April 04, 2014


Photographer: David Lynch; Dave's Web site
Summary Authors: David Lynch

We usually think of ebony as a black wood. Only the interior heartwood is black – the outer sapwood is light in color. Most dark woods have similar color schemes, like walnut. The color of ebony heartwood varies from dark brown to black, depending on the species and growing conditions. There are four species.

Ebony is dense 1.1-1.3 g/cm3 (69 – 83 lb per cu ft) and sinks in water. But, it's not the densest wood. That honor belongs to Black Ironwood, having a density that may be as high as 1.42  g/cm3 (88 lbs per cu ft). Ebony’s fine grain and hardness make it popular for carving and making small items such as violin fingerboards.

The ebony log shown here was bought from a wood carver in Mombasa, Kenya in 2001. Due to the wood’s popularity, much of Africa’s ebony has been harvested sometimes illegally. Like most hardwoods, ebony grows slowly so reforestation takes decades. Photo taken on February 1, 2014.