For those who enjoy a good mystery, this tool should fill the bill. It has a blade that is 10 inches wide, and about two inches, that is tightly forge welded to a short shank that spreads to an open socket. That shank is 9 ½ inches long to the top of the socket. The blade is slightly cupped, presenting a cutting or scraping edge that conforms to slightly curved work surface. A curious wooden handle is fitted to the socket, and held there with a very old and worn square cut nail. The wooden handle appears to made of a very straight grain soft wood, with very tight layers. I’m guessing that it is old growth hemlock or fir. The handle widens from 1 ¾ inches where it emerges from the socket, to 3 ½”at its top. The top 3 inches of the handle are in the form of transverse cylinder, 3 inches diameter. The entire length of the tool, from edge to handle top is 19 ½ inches. The wooden handle has some interesting decoration. The two side, below the cylindrical top have two deep notches, or indentations on each side. The handle, just below the cylinder at the top are perforated by single semilunar hole, whose inner edges are chamfered. Finally one side of the flat surface of the handle (below the hole) is deeply engraved with a cursive, “I (or J) A S”. This is probably the initials of an owner or maker of the tool. The ends of the letters have curious serifs that can be seen as triangles, or small whale flukes. The tool is well worn and is grimy from use and age. To my eye it has northern European “Look” (German, Dutch, Scandinavian).
My best guess is that this tool would have been good for hand scraping strips of Right Whale baleen during the initial processing of baleen following its removal from the head of these whale. This involved prying apart the baleen lamellae, and removing the surface grunge, and especially the bony material in which the baleen strips were embedded in each of the upper jaws. In support of this I argue that the cupping of the blade just fits the shape of Right Whale baleen lamellae; the shape of the entire tool (when viewed from the top, is similar to the shape of a right whale---from the blade (broad flukes) to the heavy blunt handle (whale head), to the handle hole (blow holes), to the fluke like serifs of the cursive engraved letters. The Germans, Dutch, English, etc were Right Whaling in the North Atlantic as long ago as the 17th Centnry, and while I don’t think this tool is that old, I’d put it certainly as early as the late 18th Century. I think that it is a treasure piece of whalecraft.