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Cutting Ebony

Hi all,

I’m currently working on a project that involves cutting out a fair
amount of pieces out of a 3/8" (or 1 cm) thick slab of ebony. I
tried a cut-off wheel on my Foredom and the regular jeweler’s saw. It
kind of works but takes huge amounts of elbow grease, effort and
time. Is there any other (faster/easier) way to do this?

Linda Savineau

It kind of works but takes huge amounts of elbow grease, effort
and time. Is there any other (faster/easier) way to do this? 

Linda - ebony is wood, which is obvious but people forget because it
seems like plastic sometimes. The worst problem with it, especially
in sawing, is that it can chip and break like it WAS plastic. What
you need are wood tools. I use a hacksaw with a larger tooth for
rough cuts, a jeweler’s saw with a big blade, like a #2, #4, or even
#6 depending on the thickness of wood (those are, of course, above
zero, not 00, 4/0 or 6/0) for profiling and stuff. A separating
(cutoff) disk isn’t going to get far, and probably will burn the wood
after awhile. You may find that a strategy like a bandsaw is used
might be helpful: Instead of cutting a big arc in one try, cut it
1/4, and then cut off the triangle of scrap, then another 1/4, remove
scrap, etc. This can stop the sawblade binding and prevent chipping.
Of course, power will help, but I’m assuming you’re not looking to
invest in a stationary scroll saw. Probably picking the right
sawblade will do the trick - for 3/8" maybe #4 or #6, depending on
the detail. Caution: There are 7/8" circular sawblades that look like
they’ll go right on a flex shaft, and they will. They are NOT
intended for offhand use, and they’ll take your finger right off -
don’t do it!

I cut ebony, with a band saw, Cut off wheels will just clog and burn
through at best, you could use a slitting saw on your foredom, but
it is very risky, another affordable saw would be a scroll saw, you
can get one for under a hundred dollars that will accept either pin
ended scroll saw blades or regular Jewelers saw blades, they also
come in handy when cutting silver sheet best use something in the 2
to 6 range for jewelers saw blades.

Kenneth Ferrell

Linda- A jewelers saw blade has too fine of a tooth to cut. try an
old fashioned coping saw.


Use a hand saw, perhaps a coping saw. Ebony is a very dense wood.
Sometimes the ‘by hand’ method is best.

Try using a wax cutting blade, it will have a wider kerf, but will
reduce some of the elbow grease.



Not sure what your project is, but usually if I work with wood, I use
wood tools to cut it with. Thought of a scroll saw, or maybe even a
band saw, not trying to be a smart’a’, but you don’t say if your
engraving it, flat cutting, resaw or what.


i am no expert on the subject, but ebony is a wood. I would think
that you would cut it with a wood saw. What about a little coping

Rose Alene

Ebony is an African hardwood and it is really hard. If you have any
woodworking friends that could cut it up for you using a carbide
tipped blade that would be best but with each cut you are going to
lose one eighth inch of the material. Have you tried a good old
hacksaw with a new blade? Or better yet a handheld jigsaw with a
metal cutting blade. That maybe the best way with less waste. Still
requires a good amount of elbow grease.

BTW I recall that Ebony is the only wood that doesn’t float in
water. I could be wrong I have been out of woodworking for a few
years now…

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Rocky Mountain Wonders
Colorado Springs, Colorado

I work with ebony quite a bit. When I have areas to cut out, I use a
fret saw with a 30 tpi blade. I use a “V” shaped supporting block
clamped to my bench to support the piece. Ebony is very hard but easy
to cut with a saw. A fret saw will cut much faster the a cutting
wheel and also allow for tighter turns.

Mark Noll

Try using a wax cutting blade, it will have a wider kerf, but will
reduce some of the elbow grease. 

It would be very difficult to guide a wax blade through ebony.

Places like Ace Hardware or Home Depot sell small “hack saws” with
blades about 6 " long and about 6 mm in depth. The brand is ‘Great
Neck’. They are inexpensive and handy for many jobs.

Might be just the thing.

spiral jewelers saw, coarsest jewelers saw, coping saw, band saw
8tpi, scroll saw, japanese saws, tiny hacksaw

Hi everyone,

I see there were quite a few responses to the Ebony cutting

I am a woodworker and make wood jewelry. I am attempting to
embellish some with gold and stones.

I am making plain ebony bracelets for a jeweler in California which
she will embellish. If anyone is interested in wood pieces finished
and ready to embellish for projects, please let me know.

I make bracelets, earrings, pendants and hair combs. I work with a
variety of hardwoods including ebony, cocobolo, walnut, burls,
mesquite, sapele, bubinga, satinwood and others. If you have a
project in mind, I’d be glad to do the wood work for you.

I can work from sketches or a good description.

I also do carving. Ebony carves well and takes a great polish with
no finish. Gold and silver contrast well with it.

Hope to be of service.
Mark Noll

Hi Linda,

While it is very hard and waxy, ebony is still a wood. It cuts very
well with woodworking tools; saws, scrapers, machine drill bits,
etc. Tool selection for specific tasks can be challenging, but there
are times when bigger teeth and a little brute force is called for. I
should think that trying to cut out ebony parts with a delicate
little cutoff wheel on a flex-shaft would drive you crazy. Better to
use a hack saw, coping saw, scroll saw, band saw,or even a fine
toothed Japanese pull saw.

Ebony can really look great with a simple scraped surface plus some
hard wax.

Good luck,
Dr. Mac

Remember to wear a good respirator while cutting ebony. I seem to
recall that ebony dust is extremely toxic. Anyone out there remember
the source for this Charles?

Linda Kaye-Moses

I seem to recall that ebony dust is extremely toxic. 

Not toxic, irritating. Toxic is poison, which ebony is not. Cocobolo
is one that can generate allergic reactions in some but not all
people. A mask is good for ebony, but the word toxic is much abused
these days.

It is best in this case to consider all wood sawdust as an irritant
at best. Individual sensitivity is very variable - Some people will
be unable to work with many woods but dust exposure needs to be
minimal for all. Search “toxic wood” in with google for multiple
authoritative references ( much better than most handbook guides).
High quality respiratory protection is a must



How about this from the
musical instrument makers site.


Sawdust is always a health risk. Always use a good dust mask or
respirator. Many woods can cause health problems. Never take a

Ebony sawdust is an irritant. When working with it always use a dust

My dog had a reaction to the dust that was on my clothes. Now I
always shower well and change clothes before I leave work. Poor puppy
was itching like crazy and we couldn’t figure it out for weeks.


Hi Linda,

Many exotic woods are highly irritating to many woodworkers. Toxic
may not be the best word for it, probably severely allergenic fits

Cocobolo is probably the worst of all and I think ebony is quite low
on the list. Interestingly pernambuco will cause you to sneeze
brilliant red-the saw dust is actually used as a dyestuff.

Nonetheless your point is a good one, USE A REAL FILTERING MASK WHEN

Dr. Mac