Only reaching the lower levels of the rain forest canopy, ebony trees are relatively small. Yet specimens that yield black wood have given it a larger-than-life reputation. Ebony comes from a variety of species growing in the tropics of India, Africa, Malaysia, and Indonesia. While the most valuable wood has the characteristic solid black color, much ebony lumber is brown, tan, red, or gray, often with stripes and bands creating variations in color. Persimmon, a domestic wood sometimes called white ebony, is a member of the same family.
Two characteristics of ebony are its extreme hardness and brittleness, which make the wood difficult to work with both power and hand tools. Cutting edges are likely to experience severe blunting, and chipping is a problem. Pre-boring for screws or nails is essential to avoid splitting. Because it is so dense, gluing generally calls for epoxy or polyurethane adhesives.
Because the trees are so small, ebony lumber is generally available only in very small dimensions. Since ebony is becoming rarer, use of the wood is limited to accent pieces and small projects, which works out just fine, since its weight and lack of structural strength makes ebony inappropriate for most larger applications anyway. Ebony is a good candidate for any project requiring accents with a highly polished luster.
Wood grain images provided by HobbitHouseInc.com