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
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 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.
There was a PBS special covering the "African Black Wood" used for
Like a lot of other things it is becoming VERY scarce.
You will be bidding against the instrument makers world wide to get
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.
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.;
For small accents, Ivory and Ebony, keep an eye out for dead pianos,
don't let them go to the landfill.
I have been in the Congo and buying pure ebony is an art and a science.
The native carvers prefer to use Wenge (see
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.
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.
Which Ebony did you buy, and or you may have gotten a piece with sap wood.
Like Oak there are several verities.
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