I know someone who loves the colour black. His kitchen has a black granite work surface and black floor tiles. To finish it off he really wanted a black chopping board but was having no luck finding one. It had to be jet black with no frills except for a groove to catch juices and crumbs. In terms of colour, I suggested Ebony would be a good choice but a very expensive one. Rightfully so, as it is becoming increasingly rare. Ebony is also very hard but brittle. It is also heavy, so perhaps not that practical for a chopping board.
I tried to find alternatives to ebony. I found out that a solution of steel wool soaked in vinegar was excellent at blackening oak (do a search on ‘ebonising wood’ and you’ll find all kinds of information). This created a deep black colour, but it didn’t penetrate deep enough for a chopping board. Even after soaking for a few days, the black only went down half a millimetre at most. A few chopped tomatoes and the unblackened oak would be exposed.
So I decided to take the plunge and go for ebony, but only if I could get it ethically. The most ethical source of ebony I found was a shop in Spain that is involved in a partnership with Taylor Guitars. Together, they’ve purchased a saw mill in Cameroon, through which they are promoting the ethical sourcing and use of ebony. Apparently most ebony isn’t black. Only after chopping down a tree does it become visible how much black wood there is. Since the non-black ebony had little value, only the black ebony logs were taken to the mill. The rest was left to rot. One benefit of this project is that they promise a good price for the non-black ebony and Taylor uses this in their guitars, thus reducing waste. As Taylor says “We need to use the ebony that the forest gives us”.
I agreed on using ebony on two conditions: the first was that I get the wood from the Cameroon project and the second was that I would make something else from the wood if the board was to fail for some reason.
The project got a “go” and I bought the ebony. The most suitably sized blanks were 30mm x 15mm. My plan was to glue these together to create a 30 mm thick board, about 500mm long and 300mm wide. I ordered the ebony and it arrived a week or so later:
The ebony has arrived
It was a heavy pile of wood! Next: how I created the board.