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There is a possible substitute for ebony now offered by Lee Valley Tools. As you know, natural ebony is hard to work and glue, as well as creates toxic, messy dust. The polyester substitute is available in rods or sheets. Sheets are about 9" x 11" and about 1/8" thick. Synthetic ivory and bone are also available. I can't vouch for gluing properties or longevity, but these might be worth experimenting with.

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If you want to stick with wood rather than a non-wood substitute you might try soaking basswood in carbon black water color.  The stuff I have is Hydrus Fine Art watercolor 11H carbon black.  It comes in a small bottle with an eye dropper.  Gives a deep black color to the basswood.  To give it the slight glossiness of ebony I use a light coat of clear gloss sealer over the color.  Looks pretty good, is cheap, is easy to work and has no health issues to worry about.

 

I have tried various ebony stains and different types of black paint but none of them are as good as the carbon black watercolor paint.

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The shoe dye that Druxey mentions work very well to simulate ebony. It does have one drawback. The stuff has almost zero surface tension and will flow through any size aperture including a tightly closed bottle cap if the container accidentally falls on its side.  Trust me, I know! :(

RE carbon black: a most interesting material. The stuff is extremely hydrophobic and is very difficult to disaggregate and disperse in water (special wetting agents are required). Carbon black is rated by particle size and "jetness" i.e., blackness. These properties are controlled by what is combusted and the amount of oxygen used during carbon black manufacture.

Best

Jaxboat

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22 hours ago, druxey said:

...... As you know, natural ebony is hard to work and glue, as well as creates toxic, messy dust. .....

 

Considering the un-friendliness as a modeling medium, I'm curious as to the background/tradition on the desire to use ebony in wood ship modeling.

 

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Myth or reality?

 

Ebony does not glue well: myth, it does glue as well as any other wood.

 

Every dust  wood is bad for lungs  with the years. One particularity of ebony dust, it is probably the finest dust, it is so fine  it can inlays skin hand pores.

 

 

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You are right, Gaetan.  Ebony glues as well as any wood.  I like to wipe it with an acetone soaked paper towel before glueup because of the high oil content. The acetone dissolves and removes the surface oil assuring a good bond.  I do the same with rosewood and have never had a glue failure with either.

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I've been using ebony for my Morgan and have had no problems with gluing.  I haven't found the dust to be problematic either - I just am very careful to wipe it down after working with it, which I probably should be doing with all woods.  Ebony is gorgeous - the various ways of ebonizing pear and other woods don't really come close.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have been whittling away on my billet of ebony now for about 40 years it was 36 x 7 x 6 with an adze finish when i purchased it cost me the (exorbitant sum of $70 at the time) very happy I spent the money then. I still have enough left to last the rest of my lifetime given the rate at which I have been using it.

 

IMG_2835x1024.jpg.546c9ee63eca8ac31d646b65843b48a4.jpg

 

IMG_2836x1024.jpg.f0d1e33bfc2b21ff023188e359dd97a2.jpg

 

it is sitting on the cherry top for the new end tables.

 

Michael

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  • 1 year later...

Holy smokes Michael- you could probably sell that ebony now and get a better return than if you had invested that $70 in the stock market! 😂 I can't argue with the messiness of ebony dust but i think the whole toxicity thing gets blown a little out of proportion. I'm all for substitutes, but I agree with Mike that IMO nothing really comes close to the beauty of finished ebony. i look forward to seeing the Lee Valley substitute in action, though!

 

Chad

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