Ebony Wood | Types of Ebony, Uses, Pros, and Cons

Introduction

Ebony Woods is known for making quality cabinet work, inlaying, musical instrument parts, and ornamental objects. It gives a great dark appearance, Ebony is good resistance to termites and insects. Due to its great stability and durability, it is suitable to use for furniture. It has many special properties that make it different from other hardwood.

An Ebony is a group of many species. More than 10 real Ebony species are counted into the Ebony families. Some famous species of ebony are Macassar Ebony, Brown Ebony, Ceylon Ebony, Gaboon Ebony, and many more. All species are close to each other but not the same. They differ in properties of weight, Janka hardness, grain pattern, etc. 

All species of ebony are in high demand and extremely expensive. Ebony is rated as very durable, though susceptible to insect attack. Some Ebony species have a mild, slightly unpleasant odor when being worked Such as Brown Ebony(Libidibia Paraguariensis).

Tree HeightAbout 30 feet
Wood colorDark brown or jet black
FinishingFinishes well
WorkabilityDifficult to work due to its extremely high density.
Wood TypeHardwood
AvailabilityIt is not readily available

Ebony Uses

Furniture

To make high-quality furniture, wood is durable, stable, and looking good is an important quality. We have got all these qualities in ebony wood. The history of ebony wood for domestic uses is very old. The kings and ministers of earlier times used ebony for furniture. He was crazy about its dark beauty. However, it is very expensive wood. Yet everyone wants to use it.

If you use furniture made of ebony wood in your homes, then be proud of yourself.

Musical instruments part

Ebony wood is used to make parts of musical instruments. There are many reasons to use it. Such as superior bend strength, rich appearance, and great finishing.

Wood color and bending strength are very important for musical instruments. Making equipment parts requires complex structures. Ebony can be easily bent by steam bending. 

Mahogany and Sapele wood are widely used for musical instruments. Although it is cheaper than ebony. But Mahogany is expensive as compared to many other hardwoods.

Decorative objects 

Ebony may be a great option for making decorative objects. Because it gives great finishing and a fine texture.  Although the workability of ebony is not as good as softwood and other hardwood. Because sometimes its interlocking grain can make it difficult to carve. Pine, Cedar, and Redwood are also considered suitable for making decorative objects.

Objects made of ebony wood look like any black stone after polishing and finishing. Their prices are very high in the local and international markets.

Tools handle

Ebony has great shock resistance properties and high-density wood. Which is considered suitable for use with tool handles. Because It can easily withstand shocks while working. Also, it is looking great. 

The Ebony Wood Advantages and Disadvantages

Ebony Wood Advantages

Appearance: Ebony is known for its Appearance. These properties make it different from other hardwoods. There are many other hardwoods that are durable and high-density wood-like ebony but do not have a dark appearance like ebony.

Durability: Ebony is also known for its durability. It’s very dense. So that the chances of getting an insect in it are very less. Furniture made of ebony lasts for about 100 to 150 years in low maintenance. The wooden art is still intact in some old forts.

Great Strength: Ebony is strong wood and It has great strength, it can easily withstand heavy loads.

Straight Grain and Texture: Almost all species of ebony wood have straight grain, fine and uniform texture, and good natural luster. So that the final object looks attractive. It holds paint, polish, and stain well.

Ebony Wood Disadvantages

Price: Ebony wood is a great species. It is in high demand, and the owners like to use it. Ebony is a very expensive wood. The only drawback of ebony is its high price. But I think it’s worth the price for ebony.

Workability: Due to the irregular grain in some wood logs, it can sometimes be difficult to work with small tools. Otherwise, work can be easily done with an electric machine.

Availability: Ebony has a slow to medium growth rate, it grows around 12″ to 24″ per year. Due to low production and extremely expensive, it is available only in some big stores. 

Ebony wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices but is on the IUCN Red List. Its population has decreased by about 20% in the last 3 generations.

