There are a lot of types of dark wood to choose from when it comes to your woodworking projects. Dark woods are very trendy right now with walnut leading the pack!
On my Etsy shop, I have found that walnut outsells all other species by at least 4x, if not more. Lucky for us, walnut is a readily available domestic hardwood so if you’re in the US, finding some for your next project should be as easy as driving over to your local hardwood store.
There are a ton of other options though when it comes to choosing types of dark wood. Exotic species come in a huge range of colors, although many also come with a shockingly high price tag as well!
Types of Dark Wood
We’ll take a look at 10 options for finding the perfect dark wood species for your next project. Some, like walnut, are readily available, while others are exotics and can be harder to find. We’ll even look at a few interesting options that make use of readily available wood species and products to make your own dark wood.
|Wood Type||Large Stock |
|Small Stock |
|Jatoba||Yes||Yes||$$$||Dark Reddish Brown|
|Dyed Maple||Yes for raw maple||Yes for raw maple||$||Black|
|Ebonized Oak||Yes for raw oak||Yes for raw oak||$||Black|
|Bog Oak||Very rare||Yes||$$$||Black|
Domestic Types of Dark Woods
If you live in North America then walnut is the go-to choice for domestic dark wood. While its price has risen along with its popularity in recent years it is still a whole lot more affordable and accessible than many of the exotic species that will follow.
Black walnut wood can have a variety of colors depending on the species, drying methods, and parts of the tree used. These will range from a deep brown to an almost burnt orange color. The sapwood in walnut is a creamy tan and presents a really beautiful contrast to the rich heartwood.
If you’re looking for a dark type of wood for larger projects then walnut will often be the go-to choice.
Exotic Types of Dark Wood
Exotic dark woods, while stunningly beautiful, can pose a tricky moral dilemma as well. Due to over-harvesting, many exotic species have been pushed to the brink of extinction. This has resulted in strict rules around importing certain species of timber.
As a result, there are many species that are now far harder to find and when you do, the cost can be enormous.
Don’t fret though as there are still a number of beautiful exotic wood species that are readily available and affordable for your next project.
Wenge is an exotic hardwood out of central Africa that, when finished, is nearly black in color. It is especially popular with woodturners who are looking for dark types of wood for accent pieces without having to pay the high prices for wood like ebony.
Wenge can be found in reasonably large stock at well-stocked lumber dealers so it can be a good option for larger projects.
Working with wenge is another story though as it is notorious for dulling tools and producing frighteningly large splinters. It is also a very open-grained wood so finishing it to a perfectly smooth surface can present challenges as well.
Ebony may be the most sought-after dark hardwood as it can be perfectly black in color. I have used ebony a number of times over the years for woodturning projects and it is an absolute joy to work with. The wood is incredibly dense, jet black, and looks amazing once finished.
The downside of using ebony is the cutting and export of the wood is now highly restricted so prices can run into the $100’s of dollars per board foot.
A blank like this contains less than .5bf of wood yet costs $67!
If you want to read more about the different species of ebony and their current status then this article on wood-database.com has a great rundown.
Ziricote is a dark brown hardwood native to Mexico and Central America. The color tends to run slightly blacker than walnut and has a pronounced grain pattern. Like walnut, the contrast between sapwood and heartwood can either be a nuisance for woodworkers looking for a consistent color or a treat for those willing to use the contrasting colors in their projects.
Ziricote is not a cheap wood by any means, with prices often topping $100/bf, so this wood often is best served as accent wood rather than the main wood in a piece.
Sapele is a bronze colored hardwood species that is native to the tropical regions of Africa. Its color ranges from a light golden to dark bronze and often has a ribbon like pattern that has a shine to it. The wood is commonly referred to as African Mohagany and often makes an excellent substitute for the real thing.
Common applications for sapele wood are in furniture making, boat building, and door construction. Sapele is readily available in wide (18+ inch) widths and often has clear, straight grain. This makes it a great choice for building large projects.
The wood is easily workable and is one of my favorite woods to turn on the lathe as it finishes beautifully.
At my local hardwood dealer the cost is typically on par with higher grade walnut. Although the price can quickly skyrocket for highly figured boards.
Purpleheart is an interesting wood to work with as it goes through a dramatic color change over time. Freshly cut purpleheart has a light violet color to it which, over the period of a few years, transitions to a deep, vibrant purple color. As the wood ages it continues to darken and, eventually settling into a dark brown color.
Thicker and wider stock is usually readily available at hardwood dealers although it can be on the pricier side. For larger pieces plan on paying at least $20/bf, if not higher.
The wood has an open grain pattern and can be prone to splintering and tearout so take light passes with power or hand tools. The only board I’ve ever had catch and explode in the planer was a piece of purpleheart so use caution!
Jatoba, also known as Brazilian cherry, is an extremely hard wood which makes it an very popular option for tables and hardwood flooring. The wood has a deep reddish brown color and, like cherry, will darken over time.
Price wise it isn’t a very expensive wood and can usually be picked up for less per bf than black walnut. Finding thicker and wider stock is usually no problem as well.
Other Options for Dark Woods
If you’re looking for black woods to use but don’t want to pay the price required for dark exotic species then some of these options, from man to nature made, are great choices.
If you’re looking for furniture with a jet black color without using paint or paying the price for black colored exotic species then dying your own wood is a great option.
Maple and ash are two of the most popular woods for dying as they are readily available, lower priced, and, when dyed, finish to a very even black color.
Some popular options for dying wood include using India ink or tattoo ink. Rubio Monocoat also sells a a precolor and oil based dye and finish that can be used to create a dark black finish.
There are a lot of great videos on Youtube detailing the process to dye your wood black.
Ebonized Black Oak
Another way to create jet black wood is to ebonize it with some simple products you probably already have in your home or shop.
Oak, or other woods that have a high tannin content, can by ebonized by using black tea, steel wool, and some vinegar. When mixed and applied to the wood the a chemical reaction occurs with the tannins in the wood and turns it a dark black color.
This video provides a good breakdown on how to ebonize your own wood.
Bog oak isn’t a species of wood but a description for wood that has been buried in bogs for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and have begun to fossilized. The low oxygen environment of bogs prevents decay in the wood which takes on a near jet black color.
Because there is a limited supply of bog oak the price for this wood is quite high and the wood is typically only available in smaller pieces. The unique transformation of this wood makes for a fun talking or selling point for pieces using the wood.
Derek grew up woodworking in his father’s shop and has since gone on to start up a successful woodworking business on Etsy. In his spare time, you can find him mountain biking, skiing, or writing.