African blackwood

Mike Stafford

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703
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Coastal plain of North Carolina
No, African blackwood is actually a member of the rosewood family (Dalbergia) whereas Ebony is in the diospyros family which just happens to include Persimmon. Texas ebony is not a true ebony.

It works well but can be brittle. It also can respond poorly to excessive sanding. Like most dense exotics it has a tendency to heat check if it gets too hot from sanding. So clean cuts or sanding with a lubricant is recommended. I prefer to sand dense exotics with paste wax which can be easily cleaned between grits with a paper towel and some mineral spirits.
 

Frank Fusco

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12,219
Location
Mountain Home, Arkansas
No, African blackwood is actually a member of the rosewood family (Dalbergia) whereas Ebony is in the diospyros family which just happens to include Persimmon. Texas ebony is not a true ebony.

It works well but can be brittle. It also can respond poorly to excessive sanding. Like most dense exotics it has a tendency to heat check if it gets too hot from sanding. So clean cuts or sanding with a lubricant is recommended. I prefer to sand dense exotics with paste wax which can be easily cleaned between grits with a paper towel and some mineral spirits.
Interesting. Thanks.
 

Ryan Mooney

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Staff member
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The Gorge Area, Oregon
It's less brittle than "true" ebony though and has even better "tone wood" qualities so widely used by instrument (woodwind) makers. I think it's also a more "true black" so some people like it for that.
 

Mike Stafford

Member
Messages
703
Location
Coastal plain of North Carolina
There are many ebonies. Some are black as night (Gaboon and Ceylon (which is the blackest of the black that I have seen) ebony); ebony with stripes (Macassar ebony, striped ebony, Mun ebony) and even black and white ebony which happens to be a favorite of mine because of how interesting the resulting woodwork is. And Ryan is correct blackwood is less brittle generally than ebony. I much prefer turning blackwood over true ebony although I don't find as many problems with the Mun and Macassar varieties.

Several years ago I was traveling and happened to sit across the aisle from an African woman (not African-American) who was using a hand carved cane. What intrigued me was that the cane was made of ebony yet had the most amazing carvings on its surface. I asked the woman if I might see it because of my interest in all things wood and she let me hold it and examine it. It was unbelievably heavy. I would not want to be rapped across the skull with that cane. She verified that it was indeed ebony and knew the tree from which it came. It was a beautiful thing and gleamed like black gold. It was an amazing piece of work.

I saw the episode where the guy had his handle from blackwood split/crack. It appeared to me that the wood had somewhat spiral grain which I think would make it more likely to split. I have numerous pieces of both blackwood and ebony split because of my carelessness while sanding. Once a dense wood like that gets hot it is very likely to split.
 
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