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Q&A: African Blackwood vs. Ebony Fingerboards

African blackwood is no longer regarded as ebony, a name now reserved for a limited number of timbers yielded by the genus Diospyros; African Blackwood is formally known as Dalbergia melanoxylon and so related to other famous timbers such as Brazilian rosewood (Dalbergia nigra), Dalbergia cearensis and cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa) (see the Wikipedia entry).

Hanika uses African Blackwood for the fingerboards of several of his guitars. Comparing the two,

  • African Blackwood is harder than Ebony
  • African Blackwood is less sensitive to humidity variations than is Ebony
  • African Blackwood is less “anisotropic” than Ebony – it responds to changes in humidity more evenly in all three dimensions than does Ebony
  • (It is more expensive!)