African Blackwood vs. Ebony: A Comprehensive Comparison

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Welcome, fellow wood enthusiasts, to the epic battle between two heavyweight woodworking and musical instrument-making champions! In one corner, we have the mighty African Blackwood, known for its durability, density, and dark allure. In the other corner is the elegant Ebony, with its workable nature and consistently captivating color. Which one of these fine contenders will emerge victorious in our quest for the ultimate dark wood? Let’s find out!

African Blackwood, hailing from the exotic lands of Africa, has built a solid reputation in the music industry, crafting soul-stirring clarinets and bagpipes that can make even the grumpiest lumberjack tap their foot. This dense and durable wood is no joke – it’s ready to withstand the test of time and looks fabulous doing it.

Ebony, on the other hand, is the smooth operator of the woodworking world. It’s not only easy on the eyes but also a breeze to work with, making it a favorite choice among woodworkers who appreciate consistency and grace under pressure.

In this riveting article, we’ll delve into the nitty-gritty details of African Blackwood and Ebony, examining their unique characteristics, uses, and pros and cons. Whether you’re a fresh-faced woodworking newbie or a seasoned expert with sawdust in your veins, this article will arm you with the knowledge you need to navigate the enchanting world of these two great woods.

So grab your chisels, strap on your safety goggles, and join us as we embark on a thrilling journey through the exciting realm of African Blackwood and Ebony!

Comparison Chart

FeatureEbonyAfrican Blackwood 
HardnessVery HardExtremely Hard 
ColorDark Brown to BlackJet Black 
Grain PatternStraight to slightly interlocking Mostly Straight 
Common UsesMusical Instruments, Carvings, Fine FurnitureMusical Instruments, Piano Keys, Fine Furniture 
Workability Slightly Easier Than African BlackwoodDifficult 
Price Slightly Less ExpensiveExpensive 

What is African Blackwood?

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African Blackwood, also known as Dalbergia Melanoxylon or Grenadilla, is a dense hardwood native to the dry savanna regions of Africa and specifically in the areas of Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. It is a member of the Dalbergia genus, including other famous timbers such as Brazilian rosewood and cocobolo.

This wood has a rich history, being used for centuries to create traditional African carvings and sculptures. Today, it is highly sought after for its beautiful appearance and exceptional tonal qualities, making it a popular choice for woodwind instruments such as clarinets, oboes, and flutes, as well as fine furniture and other high-end woodworking projects.

Also Read: Types of Blackwood

What is Ebony?

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Ebony, primarily from the Diospyros genus, is a dense and dark hardwood native to various regions across the world, including Africa, India, and Sri Lanka, that is highly prized for its beauty and durability. Unlike most woods, ebony is dense enough to sink in water and has a finely textured surface that can be polished to a mirror finish.

Known for its deep black color and smooth texture, Ebony has been used for centuries in creating luxury items, such as piano keys, chess pieces, and ornamental carvings. Today, it remains a popular choice for musical instruments, particularly fretboards on guitars and basses, as well as fine furniture and other high-end woodworking projects.

African Blackwood vs Ebony – Feature Comparison

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Ebony is considered very hard, with a Janka hardness rating of around 3,670 lbf. This makes it an excellent choice for applications requiring durability and resistance to wear. An example of these are musical instruments and fine furniture.

African Blackwood is an exceptional hardwood, with a Janka hardness rating ranging from 3,080 to 5,060 lbf. Hoewever, it depends on the species. This makes it perfect for uses that require a sleek and polished surface, such as piano keys and guitar fretboards.

Winner: African Blackwood, due to its higher hardness rating.


Ebony ranges in color from dark brown to black, often with subtle lighter streaks throughout. This variation in color can create a unique and visually interesting appearance in finished pieces.

African Blackwood, however, is known for its jet-black color and uniformity giving it a sleek, sophisticated look. Many woodworkers and musicians find it appealing.

Winner: African Blackwood for its consistent jet-black color.

Grain Pattern

Ebony typically has a straight to slightly interlocking grain pattern, which can produce beautiful, wavy figures when polished. This unique grain pattern sets Ebony apart from other woods and adds visual interest to finished pieces.

African Blackwood, on the other hand, has a mostly straight grain pattern. Which contributes to its smooth texture and uniform appearance.

Winner: Ebony, for its distinctive grain patterns.

Common Uses

African Blackwood and Ebony are commonly used to create musical instruments, fine furniture, and ornamental carvings. However, Ebony is especially popular for woodwind instruments, while African Blackwood is often used for piano keys and guitar fretboards.

Winner: Tie, as both kinds of wood, have similar applications.


Due to its density and hardness, Ebony can be challenging to work with. However, its moderate workability makes it manageable for experienced woodworkers. Tools must be sharp, and care must be taken to avoid tearing out when planning or routing.

African Blackwood’s extreme hardness and density make it even more difficult to work with than African Blackwood. It can be brittle and prone to chipping, requiring extra care and attention during the woodworking process.

Winner: Ebony, for its slightly better workability.


Ebony is generally less expensive than African Blackwood. Making it a more budget-friendly option for woodworkers and musicians looking for high-quality hardwood without breaking the bank.

Ebony’s scarcity and demand for its unique aesthetic qualities contribute to its higher price, which can be prohibitive for some projects.

Winner: Ebony, for its slightly lower price point.

Conclusion: African Blackwood vs Ebony: Which One Should I Use?

African Blackwood, the Herculean hero of hardwoods, is renowned for its extreme density and toughness. Sure, it might be a bit stubborn when it comes to working with it, but if you’re after intricate details. With this turning prowess, this wood won’t let you down. Plus, its rich, dark color and fine texture make it a true feast for the eyes.

Ebony, our silky-smooth superstar, is a tad softer and more cooperative in crafting. It’s still highly coveted for its deep black color and velvety texture, making it a top choice among woodworkers who appreciate a little elegance in their projects.

As for the price tag, African Blackwood can be a bit of a diva, commanding a higher fee due to its scarcity and sourcing challenges. But let’s not forget that both of these woods are luxury materials, so they’ll undoubtedly add a touch of extravagance to your creations.

If you’re searching for sleek, consistent black hues and unparalleled hardness, African Blackwood might be your perfect match. However, if you’re drawn to a more distinctive grain pattern and a slightly friendlier price point, Ebony could sweep you off your feet.

Ultimately, the ultimate decision between African Blackwood and Ebony depends on your individual needs, tastes, and budget. By understanding the quirks and charms of these two enchanting woods, you’ll be well-prepared to make the best choice for your next masterpiece. Happy woodworking!

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