Tropical. Height 70`. Trunk diameter 3`. Distribution throughout the tropical zone of the entire globe. Ebony is the common name for the tree genus Diospyrus which contains some 300 species. The ones most associated with the black colored rare wood are African ebony, East Indian ebony, Macassar ebony and Nigerian ebony discussed here. Ebony can be found in the Philippines, East Indies, India, Sri Lanka and Madagascar, as well as throughout Africa, Central America and South America. Over the centuries ebony has become increasingly hard to find and hard to harvest. Today it is sometimes extracted from more difficult terrain by helicopter. A temperate zone ebony Diospyros virginiana) is found in the United States. It is called persimmon and is valued for its fruit rather than its wood.

ebony

All ebony carries the prized black colored heartwood in the center of its trunk. Some species are darker than others. Ceylonese ebony has the darkest, most dense and uniform black color. It is found in Sri Lanka. Another dark ebony is the pure coal black specie from West Africa. It is believed that ebony gets its deep black color from deposits of tannins. A hard gum fills the heartwood fibers making it black and brittle. Other ebonies are dark brown or black with pale brown, yellow, red or gray streaks. The grain pattern of all ebony is very tight, close and indistinct. Upon close inspection a very subtle ray pattern can be noted. Fact is, this extremely dense wood will dull almost all equipment and is often best worked with metalworking tools. It finishes smooth and has a beautiful sheen when highly polished.

Due to its brittle hard nature, its tendency to split when drying and its difficulty to mill, ebony is almost always used as accent components in small pieces, on furniture, sculpture, musical instruments and architectural elements. Its black color is an important addition to fine furniture design, ornamental work, fancy goods, marquetry and inlaid work. It is used in turnery and in accessories such as drawer handles, tool handles, brush backs and cutlery. The traditional use of ebony in musical instruments is as finger boards on violins and, of course, the black keys on pianos. Imagine sitting down to a Victorian piano built with black ebony and white ivory keys encased in Brazilian rosewood!

Deciduous. Height 60`-100`. Trunk Diameter 3 feet to 4 feet with a record of 17 feet. Distribution: originally, from New England, south to Georgia, west to the Mississippi. Once grown in commercial quantities, American chestnut made up a full one-third of this country`s hardwood growth, about nine million acres of forest. In this century a fungus bark disease has nearly reduced this species to the point of extinction. It is a member of the great beech family and not related to our common horse chestnut, which is a buckeye.

Today all supplies of chestnut lumber comes from dead timber! There are still quantities of chestnut logs in the Appalachian Mountains, which may be available for some time because of its great natural resistance to decay. The killer fungus does not affect the wood at all, only the bark. Before the blight arrived the American chestnut was a fast growing, broad tree with a short trunk and massive overhanging branches. It bore edible fruit, similar to the European chestnuts roasted at Christmas time. The wood is a rich gray-brown that becomes darker with age. It is coarse in texture with conspicuous growth ring patterns that resemble etched lines. It is moderately light weight and moderately hard. It seasons well and is easy to work with all tools.

Due to its rich color and distinctive patterns, chestnut is almost always sold for fine architectural installations, wall paneling, decorative veneers and for fine furniture. Because it is liberally marked with worm holes it is often referred to by its market name "wormy chestnut." This distressed look, now popular, adds to the value of this rare wood.

It is, needless to say, expensive. In the past, American chestnut was used for poles, railway ties, caskets, boxes, crates and core stock for veneer paneling. Today it is used for decorative elements: panels, trim, furniture, specialty veneers and picture framing.

cherryOf the many species of cherry, black cherry is the largest by far and for that reason it is the only cherry of commercial value. It is found in scattered areas of the woods and thickets of North America, from the Canadian border south to the Carolinas and west to the Dakotas and Texas. The largest and most abundant black cherry trees grow in the Appalachians of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Most cherry lumber comes from this area. The average height of a black cherry tree is 60 feet to 80 feet with a trunk diameter of 2 to 3 feet. The National Register of Big Trees records the biggest black cherry at 93 feet high with a trunk circumference of 222 inches and a canopy spread of 122 feet. It can be found in Allegan County, Michigan.

 

The wood from the cherry tree can be described in a single word: beautiful. Its rich red-brown color deepens with age. Small dark gum flecks add to its interest. Distinctive, unique figures and grains are brought out through quarter sawing. It has an exceptionally lustrous appearance that glows. The finish is satiny to the touch. Along with black walnut it is the most prestigious hardwood in America. Its looks are nearly exceeded by its performance. Once dried it is particularly stable, will not warp and possesses a fine close grain that is easy to work.

The wood from American black cherry has always been considered a precious commodity. It was and is reserved for limited, decorative work and for hand-crafted furniture, high-class joinery, custom cabinet-making and architectural interior applications. The Shakers of New England, New York and the mid Atlantic States valued cherry above all woods and used it in much of their woodworking. Unparalleled architects, designers and crafts people, they recognized its versatility and workability with hand tools as well as early machine tools. They knew that it nailed and glued well and finished beautifully. Their harmonious communities house hundreds of exquisitely constructed cherry wood furnishings.

Woodworkers still respect and value black cherry. Besides hand crafted furniture it is used for architectural interiors: finish work, trim and paneling. It is also a wood of choice for precious wood objects: precision musical instruments, clock cases, jewelry boxes, spice containers and tobacco pip