Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 11

Thread: Ebony Handle Durability

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Posts
    75

    Ebony Handle Durability

    How well do ebony handles hold up in harsh conditions?

    I'm talking prolonged periods of being wet, daily wet/dry cycles, daily dunks in diluted bleach solutions, physical shock, and so forth.

    My magnolia handles have lasted just fine but I do care for them by oiling them once a week or so. I understand ebony is a much denser, darker wood so I'm not sure how it will react to these conditions.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Sharp-Hamono's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Posts
    77
    The dense, fine-grained structure tends to make ebony very durable and moisture resistant. The fretboards of many stringed instruments are made of ebony for these reasons, and it's an excellent choice for knife handles as well. Over time, unstabilized wood has a tendency to absorb water, dry out, shrink, expand, warp and do many other nasty things, which may impair the knife's service life in extreme cases - for example, if one of the scales cracks and falls off a Western handled knife. Ebony performs great in this respect, since the grain structure is so tight that it is naturally pretty well sealed even before being treated.

    Less dense woods like Japanese magnolia tend to have larger, more open pores that are more susceptible to absorbing water. In theory, that should make it less suitable for knife handles, but I think probably one of the reasons that Japanese magnolia is traditional on wa handled knives comes from the fact that it is such a low density, light wood. Reducing handle weight lightens up that end of the knife, making the whole thing a little lighter and the balance point farther forward. Also, unlike Western handled knives, which are uncomfortable to use if a scale falls off (and then potentially costly to repair), if a wa handle absorbs a little water, swells, warps, shrinks, gets discolored, etc., that's not really a death sentence to the knife's usability, it just makes the handle look more well used.

    My thoughts on it, anyway.

  3. #3
    Senior Member fatboylim's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    London UK
    Posts
    531
    +1 for ebony.

    Also, it has a naturaly resists sweat whilst providing grip (like ivory) which it is why expensive piano keys are made from ebony and ivory.

    That said, regular wood treatment is always good for any wood.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Posts
    75
    Good to hear. I was afraid due to its dense nature, it would be more susceptible to cracking but it seems the opposite is true.

  5. #5
    Senior Member keithsaltydog's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Hawaii
    Posts
    2,629
    Quote Originally Posted by Oh_Toro View Post
    Good to hear. I was afraid due to its dense nature, it would be more susceptible to cracking but it seems the opposite is true.
    I had an Wa ebony handle on a Japanese blade I used all the time putting out banquets. It cracked underneath not major but deff. a crack. Sefan the custom handle master prefers African Blackwood over Ebony because he has had cracking issues with ebony. Both woods are very dense and cannot be stabilized. The reason Micarta is used so much with western handles is because it is so durable in the trenches.

  6. #6
    Das HandleMeister apicius9's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Ardmore, PA
    Posts
    3,882
    Just seconding what Keith said. There are different qualities of ebony out there. Most of the cheaper/simpler Japanese handes are using macassar ebony which is considered a lower quality but holds up well. I used a lot of- expensive - instrument grade Gaboon ebony in the beginning, and I had too many negative experiences with it, i.e. cracks developing over time. This is why I switched to African Blackwood which I find to be more forgiving.

    Stefan

  7. #7
    Senior Member Sharp-Hamono's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Posts
    77
    Very interesting input. I may have to revise my opinion about ebony knife handles. Is it mainly when ebony is used in Japanese style handles that it cracks, or do you see it with Western handle scales too? I ask because my understanding is that with typical blade fitting in a Japanese style handle, the blade is fitted to the handle with friction and basically enough pressure to cause the wood inside the handle to deform, thus retaining the tang with a kind of press fit. If the wood used in the handle is too dense, it would make sense to me that it could develop the early stages of a crack as early as the blade fitting process that might only later open up to be more easily observed. Western handles seem to be basically not affected by this sort of issue, since the scales might be able to be cut with tighter tolerances, and thus need to deform less overall when fit to the tang. Am I on the right track here, or am I not thinking about the topic in the right way?

  8. #8
    Senior Member Customfan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Posts
    866
    I believe you are on the right track..

    They stand up well in my experience... other factor are obviously like stabilization, instalation, quality and source, etc. important but in general i'm happy with them.
    Eat to live? -> live to eat... but as long as we are at it... eat very, very well!

  9. #9
    Senior Member osakajoe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Location
    Osaka, Japan
    Posts
    273
    The reason for magnolia handles is they don't slip out of your hand when it is wet. Which is why it is preferred by a lot of chef and especially fish mongers. Here in Japan replacing a handle is not that hard

  10. #10
    pkjames's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Sydney
    Posts
    943
    Quote Originally Posted by Sharp-Hamono View Post
    Very interesting input. I may have to revise my opinion about ebony knife handles. Is it mainly when ebony is used in Japanese style handles that it cracks, or do you see it with Western handle scales too? I ask because my understanding is that with typical blade fitting in a Japanese style handle, the blade is fitted to the handle with friction and basically enough pressure to cause the wood inside the handle to deform, thus retaining the tang with a kind of press fit. If the wood used in the handle is too dense, it would make sense to me that it could develop the early stages of a crack as early as the blade fitting process that might only later open up to be more easily observed. Western handles seem to be basically not affected by this sort of issue, since the scales might be able to be cut with tighter tolerances, and thus need to deform less overall when fit to the tang. Am I on the right track here, or am I not thinking about the topic in the right way?
    that is the reason I really don't like burn-in for ebony wood. Heat and pressure is just too much for hardwood like ebony.

    WWW.KNIVESANDSTONES.COM
    Youtube Channel,Instagram
    gtalk: knivesandstones at gmail dot com

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •