TROY, MI - Ebonex Corp., a producer of bone black pigment, is featured tonight on the Discovery Channel’s show “Dirty Jobs.” In an episode titled "Bone Black," Mike Rowe, host of the show, demonstrates to viewers just how dirty you get then creating black pigment.
The Melvindale, MI-based company processes charred animal bones that are milled and blended to create bone black pigments. These pigments are used for a variety of purposes including the coloring of wood stains, paints, coil coatings, coated paper and artists’ colors. Rowe was able to experience first hand the messy job of creating bone black, described as “black baby powder.”
According to the company’s website, the use of charred bones as a form of black tinting materials dates back to 2650 BC. In the 1790s, it was discovered that charcoal could be used as a means to clarify sugar liquors when producing crystallized sugar, creating a new business for bone char, or black bone. In the 1880s, homesteaders began collecting buffalo bones from the prairies and shipping the bones back to the east to processing plants, including those in Detroit.
Ebonex and its predecessors have been producing bone black since 1878. At one time, it was the largest single business in Detroit. The company’s current facility, located in the southwestern Detroit suburb of Melvindale, has 64,000 square feet of production and warehouse space.
The show airs at 9 p.m. on Feb. 9 on the Discovery Channel.