My ebony doesn't look like ebony...

Greetings All, I have some Ebony that I want to use to replicate the look of pegged joinery. I have sanded and polished through the ranges of sandpaper upto 600. The ebony still has a brownish tint to it. I'm trying to get the same look as the deep black as seen in Greene & Greene furniture. There are a few articles this month in a couple of the wwing mags about Greene & Greene and their work. Cool stuff indeed. Am I missing a step or something to get that polished black look??? TIA, Mark
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What does it look like when you wipe it with alcohol or mineral spirits?
R
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Well, the G & G stuff was made when ebony was ebony. There are many different kinds of ebony, from many different areas. G&G used what is considered "musical grade" ebony that was used in clarinets, oboes, etc. for years. For many different reasons, you likely don't have that stuff. It is jet black everywhere, and simply planing it makes it shine.
It is hard, beautiful, and looks like a piece of phenolic. I have a small piece that is 2"x3/4"x18" I bought about 7 years ago, and even then I paid about $35 for it knowing it was likely to be the only piece of genuine musical grade African ebony I would ever hold.
What you have is probably Gabon or even more likely Macassar ebony. All pen turners (including myself) are familiar with this stuff as it is now all we can get. It is pretty, but known for that brown stripe and muddy black color.
If I wanted the pegs to be shiny, dead on black to replicate the traditional African ebony, I would stain them with India ink, then top coat. Or even more likely I would tape off the peg and spray with a good quality black lacquer from a rattle can.
Just my 0.02.
Robert
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There was a PBS special covering the "African Black Wood" used for clarinets.
Like a lot of other things it is becoming VERY scarce.
You will be bidding against the instrument makers world wide to get some.
Hope you piggy bank is large and full, you're going to need it.
Suspect you are getting something other than true ebony.
Some suppliers like to be, shall we say a little sneaky, like the ones who try to pass off "African Mahogany" as honest Honduras Mahogany.
Lew
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Lew Hodgett wrote:

"African Blackwood" is different from ebony. It's in the same genus as rosewood, where ebony is in its own genus.

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--John
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On Tue, 01 Apr 2008 22:31:25 -0500, mark wrote:

Ebony is a generic name for wood species with very dark or black heartwood. African and Indian ebony are common species.
Quality suppliers still carry black Gabon Ebony, the highest quality product. It is considered endangered.
Gabon Ebony Diospyros crassiflora is usually black or grey with yellowish white sapwood, Brazilian Ebony is brown, Mun Ebony is brown, Black & White Ebony is Brown, Macassar Ebony can be brown or black. Diospyros celebica and diospyros melanoxylon is striped black & brown (From my usual suppliers and purchasing experience, YMMV)
From the web; There are 100's of types of Ebony worldwide, primarily from Asia, India and Africa, but most are only shrubs, and only one found in N. America .. the persimmon tree. Gabon ebony wood is the most pure black of the lot, but can have occasional chocolate brown seams, especially in the middle of larger chunks. You can pay significantly more for wood that is guaranteed to be pure black throughout. The sap wood is a light gray offering extreme contrasts in color that can add dramatic flare to small turning projects like pens and bottle stoppers.
Today it is getting more difficult to get the pure black Ebonies of the world, and instrument makers are sometimes resorting to dying the wood to improve color consistency, or finding synthetic substitutes.
1995 study puts supply at ~10 years; With the high demand of ebony from the international, national, and local level, some 50,000 ebony trees are cut down in Kenya every year. There are only a few pockets of ebony forests left in Kenya, with slow and inadequate action in replanting the tree. The situation is such that Kenya has to import ebony from Tanzania to meet the growing demand for their wood carving industry. The lack of adequate infrastructure in Tanzania makes many of the trees in remote areas hard to access, and therefore "protected" in a sense. It is estimated that the remaining supplies of harvestable wood in Tanzania will be depleted in twenty to thirty years, unless corrective and regenerative measures are taken.
Some endangered hardwood lists, no one seems to agree on which species and where they are harvested from. Some of the worst harvesting is being done by large companies with political clout so the wood they harvest isn't yet considered endangered.; http://www.rainsongsanctuary.com/nursury.htm http://www.rainforestrelief.org/documents/Guidelines.pdf
For small accents, Ivory and Ebony, keep an eye out for dead pianos, don't let them go to the landfill.
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I have been in the Congo and buying pure ebony is an art and a science. The native carvers prefer to use Wenge (see http://www.hobbithouseinc.com/personal/woodpics/wenge.htm . It's a dark brown hard wood. Once the carving is completed they use black shoe polish (or other dyeing agents) on the Wenge wood. Then the carvings are sold as pure ebony. In order to make sure of what were getting we drilled a 1/32 Dia. X 1/8 dp. in the back and look at the color of the wood dust. I have several black carvings in my house made with wenge and pure ebony and you have to hunt to find out which is which.
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You can't get the same quality of ebony these days.
* Use old ebony. Some of mine used to be clarinets.
* Use African Blackwood instead. Maybe not as good as good ebony, but it's better than modern bad ebony.
* Use ebonised hard maple. Not quite as good close-up, but it avoids these endangered tropicals.
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If so, they may have been unusual clarinets as African Blackwood is the wood of choice for Clarinets.

Clearly you do know the difference, so can you tell us a little about which makers made ebony clarinets?

Since he already has ebony, he could also ebonize it, using a black dye or india ink. Another option would be to use linseed oil on it. In fifty years or so it will be black.
--
FF


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Which Ebony did you buy, and or you may have gotten a piece with sap wood. Like Oak there are several verities.
http://www.woodfinder.com/woods/brown_ebony.php
http://www.woodfinder.com/woods/ebony_gaboon.php
http://www.woodfinder.com/woods/ebony_macassar.php
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Dye it. I haven't seen a black ebony fretboard in 30 years that wasn't dyed.
Old piano keyboards might be a good source of ebony -- and some nice ivory veneer as a bonus.
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