Obtaining geochemical profiles using X-ray fluorescent (XRF) techniques has become a standard procedure in many sediment core studies. The resulting datasets are not only important tools for palaeoclimatic and palaeoceanographic reconstructions, but also for stratigraphic correlation. The International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) has therefore recently introduced shipboard application of a handheld XRF device, making geochemical data directly available to the science party. In all XRF scanning techniques, the physical properties of wet core halves cause substantial analytical deviations. In order to obtain estimates of element concentrations (e.g. for quantitative analyses of fluxes or mass-balance calculations), a calibration of the scanning data is required. We test whether results from the handheld XRF analysis on discrete samples are suitable for calibrating scanning data. Log-ratios with Ca as a common denominator were calculated. The comparison between the handheld device and conventional measurements show that the latter provide high-quality data describing Al, Si, K, Ca, Ti, Mn, Fe, Zn, Rb and Sr content (R2 compared with conventional measurements: ln(Al/Ca) = 0.99, ln(Si/Ca) = 0.98, ln(K/Ca) = 0.99, ln(Ti/Ca) = 0.99, ln(Mn/Ca) = 0.99, ln(Fe/Ca) = 0.99, ln(Zn/Ca) = 0.99 and ln(Sr/Ca) = 0.99). Our results imply that discrete measurements using the shipboard handheld analyser are suitable for the calibration of XRF scanning data. Our test was performed on downcore sediments from IODP Expedition 355 that display a wide variety of lithologies of both terrestrial and marine origin. The implication is that our findings are valid on a general scale and that shipboard handheld XRF analysis on discrete samples should be used for calibrating XRF scanning data.