10 Types of Ebony Wood: The Ultimate List

Ebony is one of the most enchanting woods in the world. It has a dense black to brown wood which is so heavy that it can sink when placed in water. The surface of ebony wood has a fine texture with a striking mirror finish when it’s polished.

This dense black wood is commonly used to make ornaments and luxurious furniture pieces. The name ebony is from an Ancient Egyptian word hbny. The tree belongs to the Diospyros genus and comes in various species. Almost all ebony species are closely protected.

In Sri Lanka, this magnificent wood is carefully protected and the harvesting and sale are illegal. People caught doing these will be punished by imprisonment.

There are many species of ebony wood. Let us focus on ten of the loveliest and the most sought-after ebony wood in the world.

Brazilian Ebony – Swartzia panacoco

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Brazilian ebony is also called coracao de negro which is a Portuguese term for blackheart. This tree has a very black heartwood which is a common trait of true ebonies. According to experts, Brazilian ebony is more related to the Katalox (Swartzia cubensis) which is a very strong wood with the highest MOE in the world.

  • Distribution: This wood grows in South America
  • Tree Dimensions: 100 to 130 feet high and 2 to 4 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 73.7 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .92, 1.18
  • Janka Hardness: 3400 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Brazilian ebony has an orange-brown heartwood when it’s freshly cut. This color will darken when exposed to air. The sapwood is pale yellow-white.
  • Grain Texture: The grain is straight but may also be interlocked or irregular. It comes with a natural shine.
  • Resistance to Rotting: This wood is very durable with high resistance to termites and moisture. It is vulnerable to marine borers.
  • Workability: Brazilian ebony is very difficult to work with because it’s very dense. It can cause blunting of cutters, and blades plus, tear-outs are possible when planing. It won’t respond to glues because of the natural oils on its surface.
  • Presence of Odor: There is a slight odor when it’s worked.
  • Availability: You can buy Brazilian ebony in small turning squares. The price is moderate to expensive which is expected in tropical hardwood.
  • Uses: Brazilian ebony is used for inlays, parquet flooring, fine furniture making, cabinetry, guitars, and in turning small items.

Brown Ebony – Libidibia paraguariensis

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Brown ebony is not true ebony but its wood is amazing nonetheless. This wood is more closely related to Brazilwood which is commonly used to make violin bows and other musical instruments.

  • Distribution: Brown ebony grows in the semi-arid areas of South America
  • Tree Dimensions: 30 to 50 feet high and 2 to 3 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 72 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .91, 1.16
  • Janka Hardness: 3590 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Brown ebony has dark brown heartwood which may also come in reddish colors. The sapwood is pale yellow and is clearly differentiated from the heartwood.
  • Grain Texture: Brown ebony has a straight grain but sometimes some woods have irregular or interlocked grains. The texture is coarse with a moderate natural shine. The end grain is diffuse-porous with normally spaced pores.
  • Resistance to Rotting: This wood is very durable and resistant to rotting. However, it is affected by insect attacks.
  • Workability: This wood is difficult to work with because of its high density and interlocked grain. Brown ebony is more responsive to lathe woodworking and can turn and accept finishes really well.
  • Presence of Odor: Black ebony has no specific odor when worked.
  • Availability: Black ebony is available in small turning blanks and squares. The price for brown ebony ranges from medium to expensive which is common in imported lumber. It is not as expensive as true ebony species.
  • Uses: Black ebony is commonly used to make turned objects, for heavy construction which is only within its natural growing range.

Ceylon Ebony – Diospyros ebenum

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Ceylon ebony is from Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon. It is true ebony wood, very strong, and very dense. It is also called East Indian Ebony or Indian Ebony.

