Wood Species Guide

African Ebony

African Ebony

Scientific Name: Diospyros spp.

Other Names and Species: Kanran, Kukuo (Gambia), Mgiriti, Msindi (Tanzania), Nyareti (Nigeria), Omenowa (Ghana)

Origin: Equatorial West Africa

Appearance: When freshly cut, the sapwood of African ebony is pink-colored, but darkens to a pale red brown; whereas the heartwood shows a uniform jet-black or black-brown color, sometimes with streaks. Ebony has a very fine texture, with the grain ranging from straight to slightly interlocked, or even moderately curly. The luster of this wood may have an almost metallic appearance.

Properties: An attractive and popular wood with many decorative uses, ebony is notably hard, heavy, and strong, and also very resistant to termite attack.

Workability: This highly durable wood is difficult to work with either machine or hand tools, due to its relative hardness; and, as any contractor or builder can tell you, it has a pronounced dulling effect on tool edges. It usually requires pre-drilling to nail or screw. However, it finishes to a naturally dark and polished surface. Note that prolonged exposure to ebony sawdust may cause dermatitis.

Principal Uses: Besides being used in hardwood flooring and inlaid work, ebony can be found in piano keys and other musical instruments, cutlery and tool handles, decorative carvings, and turnery.