Because of its beautiful dark color, density, and durability, Ebony (Diospyros melanoxylon) has been a highly valued wood since ancient times. It has a long heritage of use in furniture, sculpture, and fine woodcraft. Ebony carvings have even been found in Egyptian tombs. How rare it has become will surprise you.
Ebony has been used in the creation of stringed instruments for as long as they have been made. Its hardness, smooth and fast feel, bright tone, and long sustain make it perfectly suited for things like tuning pegs, tailpieces, frogs, and fingerboards. Its inherent density (dense enough to sink in water when freshly cut) makes Ebony an especially good choice for fretless fingerboards.
Due to overwhelming popularity, a slow growth rate, and illegal harvesting, Ebony has become critically scarce. Though traditionally thought of as uniformly black in color, most of the Ebony commercially available today comes from small trees and contains brown, gray, or vanilla streaks. It may also contain mineral spots that become unusually glossy when the wood is polished. The jet black Ebony that once existed is essentially gone. What little remains is highly regulated, extremely limited, and expensive. The good news is that Ebony with coloration is indistinguishable from black Ebony in feel and tone, and possesses its own kind of beauty.
At Warmoth we use all variegations of Ebony in our production. When purchasing a standard Ebony fingerboard from us you should expect it to contain some coloration. If you have specific preferences, you can view images and choose from a range of Ebony blanks in the Unique Choice section of our Custom Neck Builders. Any time uniformly black fingerboard blanks become available they will be offered there, or on finished necks in our In-Stock Showcase.
Warmoth is also currently exploring Ebony alternatives, including phenolic (Ebonol), which we may make available in the future for those who desire a black fingerboard. It is our hope that by embracing all the colors of Ebony the forest sustainably provides and using alternative materials when possible we can preserve this scarce resource, allowing musicians to experience the benefits of Ebony for generations to come.