Everyone Wants Black Ebony Snooker Cues

Every year more and more ebony snooker cues are sold, not only in the UK but now to a worldwide market. Now whilst the title of this email could be a little misleading, not everyone actually wants ebony, the desire for completely black hardwood is having an environmental affect.

I wanted to take a look to see what we as players can start to do differently in order to sustain ebony and similar woods for the future.

Dark Woods Are Da Bomb

People like dark woods, whether they be for snooker cues or for guitars there is no getting away from the fact that Ebony and similar woods are highly desired.

Normally the blacker the better as well, the amount of customers that speak to us requesting only jet black ebony with no grain and no other flecks is amazing.

However, this is not always possible, something will have to give.

The problem with these dark woods is that they are not very sustainable, whilst for every tree felled a new tree could be planted, ebony is very slow growing so the yield would not happen fast enough for the speed at which we are using it.

Endangered

Bob Taylor, the co-founder of Taylor Guitars, spoke on ebony back in 2012, he said,

“Ebony has been a wood that for two, or three, or four hundred years, we’ve gone into countries, and we’ve used the ebony until it’s all gone. Literally. Then we move into another country, and we take their ebony till it’s all gone. Why do I say ‘we’?—because ebony isn’t cut in Africa for use by Africans. Ebony is cut in Africa to be sold to people like us, to make things like guitars out of.  That’s the simple truth of the matter.”

Of the various types of ebony that grow around the world and are used in snooker cues the status of them in terms of conservation is getting more and more problematic. See the list below:

  • Ceylon Ebony - Exports Banned
  • Gabon Ebony - Endangered
  • Mun Ebony - Critically Endangered
  • Macassar Ebony - Vulnerable
  • Wenge - Endangered
  • African Blackwood - Near Threatened

It does not provide happy reading at all, somewhere in the not too distant future there is going to be no more ebony available.

What Can We Do?

I would say quite a bit.

The finest pieces of ebony are the pieces with no flaws at all that are completely jet black and show no grain. These pieces are becoming less and less available and are therefore commanding a higher price.

If purchasing a mid-range cue don't expect it to be pure black. Expect there to be dark brown areas and even some small amounts of grain.

Of course if you are paying the money for a very high-end custom cue then you perhaps should still be expecting the jet black ebony, but perhaps when talking with your cue maker discuss other alternatives, woods like Purpleheart can be very dark, and look amazing.

In order to change consumer behaviour the manufacturers have also got to play a part in it. 

Peradon started a few years ago producing a composite material called Ebonex, this is used in the Lazer and Carlisle models. This composite can be worked just like wood and has very similar properties to natural ebony, in fact to an untrained person it really looks and feels like ebony anyway.

Composites are one solution. But another solution would be for consumer demand to shift to other woods that are perhaps more sustainable.

I am not a wood expert so I wouldn't really be able to point consumers in the right direction. However, one article I found (that encouraged me to write this one) suggested Katalox, Purpleheart, Texas Ebony, Black Palm and Black Walnut as possible alternatives depending on the properties needed to make the item in question.

I am not sure whether these woods would be suitable for use in snooker cues so perhaps I should ask a cue maker.

Is It The End?

No, we as consumers will still want dark wood snooker cues.

Luckily cues don't use huge amounts of ebony anyway, the average splice being around 12-16 inches in length and the depth before it is turned is not very much at all.

But that is the thing about ebony, it is only really used in small pieces, those small pieces soon add up.

This doesn't mean we should ignore it, we need to start making conscious decisions to look for alternatives and maybe not be so demanding on the aesthetic qualities of the wood.

This article took inspiration from Ebony: Dark Outlook For Dark Woods? by Eric Meier.

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