Types of Ebony Wood

Types of ebony
Ebony wood

Gaboon Ebony( Diospyros Crassiflora)

Gaboon Ebony is commonly known as African ebony, West African ebony, and Benin ebony. It is native to Equatorial West Africa. The heartwood of Gaboon is jet-black. Sometimes dark brown or grayish-brown streaks may be present.

Gaboon Ebony is very durable and hard (Janka Hardness is 3,080 LBF (13,700 N)) with good resistance to termites and other insects. It performs well in water and moisture.

Uses: Decorative objects, musical instrument parts, pool cues, carvings, and other small specialty items.

Workability: Can be difficult to work with hand tools due to their extremely high density. There are problems with interlocked or irregular grain while working with the planer.

Macassar Ebony ( Diospyros Celebica)

Macassar Ebony is commonly known as black ebony, is native to Southeast Asia(Sulawesi in Indonesia). Heartwood is the dark brown striped appearance of dark brown and black and the sapwood is pale golden in color.

The Macassar is rated as very durable. But it is more prone to insects and rot. It requires maintenance for outdoor uses. By the way, it is a very strong and durable wood, its Janka hardness is 3,220 LBF (14,140 N) and its dried weight is about 70 lbs/ft3 (1,120 kg/m3).

Uses: Veneer, high-quality cabinetwork, billiard cues, musical instruments, and other small specialty items.

Workability: The workability of Macassar Ebony is not very good. Due to its hardness, there is a problem in working with tools.

Black and White Ebony (Diospyros spp.)

Black and white ebony is commonly known as Gaub tree, Malabar ebony, or pale moon ebony. It is one of the most famous ebony species. It is native to the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

Its heartwood is yellow, with dark black and white stripes, the sapwood is a pale white color. One can easily see the difference between sapwood and hardwood.

Like other species of ebony, it is also very durable. but moderate insect/borer resistance. Its Janka hardness is 1,780 LBF (7,920 N) and dried weight is about 51 lbs/ft3 (825 kg/m3).

Uses:  Turned objects, inlay, and other small wood projects.

Workability: Its workability is fine,  turns well, and finishes Well.

Ceylon Ebony ( Diospyros ebenum)

Ceylon Ebony is native to Southeast Asia. Its heartwood is jet black and somewhere there are gray or dark brown streaks. It looks very attractive.

Its heartwood is very durable and decay-resistant, but not sapwood. Treated wood is more suitable for longer use. Its Janka hardness is 2,430 LBF (10,790 N) and dried weight is about 57 lbs/ft3 (915 kg/m3).

Uses: Inlay, carving, musical instrument parts (piano keys, bridges, nuts, etc.), and turned objects.

Workability: It is difficult to work and it does not dry easily because of its high density. It is also difficult to glue and stain.

Malaysian Blackwood (Diospyros Ebonasea)

Malaysian Blackwood is native to Malaysia. Its heartwood ranges from a medium brown to nearly black and the sapwood is a pale yellow to tan color, with brown or reddish streaks.

It has a straight grain(Sometimes it can also be irregular), with a very fine, even texture and good natural luster. Malaysian Blackwood is very durable. It is not rated as rot-resistant. It is not suitable for outdoor uses.

Uses: Acoustic guitars, turned objects, knife handles, and inlay.

Workability:  Its workability is not very good. Its high density and irregular grain make it difficult to work with hand tools.

Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)

Diospyros virginiana is commonly known as white ebony. It is native to the Eastern United States. Persimmon heartwood is dark brown to black and sapwood is white to pale yellowish-brown. Sapwood is wider and the heartwood is shorter.

Its Janka hardness is 2,300 LBF (10,230 N) and the dried weight is 52 lbs/ft3 (835 kg/m3). It does not rot resistance. Because it has a high amount of sapwood. The heartwood is low to medium rot resistance but less than another ebony.

Use: Turned objects, golf club heads, veneer, and other small specialty wood items.

Workability: Due to its straight grain, its workability is fine. glue, Turns, and finishes well.

