September 24, 2021

Carving Ebony Wood | An Easy to Follow Guide

When most people think of wood, they think of an easy-to-work softwood, but for those in the know, there is a big world of carving wood that most people do not understand. Carvers love the feel of ebony and love working with this wood. For this reason, they carve most of their projects from this wood. Ebony is a black hardwood with a matte appearance and a grain, almost like wood texture. It is a very dense wood and is difficult to work with.

James St. John, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When working with ebony, you will need a few types of tools; some of them can be very expensive, and some can be very simple. It is often used to carve African figures and African head sculptures, and the darker wood can be thematic. Let’s look at how you can get the best out of it.

Advice for Hand Carving Ebony?

When carving ebony, use a carving board or carving bench. You can’t carve ebony on anything else but these two things because they have a smooth surface for you to work with and will save your carving tools from excessive wear. Ensure you keep your carving tool sharp, even if you don’t use it often. If you do not sharpen your tools regularly, you may ruin your tools when using them.

The best way to get started with hand carvings is by learning about the types of woods available and which ones suit your carving style better than others. Once you learn more about each type of wood, you can start experimenting with them. There are many ways to do this, so make sure you experiment as much as possible before making any final decisions.

Where to buy ebony wood

You can purchase ebony wood from many carving suppliers, and it is often reasonably priced compared to other types of carving wood. Most carving suppliers will offer ebony for sale, but you should always compare prices before purchasing. Ebony carving can be expensive, so the best idea is to shop for the highest quality carving at the lowest possible price.

Once you have purchased your ebony wood, you must prepare it appropriately before starting to carve. You first want to sand down the rough edges until they are flat enough to begin cutting into. This process takes time and patience but once completed. You will find yourself enjoying the results.

Carve Your Own Wood Projects!

If you would rather create something unique than buy pre-made items, why not try creating your wooden project? Buying wood blanks is acceptable.

Common problems with carving ebony wood

Several common issues arise while trying to carve ebony wood. One problem is that the wood tends to warp over time due to moisture absorption, and another issue is that the wood becomes brittle after being exposed to water. These two factors mean you cannot leave your carved pieces outside during rainstorms.

Another problem arises when you are finished carving an item and notice that the piece does not fit together well. In such cases, you might consider gluing the parts back together again.

Special safety considerations

Carving ebony wood can be dangerous if you are using machinery. When carving with machinery, you need to wear protective gloves and eye gear appropriate for the machine you use. For carving small pieces by hand or carving larger pieces without machinery, you should wear goggles to protect your eyes in case there is a splashing of hot liquid onto your face.

Using a gouge for the best results

A gouge is one of the most important tools for carving ebony wood. A good gouge has a long handle and a wide blade. It also needs to be made out of high-carbon steel. High carbon steel is harder than regular steel, making it easier to cut through hard materials like ebony wood.

Gouges are tools that you use to remove wood when carving ebony. You need to hone the gouge before using it, which helps it cut through the material more effectively than if you do not hone the gouge.

Cut your design into the wood with a carving knife before using the gouge. This allows you to see where you are going to carve next. If you don’t plan, you could waste valuable time looking for the right spot on the wood surface.

Use a sharpening stone to sharpen the edge of the gouge. Use only fine grit stone because too coarse stones tend to dull the tool’s edge quickly.

Use a smooth edge chisel for fine details

For finer detail cuts, you should use a chisel. Chisels come in various sizes depending on their intended purpose. Smaller ones are useful for making smaller designs, whereas bigger ones are better suited for large projects.

You may choose between different types of chisels, including:

  • Gouging chisel – Used to remove excess wood from the area you intend to carve.
  • Carving chisel – Used for shaping the final shape of the object.
  • Roundover chisel – Used for smoothing corners and rounding off surfaces.

Is ebony wood good for carving

Yes! Ebony wood is considered one of the hardest woods available today. The hardness of this particular kind of wood means that it takes longer to carve compared to softer woods. However, once you have mastered the art of carving ebony wood, you can make beautiful carvings even faster.

The main advantage of working with ebony wood is its durability. Ebony wood carvings last much longer than softwoods like pine or cedar.

How can you tell if the wood is ebony?

Ebony wood comes in many shades ranging from light brown color to dark black color. To determine whether the wood is ebony, you must first identify the species of tree that produces the wood. Once you know the tree’s name, you can easily check online to confirm whether the wood is ebony.


Ebony wood has been used since ancient Egypt and was considered sacred. It is one of the hardest natural materials known to man, and its carving requires special skills. When carving ebony, you need to take advantage of its hardness and strength. Learn all about carving ebony and enjoy the benefits of making beautiful furniture from this hardwood.

David D. Hughes

Leave a Reply