For about ten years, Jim Vaccarino has been making contemporary 'ditty boxes' to mirror the ditty boxes made by the whalemen of the 19th Century. The original boxes were made of whalebone or baleen and Jim uses authentic antique 19th Century wooden boxes as the foundation for his work. Jim is an accomplished professional ship model builder/restorer which he has practiced for nearly fifty years. He frequently restores models in museum and private collections and began making the ditty boxes as a result of specializing in the construction and repair of whale ships and whaleboats. The research for this work led him to study the lives and creations of whalemen (scrimshaw) common among which pieces are ditty boxes.
The wood he uses to embellish the boxes is either ebony, holly (which when finished closely resembles ivory or pure whalebone) and rosewood. Many of the designs are taken from original boxes found in collections and commonly depict whales, stars, sawtooth borders and other devices used by the original creators of these pieces.