Does Ebony Crack Easily

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Ploppy Blobby

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Hi,
Have heard that ebony cracks very easily when being worked, has anybody else had an issue with it or is it another unfounded rumour (hope so, just bought some :eek:)
 

Benuser

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Common with original Nogent handles, but these were very thin.
 

Bert2368

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There are a number of species called "ebony" by sellers. Do you know which species you have obtained?

https://www.wood-database.com/gaboon-ebony/
(this one is noted as having poorer stability against seasonal changes- Which may = cracking from moisture changes)

https://www.wood-database.com/african-blackwood/
(Believed by some to be the biblical ebony)

https://www.wood-database.com/katalox/
(Sometimes sold as "royal ebony")

And several more, see the wood database articles for listings of similar species.

Article on wood ID to figure out which one you've got-
https://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-identification-guide/
 

Ploppy Blobby

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Ah, the ebony is that well known variety: 'dry'
Thank you, more research required, think some un-drying may be order
 

RonB

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The two most commonly availble "ebonys" are Macassar and Gaboon. And as mentioned, there are some pretenders too. I have a Macassar board that I have had for 30 + years. It has no cracks, and I had zero problems working it in a recent project.
 

milkbaby

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I have different ebony sitting around waiting to be used. What I've heard from other knifemakers is two precautions. Make sure the wood is well aged and dried out to the point that it is only undergoing change in weight/moisture due to seasonal changes in humidity (dry in winter, humid in summer makes wood move); don't use wood that is still green as it will continue to shrink and can crack/check.

Ebony is supposed to be similar to snakewood in that it's hard but brittle, so do not let it heat up while working. Use fresh abrasives to avoid too much heat buildup. What others have told me is that it will look fine after you've finished the handle, but then it will crack later because it was overheated during shaping.

Edited to add: The high grade ebony is the pure jet black stuff, the historically prized stuff, but nowadays you can just use some plastic or resin that is jet black. IMHO that ebony is boring for knife handles. African blackwood has a little more interesting figure/grain and will make a really nice dark handle with less stability issues than ebony.
 

MartinJ

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Also if it shocks the floor, it will likely break or crack most of the time
 

ForeverLearning

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I would tend to use African Blackwood, it's more forgiving, I think it has more figure and looks nicer. Not as black but it depends what you want.
 

RonB

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I have never worked African Blackwood, but true Gaboon and Macassar Ebonies have such a silky feel when properly finished that I will continue to work with them. I do prefer the colors of Macassar though.
 

inferno

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i have used ziricote and it can be real black but usually it has this digital pattern of dark gray/black. also bog oak is black. ziricote is definitely more fragile than regular wood. but not reallt fragile at all.

bog oak i have not used. but i guess its kinda phucked since its been in a lake for several thousand years. i recently got some ammonia dyed regular oak. but it not really black. might become after oiling though. i dont know.
 

Bert2368

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Sorry, links did not work for me.

The Iron acetate process works well for high tannin woods like oak. For lower tannin woods, pre treatment with strong tea or tannic acid from a wine makers supply store will allow darker colors.

https://turnawoodbowl.com/5-magical-ebonizing-wood-tricks-how-to-techniques-recipes/

Here is a jug of Iron acetate solution for staining wood we made last week with 5% white vinegar and about 2X as much steel wool as should have been used... Will need to strain this before use.

I have a piece of South American quebracho wood (very high tannin content) in my shop... I am going to test it with this, hope that it's both very dark and very hard afterwards. Perhaps this could serve as an ebony substitute?

https://www.wood-database.com/quebracho/

20200329_112642.jpg
 

inferno

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be sure to post your results! and how deep it penetrates. and if it turns real black. the smoked oak is not really true black imo. not like bog oak. but i guess it will be less brittle.

this is from the brisa site and my piece looks like the browner one.

description:

Ammonia fuming is a wood finishing process that darkens wood and brings out the grain pattern. It consists of exposing the wood to fumes from a strong aqueous solution of ammonium hydroxide which reacts with the tannins in the wood. The process works best on white oak because of the high tannin content of this wood. Fumed oak is also called smoked oak.


 

inferno

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also black paper (or linen possibly) micarta... i think this will be the best overall black material. and it wont crack or shrink!!
 

JoBone

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I’ve used African Blackwood, Katalox, ziricote, real royal ebony, brown ebony, macassar ebony stripped ebony, white ebony (sap wood) and Indian ebony. They are all lovely woods, but there is something about jet black Gabon ebony that holds it dear in my heart.

for splitting, I’ve made about 50 of these over the last couple years with no negative feedback. I only use kiln dried gabon ebony and work it slow. I did get some wetter ebony - cut and drilled it, let it sit for a year before using.

The only issue I did have (which caused me to replace the handles free of charge and give a partial refund, ouch) was early on. I did a couple handles that had nickel silver and wood endcap. The end cap fell off after a few months where the nickel met the ebony. The nickel and ebony were both roughed up at 36 grit and sealed with gflex. As a result, I now pin all of my end caps. It was a good but embarrassing lesson. Now, I cringe when I see photos of thin endcaps with metal. That’s a different thread.


Also, I think African Blackwood or Katalox makes a better ferrule. That is the spot that I think will have more stress, hence more chances of splitting. Gabon ebony is better suited for the body.
 

Ploppy Blobby

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fairly certain that any other wood that is black, other than real ebony, will be better :)
Unfortunately I got what I got so have used it. Came out OK, sanded it from 220 to 10,000.
Anyone know if it needs treating, have used beeswax and mineral oil blend that works for the oak handles.
Same question for the rosewood as well?
Thanks all
20200406_102340_compress24.jpg
 

Ploppy Blobby

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To answer my own question yes for rosewood came up lovely. 10 minutes hand buffing made not a lot of impact. Still, looks OK though.
20200407_093424_compress56.jpg
 

Dendrobatez

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I don't have problems with either cracking unless they get too hot while working on them. I usually have a couple sanding projects going on and just swap between them to let it cool.
 

mlau

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Depends on the species. Gaboon ebony is brittle.

Macassar ebony and african blackwood (a rosewood) are actually fairly stable.
 
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