  • Distribution: Ceylon Ebony is found in Southeast Asia
  • Tree Dimensions: 50 to 80 feet high and 1 to 2 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 57 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .70, .91
  • Janka Hardness: 2430 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Ceylon ebony has a black heartwood with grey or black streaks. The sapwood is pale yellow which is differentiated from the heartwood. This is one of the best quality ebonies and it looks like plastic.
  • Grain Texture: This wood has a straight grain but sometimes this may also come with irregular patterns. There is a fine texture with a high natural shine.
  • Resistance to Rotting: Ceylon ebony is very durable to rot and decay. It is also resistant to insects and pests.
  • Workability: Ceylon ebony is hard to work with due to its very dense grain. It can make cutters, blades, and knives blunt. When finishing, this wood takes time to dry and is hardtop glue. Ceylon ebony will turn well and will produce a lovely natural shine.
  • Presence of Odor: Ceylon ebony has no specific odor.
  • Toxicity: Ceylon ebony is a sensitizer which means you can suffer from eye, respiratory, and skin irritation when working with this wood.
  • Availability: Ceylon ebony is known as the original ebony wood that’s commercially produced however, it is seldom available. This wood is very expensive to purchase. Other ebony species like Gaboon and Macassar are more readily available.
  • Uses: Ceylon ebony is popular as inlays, turned objects, and parts of musical instruments such as guitar bridges, piano keys, and nuts. 

Gaboon Ebony – Diospyros crassiflora

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This wood was named Gaboon Ebony because, in the past, it was exported from Gabon. Today, the main source of Gaboon Ebony is Cameroon. This wood has a deep and solid black color. It is very dense, stiff, and very strong. There are some concerns that this wood may not be as stable when it comes to changes in seasonal climates and temperatures.

  • Distribution: This wood is naturally found in Equatorial West Africa
  • Tree Dimensions: 50 to 60 feet high and 2 to 3 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 60 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .82, .96
  • Janka Hardness: 3080 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Gaboon ebony has a very black color without any visible grain or changes in color. However, there are also dark brown or gray-brown stripes present on the grain.
  • Grain Texture: The grain of Gaboon ebony is straight but you may also find interlocked parts. This wood has a fine texture with a high natural shine. The end grain has moderate to large diffuse pores with an irregular arrangement.
  • Resistance to Rotting: This wood is very durable with great resistance to insects and termites.
  • Workability: Gaboon ebony is very hard to work with because of its very dense nature. It can dull cutters and saw blades. Tear-outs may happen especially when the piece has irregular or interlocked grains. Gaboon ebony comes with high oil content and thus it won’t accept glues and will dry along time. This wood is best for steam bending and will accept finishes and polishes well.
  • Presence of Odor: Gaboon ebony has a slight and mild unpleasant smell when it’s being worked
  • Toxicity: This ebony species is a sensitizer. You may suffer from eyes, skin, and respiratory irritation when working with this wood.
  • Availability: Gaboon ebony is one of the most expensive hardwoods in the world. It is three times the price of Rosewood. This is a small tree and thus, the high demand for the wood raises the prices many times.
  • Uses: Gaboon ebony is used in making small decorative items, piano keys, pool cues, musical instruments, and other specialty items.

Macassar Ebony – Diospyros celebica

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Macassar ebony is named after Makassar, an Indonesian port city. This is the port where this lovely wood is exported.

  • Distribution: This wood is from Southeast Asia
  • Tree Dimensions: 50 to 65 feet high and 1.5 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 70 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .89, 1.12
  • Janka Hardness: 3220 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Macassar has a striped surface that’s almost the same appearance as Zebrawood. It has a yellow to red-brown body with dark brown stripes. The sapwood is a pale gold that’s clearly demarcated from the heartwood.
  • Grain Texture: The grain is straight however, it may become interlocked. This wood also has a fine and even texture with a natural shine. The end grain has moderate to large pores with an irregular arrangement.
  • Resistance to Rotting: Macassar ebony has a very durable heartwood. It is resistant to pests and boring insects.
  • Workability: Macassar ebony is hard to work with because it’s very dense. It can make your cutters and blades blunt especially when the wood has interlocked grains. This wood is susceptible to checking and splitting when drying. Some drying defects are possible when it is not done well.
  • Presence of Odor: This wood has a very mild yet unpleasant smell when it’s worked.
  • Toxicity: Macassar ebony is a sensitizer which means you can suffer from skin irritation when you’re working with it.
  • Availability: Macassar ebony is very expensive including other ebony species. It is a slow-growing tree with a very few natural habitats. It is also in high demand because of its beauty and amazing appeal.
  • Uses: Macassar ebony is used as veneer, musical instruments, high-end cabinets, and small specialty objects.

