Australian Ebony

    (Diospyros humilis)

 

Also known as: Native ebony

Australian Ebony is not exactly common around the Highlands but there's a few to be found. Growing to about 8 metres high with a trunk to around 300mm diameter, it has a few distinguishing features. One of the best means of identifying it is the way the stumps turn black anywhere a branch is broken off or damaged as you can see in the picture below. As only the very heart of the tree develops enough 'ebony' to be useful, it is difficult to judge how much might be in a tree before it is sawn. I was recently given a 200mm diameter log from down Mitchell way which had about 100mm of 'ebony' heart but I haven't found any with that much heartwood around here (yet!). There are a few other trees out here that develop similar 'ebonizing' in their heartwood such as Bauhinia and Peach Bush but they aren't as truly black as the Australian Ebony.

 

 

The tree at left was photographed in July and then again in September covered in a flush of new growth as seen at right. They stand out like the veritable dogs thingies at that time of year - too easy to spot!

 

I used to reckon there were no big Ebony trees close to Emerald until I found this one - eat your hearts out guys!!!

 

The dry log pictured, from which I turned my sample egg, was given to me by a generous member of our local club. As it had air-dried naturally and slowly as a full tree, the heart was in fairly good condition with only minor cracking. The green logs I have processed are a different story though. Once the ebony heartwood is cut from the log it splits very quickly and severely right to the pith so I have experimented with other drying methods like microwaving and soaking to see if there's a quicker way of recovering the ebony without halving the heart or waiting 6 or 10 years for it to air dry. At this stage, the only samples that haven't split to the pith are those completely sealed in wax. This of course means that they will take longer than I would like to dry but at least I should end up with solid pieces.
 
Geez ya gotta be quick!!! It was late when I finished cutting flats on each log of this haul and I naively thought they would be OK overnight and I would be able to cut the heart out with the bandsaw and wax them in the morning. NOT. A bit of cracking but I will still get some useable bits from it.
 
 
 
The 'ebony' timber is fairly brittle to machine but sands well and takes a beautiful shine with a wax polish. The surrounding timber turns, sands and polishes quite well also but I am really only interested in using the ebony for small finials and details on other creations.
 

 

 

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