" and "Trazior Hive," the world and location from which he and his fallen brethren were recruited. The flesh on the hand was later replaced with synthetic tissue.[1c]
- A pair of unidentified battle-brothers engage in an honour duel over a disagreement on the proper stages of preparing bone for scrimshawing.[1a]
- The Pillar of Bone on Terra contains scrimshawed bones of fallen Battle-Brothers.
- The Remains of Rogal Dorn.
- The Bones of Osrak.
- The relic bolter Xenobane, decorated with the scrimshawed femur of its original owner, Weiss.
- 1: Space Marine (Novel)
- 2: Deathwatch: Redblade (Short Story)