Moai out of ebony

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Project by ic3ss posted 01-12-2012 01:17 AM 1683 views 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have to ask a question for anyone who has worked with ebony. What do you use for a finish? Will the wood crack and fall apart if I don’t put anything on it? This piece was bought from Rockler and it had wax on both ends for moisture control. I’m assuming that it’s been dried properly, there were no cracks in it.

I was at the wood supply place and my current project called for a small piece of ebony. After taking it all home, I was looking at the 3” long piece of ebony meant for turning and an idea came to me, more like an image. I looked at the wood and I saw a Moai, the head statues of Easter Island. My project is now on hold until next week, but I did get time last Monday to go grab my rasp and carve this.

This is the first time I’ve done anything with ebony, and I can say now that I understand why people have used it for carving for thousands of years. It’s exceptionally hard, but yet it carves quite nicely. The grain is so tight that the end grain is not apparent, it just looks like face grain. I sanded it to 2000 grit and that was enough to reveal the blemishes in my carving process. I’m going to leave it like that, I think it makes it look old and weathered.

Ebony being endangered and very expensive, it’s not something that I would use very often, I just had to try this once. Now I just need to find a name for him.

Thanks for looking, and I’d like to read what you think about finishes for ebony.


-- "I am endeavoring, ma'am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bear skins."

6 comments so far

View Sodabowski's profile


2382 posts in 3035 days

#1 posted 01-12-2012 02:41 AM

Nothing at all.

Centuries-old items made of ebony with no finish at all are still doing very fine.
Nice carving BTW !

-- Thomas - Pondering the inclusion of woodworking into physics and chemistry classes...

View Bill Davis's profile

Bill Davis

226 posts in 4126 days

#2 posted 01-12-2012 03:13 AM

The Ebony I’ve worked with does crack if not properly dried. Some splits have been horrendous. If you do not know the current moisture content and the average RH where it will reside I would suggest you find out. My guess is that since it was waxed it likely had been dried – but would I bet on it NO! It is likely too pricey of stuff to take chances on. I have finished Ebony three ways. 1) unfinished but sanded to about 600-1000grit. It looks nice that way and is silky smoothe. 2) As in 1 but then given a sheen by applying a coat of mineral oil. The oil eventually dries out and will need to be renewed if you want to restore the sheen. 3) sprayed on lacquer. I put on about 5-6 coats then sanded to 600 grit (more or less) to get the desired smootheness and sheen. I liked all of those and would do any over again. If you look at my projects and blog you will see two listed as Kamagong which is an Ebony from the Philippines. It is also called Mabolo or Velvet-apple (Diospyros blancoi) is native to the Philippines. I’ve got about 50 bd-ft in my garage.

View a1Jim's profile (online now)


117330 posts in 3779 days

#3 posted 01-12-2012 03:43 AM

very cool carving.nice work.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View HighRockWoodworking's profile


182 posts in 3182 days

#4 posted 01-12-2012 05:10 AM

Nice carving, I like it!

-- Chris Adkins,

View Jorge Velez's profile

Jorge Velez

356 posts in 2789 days

#5 posted 01-12-2012 06:45 PM

very nice carving! how long it took to carv?

-- Jorge Velez, Guadalajara, Mexico.

View ic3ss's profile


391 posts in 2979 days

#6 posted 01-12-2012 07:37 PM

I did it in an afternoon. Most of the work was done with a rasp, then followed by detail work with a dremmel. Sanding from 100 to 2000 grit makes it polished.


-- "I am endeavoring, ma'am, to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bear skins."

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