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Gaboon Ebony

 
 Common Name Gaboon Ebony, Black Ebony, African Ebony, Nigerian Ebony, Cameroon Ebony, Kribi Ebony, African ebony, West African ebony, and Benin ebony
Scientific Name Diospyrus Crassiflora
Distribution It is named after the West African state of Gabon, though it also occurs in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria.
Tree Size 50-60 ft ( 15-18 m ) tall, 2-3 ft ( .6-1 m ) trunk diameter
Dried Weight ( average ) 60 lbs/ft3 ( 955 kg/m3 )
Janka Hardness 3,080 lbf (13,700 N)

 

 

Gabon Ebony is a type of ebony wood with a history. Dated back to the end of the 16th century, this wood was used to make many showpieces, cabinets, guitar pricks, Instruments; Fine Furniture Accents; Inlay, Artisan Carving, Royal Implementation, Jewelry Boxes, Ivory Mixed Chess Pieces. 

 Gabon Ebony, also known as “Gaboon” or “Black” Ebony sets the bar very high for true black wood around the globe and has done so for decades. Highly valued throughout many civilizations as the purest of all black wood, it has been found in the most coveted places within Egyptian tombs. These woods from the ebony tree are not only favored by the Egyptian royalty but royalty in general as these were known to be used as drinking cups by the ancient kings of India and raw material for carving and sculpting by sculptors.

As the Gaboon ebony woods have straight grains that maybe sometimes interlocked they are a bit difficult to work with but they produce this lustrous shine upon finishing and make it worth the effort. These would be suitable for people who are looking for a touch of a monochromatic statement in their homes. Many religious sculptures like the crucifix are also carved beautifully out of this wood. 

Unlike the Macassar ebony known for its typical striped appearance with light brown to orange colors the gaboon ebony wood is the purest of black.

Due to its long relevant history and its high lustrous finish this wood has been a major interest to many people around the world. And thanks to that this wood has now entered the IUCN red list due to overharvesting and lack of rejuvenation. 

Color: Heartwood is usually jet-black, with little to no variation or visible grain. Occasionally dark brown or grayish-brown streaks may be present. But these are not prominent and only enhances the richness of the black color. Because of the decreasing population, many types of wood have been used to replace this wood and only Katalox and Wenge have just succeeded. Katalox does provide a deep purplish undertone.

Texture: The grain is usually straight but can also be interlocked. Hence posing a bit of difficulty while working with it. Fine even texture with a very high natural luster.

Odor: Ebony has a mild, slightly unpleasant odor when being worked. While working with this wood one thing to be considered is that while sawing this wood it produces fine powders that can be carried by the wind and remain inert for a few days. These, when entered into the respiratory system, cause serious respiratory disorders. Therefore factories that handle this kind of wood should have certification and clearance from the government.

Workability: It can be difficult to work due to its extremely high density, straight grains that may be interlocked. It has a dulling effect on cutters. Tearout may occur on pieces that have interlocked or irregular grain. Due to the high oil content found in this wood, it can occasionally cause problems with gluing. Finishes well, and polishes to a high luster. Responds well to steam bending.

Availability: Gaboon Ebony is among the most expensive of all available lumbers: usually about two to three times more expensive than most species of Rosewood. The small size of the tree and its high demand for ornamental work may contribute to its seemingly outlandish price. This wood species is in CITES Appendix II (for Diospyros species from Madagascar), and is on the IUCN Red List. It is listed as endangered due to a population reduction of over 50% in the past three generations, caused by exploitation.

Uses : The Gaboon Ebony wood was used in ancient times in Egyptian tombs, as decorative pieces for royalty, cups, sculptors, ivory mixed chess pieces cabinets, jewelry boxes, etc.

From a musical instrument point of view, it has once again set the bar high as the high density of the wood gives superior tonality which is a very important criterion while choosing raw materials to make musical instruments. It has a long history as being used for piano keys, as well as bodies for clarinets and other woodwind instruments. Also, with luthiers it is prized for fingerboards, bridges, and head plates in quality guitar building. Size limitations of available stock prevent it from being widely used for the guitar body itself, but there are some special guitars prized very high and owned by some people.

The gaboon ebony tree is also found to have a very special feature, rot-resistant. It is found to be very durable and resistant to insects and termites which also gives this wood the upper hand among the others.

African blackwood vs Gaboon ebony

The African blackwood, also known as Mpingo (Swahili) with the Scientific name Dalbergia melanoxylon is found in the dry savanna regions of central and southern Africa. African blackwood is a rosewood (Dalbergia) and has a high natural oil content. 

Unlike the gaboon ebony wood, the African blackwood tends to have more of a matte finish than a lustrous finish like the gaboon ebony. Although African Blackwood is found to be durable it is moderately resistant to insects and borers than the gaboon ebony. The light sapwood of the African Blackwood is more susceptible to the attack of post beetles and borers. While the gaboon ebony is resistant to most kinds of insects and termites right from its early stages. 

Both the African blackwood and the gaboon ebony are heavy and dense therefore both have almost the same level of difficulty while working. But they each excel in certain areas, for example, the African blackwood is found to be the best in turnery while Gaboon ebony responds well to steam bending.

Both African blackwood and gaboon ebony are described as sensitizers as they do cause irrational irritation to the eyes, skin, and respiratory system.

They are both priced very high because of their small size, slow growth rate, high demand for ornamental and musical works contribute to the overpricing.

As mentioned above the Gaboon ebony is mentioned in the IUCN red list due to their overharvesting, lack of conservation of the available species, and illegal trafficking. Whereas the African Blackwood is listed on the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Appendix II and a ban is placed on the export of either the raw material or the finished products. The African Blackwood is not very far away from finding its way to the IUCN red list. 

The African Blackwood is found to be more stable and resistant to movement and warping than any other ebony.

Gaboon Ebony Bowl
Gaboon Ebony Bowl
East Indian Rosewood
East Indian Rosewood
East Indian Rosewood
East Indian Rosewood

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Gabon Ebony is one of the world’s most expensive exotic woods. Trees that are small, slow-growing and high demand for ornamental work contributes to its high price tag. Given this, finding long, undefective boards is quite rare; such pieces always scream premium prices. It's signature jet black heartwood, combined with its great strength, durability, and density gives it universal appeal with instrument craftsmen.

 

Unlike Rosewoods the gaboon ebony does not leak its color. Although ebony takes all stains and finishes equally well, it looks wonderfully lustrous under a clear penetrating oil. There’s no reason to hide its color with dye or stain unless you’re seeking to even the color or darken it.


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