Ebony – Total Wood Species Guide

PROS: Ebony’s color ranges from dark reddish-brown to gray to black brown. Sometimes it can be pure black throughout but you will pay big bucks for it. It is amongst the darkest woods. The grain pattern varies from straight to slightly interlocked to a little curly. The texture of the grain is extremely fine. The wood has a lustrous, almost metallic look. It is a hard, durable wood that is resistant to termites. It is stronger than maple and santos mahogany. Ebony finishes beautifully. Usually it has the appearance of a dark, polished floor. Ebony finishes beautifully with little effort.

CONS: Because it is such a hard wood, ebony is difficult to machine. Ebony will dull your hand tools. It requires that nails be pre-drilled. The sawdust, if exposed to it for long enough, will cause dermatitis. Please wear a proper mask. If you are concerned about working with the sawdust, you may want to go with the prefinished ebony. Ebony is fairly rare tree and therefore its wood is hard to obtain and expensive.

TREE FACTS: Ebony is native to West Africa but grows in the Asian, Indian and African continent. It is often used in the making of piano keys and other musical instruments. Ebony is also used in commercial pool cue turners. Ebony literally means the “fruit of the gods” in Greek. The ancient Greeks used this wood to make wine goblets because ebony was believed to be an antidote for poison and it was used to ward off the enemy’s evil intent. The reason some people today think ebony is endowed with magical powers is probably related to the ancient Greek beliefs. These trees are quite small. An ebony that is 100 years old will be 50″ in height and 1 1/2″ in diameter. Today, it is hard to find completely black ebony so new drying methods are being employed to darken the wood and make its color consistent. Also, synthetic pigments are sometimes added to the wood to blacken it.