The wood known to woodworkers as Ebiara (may also be known as: Berlinia, Poculi, and/or Red Zebrawood) is botanically known as Berlinia spp. There is no species designated because while there are up to eighteen known species, four of them may be harvested and sold as Ebiara. For sake of compulsive completeness, these four possible species are: B. auriculata, B. bracteosa, B. confusa, and B. grandiflora. Some of the other 18 species are endangered and not legally sold commercially.
Berlinia spp. is native to the tropical forests of western Africa. Berlinia spp. occurs most commonly in the following countries: Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Gabon.
For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to Berlinia spp. from this point forward simply as Ebiara.
The heartwood of Ebiara ranges between a golden yellow brown to a deep reddish brown. There are frequently darker black streaks and stripes. These stripes, against a reddish background give rise to the common name Red Zebrawood.
As is often the case with tropical hardwoods, the pale sapwood of Ebiara is clearly demarcated from the heartwood.
The grain of Ebiara is often interlocked but it can be straight as well. Ebiara has a fairly coarse texture.
Ebiara is reported to have a good natural luster although my experience has been the opposite.
The endgrain of Ebiara is reported to be diffuse and porous with large to VERY LARGE pores in no specific arrangement.
While the specific rot resistance characteristics of Ebiara vary somewhat with the specific species within the Berlinia genus, in general, wood sold as Ebiara is moderately durable against rot. Ebiara does have good resistance to insects, although the sapwood, but not the heartwood, is susceptible to ambrosia and powder post beetles.
Ebiara is considered generally easy to work with both hand and machine powered tools.
However, on pieces with interlocked grain, especially with quartersawn lumber, tear out is a concern during surfacing operations such as planing or joining. There are ways to minimize this risk that are outlined in this excellent resource.
Ebiara is reported to glue, turn, and finish well.
Reliable authorities report that Ebiara has not characteristic or distinctive odor, but my experience is the opposite, an experience I detail later in this post.
Pricing and Availability:
Ebiara is relatively new to the international market so its availability is spotty. Ebiara may occasionally be available as both lumber and veneer. There are also some smaller craft and turning blanks available.
Prices should be in the mid-range for an imported hardwood.
I purchased my Ebiara from Bell Forest Products but I cannot locate a receipt to give an exact price for the two blanks that I purchased. Bell Forest Products still offers Ebiara but only in dimensional lumber and spindle sizes. Prices range from $1.50 for a pen blank to $4.00 for a 6” piece of ½” x 3” lumber.
WoodTurningz has the only other Ebiara on offer and it consists of a 2” x 2” x 12” spindle for $9.95 and a pen blank for $0.95.
In this blog, I almost always recommend several vendors with whom I have done considerable business and in whom I have great confidence. These vendors are: West Penn Hardwoods, Bell Forest Products, NC Wood, WoodTurningz, Amazon Exotic Hardwoods, Griffin Exotic Wood, Exotic Woods USA, and Wood Turning Blanks 4U.
However, none of these fine vendors, with the exception of the two quoted are currently selling Ebiara. It seems that Ebiara is harder to come by than I at first expected.