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Thread: Turning Ebony

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    Lubbock, Texas
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    Turning Ebony

    My fiirst post on here, still don't have any tools my sellf. Getting a lathe on Sunday from a friend. Only have turned one small cup and a pen back in high school. So please bet gentle in my stupidity!

    I got a request from my dad for a black pen. The first thought was ebony. I went to the lws and found a couple pieces of scrap ebony really really cheap.

    Question is, is there anthing special I should know about turning it. I had heard from a friend that it dulls tools quickly? Would that be from turning to slow or quick?

  2. #2
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    Actually it would be because Ebony is as hard as steel. Very beautiful though.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    Tyler, I suggest you turn a few pens from more forgiving material before you move on to the expensive material like ebony.

    As indicated, it's hard stuff, but really does turn nicely with sharp tools and like any hard, dense wood, it polishes up wonderfully. Keep in mind that there are several varieties of ebony and they are not all totally black...

    BTW, welcome to the 'Creek!
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    I understand the not all ebony is totally black. The block I gor actually has an ivory streak running through it, which will make a stunning accent in the pen if it is able to stay. I don't know if the thickness of the pen will allow it though. It also has a few grey smoke whisps looking areas in it as well. A fine block with accents for me!

    I do have many years of woodworking basics under my belt. Have made blanket chests, pulpits, communion tables, and other varity of things. But have only recently gotten the bug of turning!! (Abyss here I come willingly)

    I have used ebony before as well in some of these projects. The thing I was wondering was if speed on the lathe would determine if the wood was dulling the chisels faster? With dense woods does speed matter or is size really the only thing that determines lathe speed?

  5. #5
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    OOOOH and by the way the ebony only cost me 75 cents for enough to make 2 pens. 1"x1"x14" long strip!!!

  6. #6
    Hey Tyler...Welcome to the Creek!
    Ya know...you might be under the misconception that tool sharpening is a once-in-a-while thing...whereas, I'll sharpen several times on a single pen, regardless of the material. With pens, the material is so thin, you really need sharp tools anyway. I've done lots of ebony pens and find that it is a pleasure to turn...rather than difficult to turn.

    Watch your heat while turning and sanding! Ebony likes to crack if it gets hot..then cools down.
    ~john
    "There's nothing wrong with Quiet" ` Jeremiah Johnson

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by TYLER WOOD
    With dense woods does speed matter or is size really the only thing that determines lathe speed?
    I think your comfort level is more important when it comes to speed. But the bigger the turnings (as in bowls) the slower you should go. Small spindle work (as in pens) you can pick up the speed.

    I'm guessing that I turn all wood pens somewhere between 1500 to 2500 rpms. On my lathe I have a speeds of slow and 1 to 5. I scratched out the #3 and scribbled in the word "PENS"

    Even with your experience as a flat woodworker, it is a smart idea to practice on other types of wood first.

  8. #8
    Unfortunately John Hart is right ebony loves to crack. I have done ebony pens a couple of times and eventually they all cracked even if their was no sign of cracking after they were finished. I do live in the desert so other people may have had better luck.
    Iyou may want to consider black acrylic, dyeing a different wood black, or maybe even using blackwood whick I like better since the wood grain shows through more and is not as likely to crack.

    Good Luck!
    Mike Vickery

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    Thanks for the information guys. I really do welcome the hints. I know that the flatwork really doesn't mean experience in turning.

    I may go ahead and keep the block of ebony that I got for flatwork and use the scrap pieces to turn into pens.

    Again thanks!!!

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