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Advice for Hand Carving Ebony?

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  • Dileon
    replied
    I was digging around about the wood.....and found this information. I have to agree with this 100 %.
    As someone that's carved ebony and various rosewoods, I can tell you what not to try - African blackwood is so hard that it will generally break any steel tool other than a file or a power carbide bit. The worst thing about ebony it breaks and splinters. Most rosewood is similarly incredibly difficult to carve (African Blackwood's technically a rosewood). You can carve ebony, and you can get big blocks of it from Tropical Latin American Hardwoods in San Diego. Prepare your customer for a shock - ebony is one of the most expensive hardwoods by species in the world.

    However, what I'd say about ebony carving is that it will be a long, very laborious process. It's not as hard as glass (that would be the rosewoods), but it is about as hard as concrete.

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  • Donsexton
    replied
    I know I am late to this post and I agree with what the carvers had to say here. This is just for larger carvings done with a mallet and gouge in very hard wood I don't think I have ever carved ebony. I do carve dry cherry, hickory, pecan, live oak, sugar maple I don't know how they compare to ebony. All of my mallet tools have a second bevel it really does save the edge from chipping. Also the corners slightly round them over just very slight this will keep the corners from breaking on #3 & #4. This is only applicable to mallet use because a second bevel will make the gouge harder to push.

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  • sebastiaan56
    replied
    Any wood can be carved by hand tools if you have the patience. The problem with power tools and Ebony is the risk of developing sensitivies. There is also the mess so if you can use hand tools that helps. Violin and other instrument makers use scrapers with ebony extensively. They are easy to make and use and leave a great finish. Give it a go, I'd love to see what you can do with it. Things like figurines might be a challenge but pendants and other items like combs are very traditional.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEZ7tKkhW_o

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhdSW-H9s6AU
    Last edited by sebastiaan56; 02-27-2017, 08:05 PM.

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  • Brian T
    replied
    Everybody knows that it takes an incredibly sharp knife to cut an over-ripe tomato.
    I think the same of soft woods like the cedars for tool edges.
    Randy's method (#21) goes a long way to getting it done.

    Flint stone breaks at the molecular level, far sharper than any steel can ever be. My new tomato knife.

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  • Randy
    replied
    As has been said carving high density hard woods is a different set of skills than normal carving woods. It coast me a few good tools to learn that. Now I use saws, rasps, or power for rough out and much of detail. Any knife or chisel work is done with very shallow slow cuts. With as little pressure as possible.

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  • Dileon
    replied
    Learning to sustain a good edge for this will be another skill for you to value.
    LOL .....agree on that one. The harder the wood .....the more you will need to know about sharping. Hardwood ....is a new ball game for people. You can learn to carve it....but each its own learning curve....in other words what you do with one wood will not work with the next wood. Right now I am at war with koa,.....she burns super easy at times.....been five years learning...I am still pulling out my hair. But I am hard headed......so I am going to learn how to do it if takes me a life time. On ebony .....the wood is beautiful finished if you keep trying.

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  • Dileon
    replied
    Doug I carved ebony.....it is not really a tool wood,..... you will not get shavings and you are lucky to get small bits and chunks..... Do you have a drill? I use it to make holes....lots of them so the chisel can carve some what. A knife and thin blade ....you asking to break it ......ask me ....I know I lost tools. I agree with the others although.....ebony is a power carving wood. But since you have such a small piece of wood ...it is do able. It will take you a very long time to hand carve.....and like some one said ...you can not hold it....the grain is so tight, that tools will want to slide out instead of dig in.....so beware of where the tool is going to take off to if she slides out. No vice.....block it in with screws or wood screwed to hold the piece or other creative methods.....so she does not move. Like I said because of smooth tight grain, you do not want to hold it.....your asking for a major injury....you can hold basswood because the tool digs in....ebony it does not and it takes lots of a learning curve to get the wood tooled. You can do it but listen to all the warnings.

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  • Brian T
    replied
    Deal is, up the bevel angle. hard woods go 25 maybe 30 for ebony.
    You have to have the body of steel behind the edge to support it.
    Good for you. **** the torpedoes. Straight as she goes.

    Given your limited tool selection, go exploring. Learning to sustain a good edge for this will be another skill for you to value.
    African people carve woods like ebony, I've seen their work in "Craft" stores.
    I do know Africans who tell me that they finish the hard woods with scrapers. Broken glass. Believe it.

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  • TennsDog
    replied
    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention my "straight" I mentioned is a standard carving knife -- flat blade, good bit of metal behind it. So far I'm finding this to be my favorite. It and the pelican seem to work about the same, but the pelican is brand new, and I'm not sure I want to risk damaging it on this little experiment right away. I'm also not as good with it yet, so the straight blade has been my choice. Maybe it's just not as sharp, but the skew just didn't seem to dig in as well.

    I've been able to make some good progress so far, though I don't think I did myself any favors by choosing to do a sort of puzzle figure. Oh well, we'll see how it turns out...probably in a few weeks. If it's anything like I'm hoping for, it'll be fantastic. Ebony is an absolutely gorgeous wood.

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  • Brian T
    replied
    I reminded in #11. The thing with a skew is that you can use it in pull strokes, hold the shank.
    Then put it in the other hand a push on the spine of the shank with your thumb. Hard on your thumbs.
    Gotta put your shoulders and back into this.

    This can be a style called "form-line" carving that you will find in my Pacific Northwest coast.
    Many intricate patterns of V-grooves that you can't do with a V-tool, even if you owned one.

    Be careful OK? Ebony is like aluminum. Go for it.

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  • TennsDog
    replied
    Guys, I don't have power tools. I listed the three carving tools I own, and that's literally it.

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  • brent
    replied
    Power carve it! If you do power carve, wear a dust mask or respirator type mask. Keep that dust out of your lungs.
    Last edited by brent; 02-14-2017, 05:02 PM.

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  • Buffalo Bif
    replied
    If you bail on your hand carving idea and opt for power carving, please pay attention to the dust. Different people have different reactions to exotic wood dust. I an aware of one who went to the hospital sanding purpleheart, I had a not quite so serious reaction to Imbuya, others have no reaction at all.

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  • carver33
    replied
    I agree with Bob - don't. I recently carved Purple Heart with a Janks hardness of around 2500, and I only had one knife that would hold up to it (made from some kind of industrial cutter blade). I ended up power carving about 95% of it. Ebony has a Janka hardness of about 3200. I wouldn't mess with it.

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  • Brian T
    replied
    Well, the OP has a 1.25" gouge(?) a skew and a Flexcut Pelican. Of those 3, the skew would be the strongest.

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