Greene inspired Night Stand #7: Ebony - how do I tool it?

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Blog entry by ChicoWoodnut posted 02-26-2008 05:45 AM 1684 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 6: Templates and Cloudlifts Part 7 of Greene inspired Night Stand series Part 8: Cloudlift panels »

I bought five pieces of gabon ebony from e-bay. It arrived today. I
have never worked with ebony before and I have a couple of questions.

I intend to cut the pieces with the band saw. I this the best way to
size it?

I have Darrels book. I am making some ebony splines for a table. Will
the ebony machine well with a router? I am worried that it might
splinter or shatter.

The ebony is coated with what appears to be wax. Is this common?

Any tips are welcome. I want to start miling it this weekend.

-- Scott - Chico California

11 comments so far

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 3769 days

#1 posted 02-26-2008 06:20 AM

It is a great material to use and yes you can bandsaw it. It is very dense and I’d suggest using very sharp blades and bits. Take your time and set up your cuts on cheaper wood first… Compared to ebony, I think all other woods are cheaper…


-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View TomK 's profile


504 posts in 3872 days

#2 posted 02-26-2008 06:25 AM

Scott, I know there are many here with much more experience than I, but I cut 1/4 ” Ebony strips on a table saw (new sharp blade) without any chipout at all for an in progress hall table. This was out of 1/4 inch thick stock. I did overlay the stock with 1/8 masonite during the cuts, but you should have no problems cutting on the bandsaw. I just got a bandsaw or I would have used it instead.

-- If you think healthcare is expensive now, wait until it's free! PJ O'Rourke

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 3986 days

#3 posted 02-26-2008 06:29 AM


It’s usually very brittle, and will tear out very easily. Both a band saw and table saw will cut it fine. You just
turn less of it into saw dust using a bandsaw. A router will work well, just make sure that you back it up with a piece of scrap, to avoid chip out, if you are cutting across the grain.

It’s one of my favorite woods next to boxwood, swiss pear and holly.

It’s great for accents and inlays. If you look at my box from the competition you can see my use of ebony
on the front.

You will find a lot of expensive woods covered in wax. It’s just to protect it and to prevent it from

How much did you get?

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 3813 days

#4 posted 02-26-2008 06:50 AM

I bought five pieces that are about 6” X 2” and a little over 3/8ths thick. Also 6 pen blanks. I will be using them for ebony splines and plugs in my night stands.

thanks tom, Tom and Gary.

-- Scott - Chico California

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3872 days

#5 posted 02-26-2008 02:22 PM

I have turned a couple of pens from ebony. I quickly chose to wear a respirator early in the first pen.

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 4019 days

#6 posted 02-26-2008 02:45 PM

I might mention that African Blackwood a reasonable substitute for ebony if you cant find the latter or have limited finances.
I have about 50 lbs of it and I think my average is only about $6.00 /lb.

I use it for decoration only. It extremely hard and can be brittle so you have to take it easy with it when you are tooling it.



-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 3802 days

#7 posted 02-27-2008 03:25 AM

Use very sharp blades or tools and wear dust protection. Ebony turns well and can be buffed up to an outstanding shinre.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 3813 days

#8 posted 02-27-2008 06:27 AM

Thanks all,

Someone in a different group related it to working with hard maple, something I can definitely relate to. I’ll be giving it a go this weekend.

-- Scott - Chico California

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4024 posts in 4062 days

#9 posted 02-27-2008 07:57 AM

One thing I’ve noticed when using ebony in conjunction with other woods, especially open-grained and lighter woods. It may be necessary to scrape or plane in the final surfacing of pre-finished pieces to minimize the transfer of ebony sanding dust into the adjacent wood(s). It’s pretty obvious against maple, although fairly easy to clean off with a vacuum or microfiber dusting cloth.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View Tom Adamski's profile

Tom Adamski

306 posts in 3769 days

#10 posted 02-27-2008 05:57 PM

Doug, I’ll second that… Making multiple species veneer glue ups, I regulary use a 1# cut shellac to close the pores to keep the darker woods from contaminating the lighter ones.

-- Anybody can become a woodworker, but only a Craftsman can hide his mistakes.

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 3813 days

#11 posted 02-28-2008 02:49 AM

Thanks everyone. I don’t think I have a source for Blackwood but it does look interesting. I plan to polish the exposed parts of the ebony on a polishing wheel using some brown rouge as suggested in Darrell Peart’s book “Green & Greene Design Elements for the Workshop” which is pretty much my bible for this project. I will sand the mahogany case before inserting the ebony splines and pegs. That should eliminate contamination of the primary wood.

Thanks again. This has been a useful topic.

-- Scott - Chico California

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