Macassar Ebony: Prized wood of ancient kings and modern craftsmen

March 7, 2019
Amanda Zimmerman
Macassar Ebony: Prized wood of ancient kings and modern craftsmen

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus records that it was part of a regular tribute paid to Persian kings. Indian royalty chose it for scepters and, because of its reputed ability to counteract poison, intricately carved drinking cups. Its very name, diospyros, comes from the Latin for “fruit of the gods.”

Macassar Ebony has a history as rich as its coloring, and has been prized by kings and craftsmen long before modern demand earned it a place on the list of threatened tree species.

Defining features of Macassar Ebony

Macassar Ebony is a flowering tree that can grow up to 66”. It’s dark heartwood is strong, hard and dense, but its most defining feature is its unique coloring.

While the sapwood of Macassar Ebony is a pale gold in color, dramatically demarcated with darker stripes, the dark heartwood with its reddish-brown body relieved by stripes of darker brown or black is most sought after. In appearance, Macassar Ebony can resemble Zebrawood, and its vivid natural striations make it a premium wood of choice for craftsmen.

Macassar Ebony: Prized wood of ancient kings and modern craftsmen

 

Working with Macassar Ebony

Macassar Ebony’s striking beauty does not come easily. The wood is extremely difficult to dry without cracking or warping, and it’s not uncommon for trees to be girdled up to two years before harvesting them. The girdling process cuts into the outer layer of a tree so it stops growing, which allows the tree to start drying out while it’s still standing.

Once cut, Macassar Ebony planks should ideally be air dried for at least six months, and kept covered or in a shaded area to avoid checking and sun damage.

Care must also be taken when the wood is ready to be worked, as its density requires deft handling and finely-honed skills, as well as the proper tools.

Macassar Ebony: Prized wood of ancient kings and modern craftsmen

The demand for Macassar Ebony

The exotic beauty of Macassar Ebony isn’t the only factor contributing to a demand that threatens to outstrip the supply. The tree, indigenous to the islands of Indonesia, is not always easily accessible, and over-harvesting coupled with a shrinking natural habitat has led to a reduction in its population.

Add to that the length of time it takes to dry the wood before it can be used for high-end cabinetry and other custom millwork, and it’s clear that Macassar Ebony’s status—and price—will continue to rise.

The ability to obtain the highest quality Macassar Ebony and the craftmanship needed to showcase its natural beauty in custom woodwork help distinguish Eisenhardt Mills and its artisans, earning them a long-held reputation as premier millworkers for premium woods. Combining a heritage built on the traditional craft and time-honored techniques of woodworking with forward vision and the best of modern innovation, Eisenhardt Mills is proud to produce high-end pieces made from Macassar Ebony that hold their own among the treasures of history.

Photo Gallery

Macassar Ebony: Prized wood of ancient kings and modern craftsmen

Macassar Ebony: Prized wood of ancient kings and modern craftsmen