Malaysian Ebony – Diospyros ebonasea

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Malaysian ebony is one of the true ebony woods. It is also called Malaysian Blackwood because of its impressive unique patterns and hue. This wood is popularly used to make acoustic guitars. It is known as the best wood to craft tonewoods.

  • Distribution: This wood grows in Malaysia
  • Average Dried Weight: 72 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .89, 1.15
  • Janka Hardness: 3180 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Malaysian ebony has a medium brown to black heartwood. Black veins with red and brown streaks may be present. The sapwood has been clearly demarcated. This is a pale yellow to tan and is visible in most pieces. It is very common to find insect holes on the grain.
  • Grain Texture: This wood has a straight grain with a fine texture and natural shine. The end grain is diffuse-porous with large pores with an irregular arrangement.
  • Resistance to Rotting: This wood is very durable to rot and decay like any other ebony species.
  • Workability: Malaysian ebony is difficult to work with due to its very dense wood. It can blunt cutters and blades. This wood is prone to splitting when dried and thus you must be careful about any drying defects. Malaysian ebony is hard to steam bend but it will turn well.
  • Toxicity: Malaysian ebony is a sensitizer and thus, you need to be careful when working with it. You can experience skin, eye, and respiratory problems when working with this wood.
  • Availability: This wood is not available commercially. Rare pieces are very expensive compared to real ebony. This is sold as small turning blanks and as solid guitar sets.
  • Uses: Malaysian ebony is used to manufacture acoustic guitars, knife handles, inlays, and turned objects. 

Mun Ebony – Diospyros mun

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Mun ebony is a true ebony species that grows in Laos and Vietnam. This is a slow-growing, small tree that’s very dense and very strong. Mun ebony is used limitedly because it’s critically endangered.

  • Distribution: This tree is native to Laos and Vietnam
  • Tree Dimensions: very small tree
  • Average Dried Weight: 97 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .82, 1.07
  • Janka Hardness: 3000 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Mun ebony has a medium-brown to reddish heartwood. There are visible dark brown to black stripes throughout the surface. The sapwood is clearly differentiated from the heartwood and has a pale yellow to white hue.
  • Grain Texture: This wood has a straight grain with a fine even texture. It also comes with a high natural shine.
  • Resistance to Rotting: Mun ebony is resistant to rotting and insect attacks.
  • Workability: This wood is very difficult to work with as it’s very dense and strong. Just like other ebony strains, Mun ebony is very difficult to glue. It accepts finishes well and will turn easily.
  • Toxicity: Mun ebony is a sensitizer and will produce eye, respiratory, and skin irritation.
  • Availability: Mun ebony is an exploited wood species and thus, exportation is banned. Prices are high and wood is usually purchased from dubious sellers.
  • Uses: This wood is commonly used to make inlays, veneers, carvings, and small turned items.

Pale Moon Ebony – Diospyros malabarica

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Pale Moon ebony is also called Black and White ebony. It is native to Laos and Southeast Asia and is one of the densest and hardest of true ebonies. It is called Pale Moon ebony because of its pale straw grain with dark black streaks.

