Ebony Substitutes for Inlay

Suggestions for softer woods to substitute for Ebony as an inlay in a table top, along with a tip on bringing Ebony flush to softer woods during sanding and finishing operations. November 15, 2011

Question
We make dining tables with a 3/8 wide inlay set in from the edge. Lately ebony seems to be the rage and it appears to be coming standard for us. Ebony is so much harder and we have troubles with it standing up away from the cherry after finish sanding. There must be an ebony substitute out there. Back in the eighties we used a soft maple impregnated with black dye, obtained out of Ohio. I don't recall its name. Aloe wood is no longer made and is kind of soft. I'm looking for something with similar properties as cherry.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor C:
Use a scraper to level out instead of sanding.



From contributor H:
I have used black corian as an ebony inlay. Itís easily bent with heat, black all the way through, and can be sanded without changing the color.


From contributor L:
I have heard of pearwood being used, dyed black.


From contributor R:
I second using a cabinet scraper - great tools.


From contributor B:
A lipping planer works good for trimming the inlays flush as well. A little bit of a learning curve handling it, but once you have it figured out it's quick and easy.


From contributor J:
To the original questioner: It was called Ebon-X, and I too used it and was sad to see it disappear. I third the scraper method.


From contributor G:
Itís nice to have the name again even though we can't get it. I'll have my table guy do the scraper method.


From contributor S:
Epoxy mixed up with black dye works well too.