Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Plane Makers Dream, Billet of Macassar Ebony

I participated in the Altanta Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event February 18th and 19th at Peach State Lumber in Kennesaw, Georgia. This was a great opportunity to reconnect with some good friends from that area and see the good people from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, my friend Deneb included. Steve Qhuel, owner of the local Woodcraft Franchise invited me to display and demo my planes on a beautiful ash Roubo bench made for him by my good friend Jameel Abraham. I just could not pass up that opportunity.

Some weeks prior to this event I received a phone call from a gentleman named John Fiant. John runs a custom woodworking/millwork business in the Marietta area of Atlanta. We conversed about several aspects of tools, tool making and many woodworking related topics. As the conversation ended we agreed that the Lie-Nielsen Event would be a great place to meet in person and continue our discussion.

John introduced himself to me at the event and as our conversation continued he inquired as to whether I would be interest in a piece of Macassar Ebony that he had in his possession. As he began to describe the piece to me I had to work at controlling my excitement. I certainly did not want to give away my bargaining position by seeming overly interested. The truth of the matter was just this....if the wood was as he described, I by all means wanted it and I told him so. So much for my bargaining position.

This billet measures 5" thick 6.5" wide and is 52" long. The moisture content measured 6.2% on all four sides. Truly a magnificent piece of very dense, will sink in water, piece of wood.

As you can see in the pictures some sides contained wonderful tight contrasting stripes and other sides contained contrasting marbling. John delivered this billet to my shop the following Thursday. When he place this piece on my workbench there was only one word to describe my condition......I was GOBSMACKED!! Seriously this was the word that popped into my mind.

A piece of wood of this nature doesn't come along everyday and I really was interested to know more about it's origins. I consulted with a friend that handles rare woods in the Atlanta area and he stated that he knew of some billets of Macassar Ebony of this description that had originated from a dealer on the west coast and was fairly sure this was some of that same material. This would put this piece of ebony as having been drying for 15 to 20 years.

By the time John departed for home I was the new owner of this wonderful piece of wood and of course my wallet was much lighter as a result. I was also in more trouble as well. When I consulted with the dealer in Atlanta he informed me that he had stumbled onto another log segment of the now famed "Picasso Rosewood". As luck would have it my wife Julie was flying to New York the next day to attend my Grandson's 1st birthday party. After I dropped her off at the airport I stopped by my local wood pusher, I mean dealer's place of business and entered into negotiations for the rosewood log. I returned home with the log segment rolling around in the trunk of my car like a bound and gagged kidnap victim.

It's been an expensive week to be a plane maker in this part of the world, but I'm thrilled to have this material.

While conversing with one of my customers on the phone the next day I mentioned this piece of wonderfully striped and marbled Macassar Ebony. He asked to me to send a picture. Negotiations of a different type ensued and when all was said and done it was agreed that I would be making a matched set of planes using the Macassar Ebony material.

A matched set of planes will be a new adventure for me and it goes right along with the adventure and the opportunity of acquiring exceptional wood. This piece of Ebony is so pristine in it's present form that it almost seems a shame to cut it up into pieces.........but I will!

Did I mention before that........ "I Live for this Stuff!"

Yeah, I guess I did. (Grin)



  1. Nice score Ron. Can't wait to see it in its final form.
    Gary Benson

  2. Hi Ron,

    Congratulations! What an awe inspiring piece of material!

    It make me happy to see this spectacular specimen found it's way into the hands of someone who appreciates it's value and has the ability to transform it into something practical that will be enjoyed for generations to come!


  3. Ron,

    Shazaaam ! Beautiful how the figure changes on each face, can't wait to see what reveals itself as you sculpted it into it's final shape. Hope you have as much pleasure working it as we will watching you transform it. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Ron, I can't wait to see that matched pair. What a great score on the wood. Fred