  • Distribution: This ebony species is from Laos and Southeast Asia
  • Tree Dimensions: 50 to 115 feet high and 1 to 3 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 51 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .67, .82
  • Janka Hardness: 1780 pounds
  • Appearance: The Black and White ebony has a pale straw grain with dark black streaks along the surface. The black streaks are more predominant than the white. It also has pale white sapwood that’s not clearly defined from the heartwood.
  • Grain Texture: This wood has a straight grain with a uniformly fine texture. It has a natural shine.
  • Resistance to Rotting: This species of ebony is very resistant to insects and pests but you may notice some portion of the wood with visible insect holes.
  • Workability: Black and White ebony are moderately difficult to work with. However, it works well and turns well to make small projects. Drying can be difficult. You need to check it for any drying mistakes and correct them at once.
  • Presence of Odor: This wood has no specific odor when worked.
  • Toxicity: Black and White ebony is a synthesizer. You can get eye and skin irritations when working with this species of ebony.
  • Availability: This species is not available commercially. Black and White ebony is one of the most expensive with prices almost the same as solid-black true ebonies.
  • Uses: Black and White ebony are minimally used to make small projects such as turned objects, inlays for furniture, and small projects.

Persimmon – Diospyros virginiana

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Persimmon is very common because of its fruit and not for its lumber. This tree is related to the true ebonies and is also called white ebony. Persimmon is a hardwood with amazing strength. It is very resistant to shock as well as natural wear. One disadvantage is that it has a high shrinkage rate and thus, you may experience quick changes in size and form while in service.

  • Distribution: This true ebony species grows in the Eastern United States
  • Tree Dimensions: 60 to 80 feet high and 1 to 2 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 52 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .74, .83
  • Janka Hardness: 2300 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: This wood has a white to pale yellow-brown sapwood with color changes darkening as the wood ages. The heartwood is very thin and is dark brown to black which is common in true ebonies.
  • Grain Texture: Persimmon lumber has a straight grain with an even coarse texture. The end grain is semi-porous with moderate to large pores.
  • Resistance to Rotting: Persimmon is mostly sapwood and is perishable and prone to insect attacks.
  • Workability: This wood is not too easy and not too difficult to work with. You can use hand and power tools to work on it. It can blunt cutting edges of saws and cutters faster. However, it can finish and turn well.
  • Presence of Odor: There is no specific odor.
  • Toxicity: There are reports of skin irritation when working with Persimmon wood.
  • Availability: This wood is not available in lumber form. You’ll find Persimmon wood in smaller turning blanks and blocks. The price is expensive for a domestic hardwood.
  • Uses: Persimmon wood is used to make golf club heads, turned specialty items, veneer, and other decorative items.

Texas Ebony – Ebenopsis ebano

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Texas ebony is one of the exotic hardwoods that are found in the United States. This wood is not true ebony but it’s dark enough to be a substitute.

  • Distribution: This wood grows in Southern Texas and Eastern Mexico
  • Tree Dimensions: 20 to 30 feet high and 1 to 2 feet wide
  • Average Dried Weight: 60 pounds per cubic feet
  • Specific Gravity: .77, .97
  • Janka Hardness: 2820 pounds-feet
  • Appearance: Texas ebony has a dark red-brown to black heartwood with pale-yellow sapwood that’s differentiated from heartwood. The heartwood changes color to an almost black appearance.
  • Grain Texture: The grain is very irregular but has a uniform texture with a good natural shine. The end grain is diffuse-porous with very large pores that are irregularly arranged.
  • Resistance to Rotting: This wood is very durable for rotting and boring insects.
  • Workability: Texas ebony is hard to work with because it’s very dense. It will turn well and can take a high finish.
  • Presence of Odor: Texas ebony has no significant odor.
  • Availability: This wood is not harvested for lumber but small pieces are for sale to hobbyists and woodworkers. The price for Texas ebony is very high even if it’s a domestic hardwood species.
  • Uses: Texas ebony is useful in making inlays, knife handles, fine furniture, small wooden items, and turned objects. 

Final Words

Ebony is an exquisite hardwood with a striking black color. This wood is extremely dense and strong and thus, it’s one of the hardest woods to work with. Ebony has a variety of species and most of these are protected species because of overuse and exploitation. This is why ebony wood is one of the most expensive exotic hardwoods in the world.

There are many species of ebony with true ebonies and related ones. True ebony species like the Ceylon ebony and Macassar ebony have perfect black grain and very dense wood. These are used mostly in small projects as they have low workability.

Learning the different types of ebony wood helps you understand the value of ebony and its many impressive uses.

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