Queensland Ebony ( Diospyros Humilis)

Queensland ebony is found throughout Queensland and extending into Northern New South Wales and the Northern Territory. its tree is not tall. Its average dried weight is 1250kg/m3.

It has low to medium rot-resistant properties.

Uses: Fine cabinetwork, carving, musical instrument parts, and turned objects.

Workability: Overall its workability is fine. Sometimes it is difficult to work with hand tools due to irregular grain.

Coromandel Ebony ( Diospyros Melanoxylon)

Coromandel Ebony is also known as East Indian ebony, it is native to India and Sri Lanka. In India, its leaves are used to make Beedi. which is a conventional cigarette in India.

Its heartwood is jet blackout sapwood dark then light brown.

Uses: Decorative objects and musical instruments parts.

Mauritius Ebony ( Diospyros Tessellaria)

Mauritius is slow-growing, trees can reach up to 20-25 meters in height. It is native to the western Indian Ocean. Its heartwood is black while and sapwood is white.

Straight grain with a uniform texture. Moderate Rot Resistance.

Uses: musical instruments, small pieces of furniture, and marquetry.

Workability: Overall good, It turns, gluing and finishes well.

Mun Ebony ( Diospyros mun)

Mun Ebony is also known as Vietnamese Ebony. It is native to Laos and Vietnam. Its heartwood is medium brown, sometimes it can also be a reddish hue and the sapwood is pale yellow.

It has a straight grain, with a very fine uniform texture and a high natural luster. Mun Ebony has low to medium rot resistance properties. 

Uses: Inlay, carvings, veneer, and turned objects.

Workability: It is difficult to work with hand tools due to their high density. Mun ebony can be difficult to glue. But it turns and finishes well.

How to Identify Ebony?

Many owners do not know how to identify genuine ebony and black painted wood and are afraid of being duped in the market. There are many ways to identify real ebony which can be helpful for an owner.

Scratch a small area: Another hardwood is stained and polished to imitate ebony. Scratch a small area and see if it is as dark as the entire surface. If the outside of the piece is treated – polished, etc. Then you will get to see the difference in colors.

You can ask the dealers to cut a small piece of wood. Then you can clearly see the difference between the cut part and the top surface of the wood.

Use acetone: you can rub a small area with a cloth soaked in acetone. If the cloth turns black and brown, then the wood has been stained. Because we know that real ebony never leaves its natural color. This is the easiest and quickest way to find fake ebony.

Sound like solid: It should make a “ting” sound (as a solid material does) when you tap it with something. This sound is due to its high density.

These were some of the ways by which you can identify real ebony. If you know some other method, then definitely tell in the comment section below. 

Try to always buy wood from a trusted dealer.

Is Ebony Wood waterproof?

Ebony is good water-resistant wood. It performs better in water and moisture than many other hardwoods. Some low-density wood absorbs water when it comes into contact with moisture. How much water a wood absorbs depends on the density of the wood. 

Some woods have natural water-resistant properties and some woods are made water-resistant by paint, polish, and many other treatments. The paint or polish closes the open pores of the wood. So that a layer is formed between the wood and moisture. Therefore the wood does not absorb excess moisture.

Well, we know that no wood is 100% waterproof. Some high-density wood can be used for moisture. Such as ebony, black locust, teak, ipe, and many more.

Is Ebony toxic to humans?

Although serious reactions are fairly uncommon, some species of ebony are specifically reported to cause skin irritation. Such as Macassar Ebony(Diospyros celebica) and Brown Ebony, Guayacan (Libidibia paraguariensis). Some species may be responsible for eye, skin, and respiratory irritation.

So safety first, if you are already dealing with the problem of skin allergy, then before working on ebony, use gloves for hands and glasses for eyes.

The conclusion

Overall, ebony is a superior wood species. It is expensive and the most demanding wood. Ebony is used for many purposes. It is famous for its high density, dark color, and durability.

If you are planning to use ebony then definitely use it. Its high price may bother you a bit. But I think that’s ebony worth.

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