If you are looking to build something in or around your home, then there is really no better option than solid wood. However, there are of course many different trees that you can construct objects out of, which can make choosing one fairly difficult.
Today, we are here to compare two commonly used types of wood, walnut and ebony. Let’s figure out what makes these two types of wood different from each other, and which one is best for specific projects.
What Is Walnut?
First, we have the walnut tree. Here, we are talking about the eastern black walnut tree. This type of tree loves to live in well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight. Walnut trees grow all throughout eastern Canada and in the eastern United States. These are fairly large trees as they can grow to diameters of 8’ and as high as 150’.
Walnut is known for being an extremely hard type of wood, which is also very dense, so it is known for its extreme durability. It is very resistant to denting and scratching.
This type of wood also has plenty of natural oils, which combined with this hardness and density, make it extremely resistant to fungus, pests, moisture, and decay. It is therefore a good option for outdoor purposes, but it is also often used indoors.
Walnut wood is usually very straight-grained and tight, although it can have some curves at times. Walnut wood does sometimes have some knots, gaps, and voids, although usually a limited number of them.
This wood features a deep coffee or chocolate-like brown color. Although this type of wood does grow very dark, it can get lighter over time. Walnut trees take a very long time to grow, which makes them quite expensive to use.
What Is Ebony?
We then have ebony, which is a type of hardwood tree that is native to many parts of Africa, Indonesia, India, and other parts of Southeast Asia.
Ebony is often considered one of the most beautiful types of wood out there. It has a jet-black color, and it is the only type of wood in the world that is so black, hence its name.
This wood has a very straight and tight grain, as well as a uniform and fine texture, and it’s also quite smooth. Because it is so dark, the grain is often not even visible. Ebony wood is very good at holding polish, paint, and stain, but it does have some knots and gaps in it.
One of the things that stands out about this type of wood is that it is extremely dense and hard, usually more so than most other types of wood on this planet. Ebony wood also has excellent resistance to pests, fungus, and moisture. This is a very high-end and expensive type of hardwood that is used for high-end applications, usually for smaller decorative pieces.
Walnut vs. Ebony: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both walnut and ebony are, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.
One of the major differences here is that ebony is much harder than walnut wood. Ebony comes in at a whopping 3000 lbf on the Janka hardness scale, whereas walnut wood comes in at 1010 lbf.
This means that ebony is almost three times harder than walnut, and therefore also much more physically durable.
2. Weight and Density
Another major difference here is that ebony is much heavier and denser than walnut wood, as it comes in at nearly 62 lbs per cubic foot, whereas walnut comes in at no more than 44 lbs per cubic foot.
Ebony is therefore much more durable, heavier, and denser, but also a bit harder to work with due to this heavier weight.
3. Moisture Resistance
What can be said about both types of wood is that they are both extremely resistant to the elements, whether this is moisture or pests.
With that being said, ebony does tend to have some more natural oils than walnut and is also harder and denser. Although both can be used for outdoor applications, ebony is the more resistant choice in terms of the elements.
4. Overall Durability
At the end of the day, ebony is always the stronger of the two, in just about every way.
5. Appearance – Color and Grain
First, we have walnut, which has quite a tight and straight grain, although it can have some curves at times, and it can also have a moderate amount of knots, gaps, and voids. Walnut has a very deep brown color, like dark coffee or chocolate.
On the other hand, we have ebony, which also has a tight and straight grain, although the wood is so dark black that you can barely see the grain at all. Ebony also tends to be a bit smoother than walnut.
In terms of taking on stain and paint, ebony is the easier of the two to work with. However, because this wood is so hard and dense, it is much harder to work with in terms of nailing and sawing.
Ebony is one of the most expensive types of wood out there, as it can cost anywhere between $75 and $200.00 per board foot. Walnut can also be somewhat expensive, although usually won’t cost more than $30 per dollar foot.
When to Use Walnut Wood?
If you need wood that is very hard and durable, resistant to the elements, and also fairly good-looking, but you don’t want to spend a whole lot of money, then walnut always makes for a good option, whether for indoor or outdoor use.
When to Use Ebony Wood?
If you need what has to be one of the best-looking types of wood out there, which also happens to be extremely hard, dense, durable, and very resistant to the elements, and you don’t mind paying a very high price for it, then ebony is a good option to consider.
Alternatives to Walnut and Ebony Wood
If these types of wood are too pricey for you, some more cost-effective options include maple, poplar, beech, alder, and white oak.
For more options, read our detailed guide to walnut alternatives.
Now that you know what makes walnut and ebony different from each other, you can make a choice between the two. Both are fairly high-end, although if you want the best of the best, ebony makes for a fantastic choice.