Ebony Edgbanding Alternatives

A furniture maker gets ideas for finding ebony edgebanding material, or an acceptable substitute. December 15, 2005

I am working on some projects that require ebony edgebanding. The band will be about 1/8" thick x 3/4" +/_. The longest length is 55". I cannot find long enough lengths anywhere and even the short ones are incredibly expensive. I have thought about dyeing some wood, but I need to be able to sand the edgebanding flush with the panel after it is glued on and I am worried about going through the dye. I think it would be impossible to dye it after it is applied without getting some dye on the face.

1. Is there another black wood that is more reasonably available?
2. Is there a way to dye something else, say soft maple deep enough that it won't sand off?

Any other suggestions would be appreciated. One thought I had was to laminate some veneers to thickness but I am open for other suggestions.

Forum Responses
(Veneer Forum)
From contributor J:
Here are a couple of thoughts/leads:
1. Most dyed woods are actually vacuum-dyed, rather than pressure-dyed, so the dye usually penetrates all the way through.
2. There used to be a dyed wood ebony substitute called Ebonex or Ebon-X - you might try a Google search for it.
3. Constantine's used to stock a 1/8" dyed wood - I don't know about dimensions or availability. I never bought it but I did use their 1/16" black dyed veneer once and it was fine.

4. Have you already called the usual suspects such as Certainly Wood and A&M Wood Specialty?

From the original questioner:
1. Is vacuum dyeing something I can do in a bag?
2. Ebonex is a manufacturer of bone derived pigments, they do not provide wood.
3. Constantines: $128.00 BF- wow.
4. Certainly Wood: just Veneers, A&M: 72.00 BF, still too pricy for what I have in mind.

I would really like to come up with a way to dye something common like soft maple, deep enough that I can sand into it some. Are there other methods for dyeing that will penetrate - soaking, boiling, etc?

From contributor J:
I haven't tried vacuum/pressure dyeing myself. If you were to try a vacuum method, I would think that you would want to do it in a rigid vessel, like a tank that was evacuated from the top. I'm sure that you could figure out the details, but not sure that that will ultimately be a satisfactory way to go.

The material that I was referring to at Constantine's is their DV133 black-dyed veneer; I see on their website that it is available only up to 1/16" now and only goes to 36".

We've been pretty successful with sealing and/or masking faces in order to color various edging materials. You might want to go back and look at that option. Could you share a few more details about the application? That might be helpful for coming up with a solution.

From the original questioner:
The application is fairly basic. I am building some Demilune table with 3/4 MDF radial veneered tops, and this is simply the edgebanding on the tops.

From contributor J:
We have had the exact same situation. In that particular case, the designer approved a black lacquer edge so we sealed the top, then filled the edge with thickened epoxy and sanded it well. We masked the top (make sure you use the right kind of tape - the green stuff from 3M), sprayed the edges black plus a few clear coats to make sure that it was isolated. Lastly, the whole piece got built up in clear.

If you wanted to keep a woodgrain look, I would suggest banding with walnut. Seal the top and mask it, then use a dark toning lacquer to color your edge. The thing you have to be careful of is the face veneer absorbing color through the end grain, so avoid stain and think through your technique (maybe hit the edge with some clear first to seal off the end grain of the face veneer.
Anyway, I think that you'll find it's pretty doable this way.

From contributor K:
I use Febings USMC Black shoe, or leather dye. It is quick and easy, and penetrates fairly well. You won't sand through with hand sanding. You can use it with Wenge, which is already black and dark brown thin stripes, but with more of a pore than ebony, if you want to sand through the dye a little. It also looks great on cherry. Don't over do it, because too much will leave a white blush - go figure.

From contributor A:
You might consider using Wenge or dark East Indian Rosewood. Once a finish is applied over these they look quite near black, however they are pore-open species while ebony is not. I don't quite follow your cause. You say that your project requires an ebony trimming, but further along you talk about staining some maple to be used as a trim?

From the original questioner:
There is no requirement. I am building these tables to sell, so I can do whatever I want. But I want an ebony edgebanding for design reasons. I was referring to dyeing maple black; I have a lot of maple in inventory.

From contributor I:
To the original questioner: Just a thought, you said you could do anything you want with it. What about just painting the edge black? I know it's not as nice as edgebanding, but it could be an easy enough and cost effective solution.

From contributor T:
I have done the same thing as you are doing many times. If you want to dye maple cut it into some strips about 1/4" thick and let it soak in India ink (available at most art stores) for about a week, then let it air dry for about 2 months and it will be pitch black. I personally have switched to ebony and find it pretty easy to use and think it looks better, and you don't have to wait. I buy instrument blank rejects they are 1.5 x 1.5 x 20+ inches.