Your favorite uses for ebony (Kamagong), or... What would you build from it?

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Forum topic by Jonathan posted 03-02-2011 05:08 PM 3406 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2609 posts in 3248 days

03-02-2011 05:08 PM

Topic tags/keywords: ebony ironwood iron wood kamagong

I have an opportunity to legally (approved and properly documented) get a good amount of ebony (Kamagong, aka: “ironwood” and “mabolo”) from a friend who will be returning from the Philippines in a few months, at some very attractive pricing. Wiki link to Kamagong and Mabolo.

I have only worked with very small pieces of ebony before from pen blanks, and they were a different species.

With that being said, I am wondering what your favorite uses for ebony are? What would you build, or use it for, if you could get it in a larger quantity, and larger sizes?

It sounds like I might be able to get pieces that are up to 6”x8”x7’-long. Not that I want any that thick, but some smaller pieces that are a bit thicker might be good for bowl blanks, or something similar? I’ve also heard that it seems very prone to cracking though when turned because of any residual heat from drilling, sanding, polishing, etc. and that you have to avoid building heat when turning it. I thought a pepper mill out of it would be a nice project to tackle at some point, as well as a few smaller bowls or platters, depending on the size of the stock.

I’m certainly thinking about using it on all sorts of things, from small tabletops, to drawer fronts and/or aprons, to boxes and accent strips.

Never having worked with this particular species, I’m looking for pointers on what possible sizes to look for, or avoid. I just would hate to miss out on this wonderful opportunity and in a year from now, saying, “boy, I wish I would’ve known,” or “size AxBxC would’ve been really good for this project”.

I know these types of exotics tend to dry very slowly and are rather oily. The wood will be selected sometime in the next few days, so that’s why I’m asking what sizes might be ideal for this particular species. I am already anticipating having to work around a fair amount of cracks/splits within the boards and will be ordering extra because of this, then using the smaller off-cuts for smaller projects, or accent strips. My friend will also be placing the wood in his solar kiln to dry a bit before returning to Colorado. So, for turning stock, for instance, if it’s best to not go into the solar kiln, maybe that stock can be wrapped in plastic wrap, as I’m not sure he’s got easy access to wax right now.

Forgive my relative ignorance on this subject, but that’s why I am posting, to learn as much as I can now and avoid a heartache or two down the road. I have yet to turn anything, for instance, but that facet of woodworking really intrigues me and is something I’d like to try my hand at this year. I plan on taking a class or two on the subject, or connecting with a turner or two in our local woodworkers guild, which I joined at the beginning of the year.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

6 replies so far

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 2852 days

#1 posted 03-02-2011 06:51 PM

I have a lot of ebony I bought many years ago. Even with the amount I have I still save it for inlays and accent work. I have turned a few pens but have never built something completely with it. For projects that a customers wants to be black in color I use maple and a dying process that turns it black – not just the surface but into the wood.

I guess one other option would be, if you wanted to make some money, you could sell some of it for the going price in your area ($100/bd ft here) and keep some for your projects. Just a thought.

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3272 days

#2 posted 03-02-2011 08:41 PM

I use gabon ebony for small accent pieces. I particularly like turning it and making finials for a larger piece that I am turning. I’ve also used it for the stem of a wine glass.

I once did a pen and pencil set with ebony.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3248 days

#3 posted 03-02-2011 09:07 PM

Any particular pieces anybody has ever dreamed of making out of ebony, if price weren’t an object? I am getting a good enough price that I won’t be limited to making pens, vases, smaller items, etc. due to prohibitive lumber costs. This is a little different in appearance than completely jet black gabon ebony, which is what I think immediately comes to mind for most people upon hearing the word ebony, whether it’s for G&G plugs or handles, or turned pens, etc. This will tend to have a bit of more grain, as you’ll notice in the linked projects below, although the mirror below looks pretty uniformly black.

Here are a few projects made by fellow LJs that have used the kamagong in their construction:
Jewelry Box Bill Davis
Cheta's Box by BertFlores58
Megan's Box by BertFlores58
Mirror with kamagong inset by Bill Davis

Benji Reyes has also used kamagong in some of his amazing, artistic work as well.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View jack1's profile


2117 posts in 4225 days

#4 posted 03-02-2011 09:58 PM

I would think frames and great enclosures for clocks. If I had enough, I would make a small curio cabinet with glass shelves and door panel(s). Hope you enjoy your stash!

-- jack -- ...measure once, curse twice!

View Bill Davis's profile

Bill Davis

226 posts in 4122 days

#5 posted 03-02-2011 10:58 PM

The correct Jewelry Box link is The link given has a couple of added lettery on the end.

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 3248 days

#6 posted 03-02-2011 11:07 PM

Sorry Bill, I didn’t catch that one. Thank you for correcting my error. I apparently accidentally highlighted “by” when trying to link it, as you’ll see, that is the only link that doesn’t say “by” before the maker’s name.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

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