What Is Hickory Woodworking? (Great Facts For Beginners)

In woodworking, there needs to be a balance between durability and malleability.

Hickory is the perfect wood for craftsmen who have the time, space, and resources to dedicate to this complex yet powerful wood.

Although it requires more time and effort, it can also deliver much more to the craft.

Lets take a look at hickory wood in woodworking…

Here’s why Hickory Wood is Used in Woodworking

Hickory is one of the strongest woods used for woodworking. It’s a difficult wood to work with, especially if your tools are old and worn out. However, due to its hard, strong, and durable nature, hickory wood is great for making furniture and other products which experience a lot of wear and tear.

hickory wood

Due to its hard, strong, and durable nature hickory wood is used for making furniture, and other products which experience a lot of wear and tear.

At one time, hickory was highly prized by the Native American tribes living in areas near Tennesee to craft most of their tools and living amenities.

Today, however, the trees tend to be more coveted for their nuts; but let’s not overlook just how valuable this wood is to our everyday lives. 

What is Hickory?

Hickory wood comes from a family of trees related to the walnut. It includes a variety of nut-producing trees, which include the famous Pecan and less famous mockernut and shellbark.

These nuts have been highly prized for centuries, with the Native Americans using them for a variety of dishes. Although these trees were useful for more than generating a good meal.

At one time, hickory wood was used by the Native American tribes living in areas near Tennesee to craft most of their tools and living amenities.

Hickory wood was used for building projects as well as for fuel. The wood is prized as a long-lasting heat source, as it rivals some oil-based fuel sources in its long-lasting heat production. 

Therefore the history of this wood in America goes way back, and its value has been recognized for some time.

Many Americans use hickory chips to smoke meats and create the flavors loved by most. How this wood was used, versus how it is currently used, is a topic I wish to delve into deeper.

Is Hickory Soft or Hardwood?

Hickory is one of the hardest woods and is considered the strongest readily available industrial wood.

Oak and maple wood are the closest in hardness and weight to hickory, but they do not have quite the might of hickory. However, they are used for crafting similar woodworking projects such as hardwood floors.

Hickory is rated at 1820 on the Janka scale, which is a scale that rates a wood’s ability to withstand certain pressures from iron.

The importance of this scale is that it helps to create a means by which a craftsman can determine which wood to use for which projects.

In comparison, maple wood is rated at 1450 on this scale, which means that it can withstand much less pressure and weight than can hickory.

Is Hickory Wood Expensive?

The price of hickory wood varies, of course, but it tends to run from around $3.00 to $7.00 per square foot. In comparison, maple and oak tend to run a little cheaper at around $2.00 to $6.00 per square foot. 

Even though hickory is the more expensive of the 3 options commonly used for projects such as laying flooring, it is still used quite often.

One of the common reasons for choosing this wood is the hardness, as it endures a great deal of traffic without losing its beauty. 

Therefore, when considering your purchase, consider the area in which you plan to be laying flooring and how much foot traffic you may experience in the area.

Also, always keep in mind if you think your children or pets may be playing or using this flooring very often as this can definitely cause some wear on the flooring. 

Is Hickory Wood Easy to Find?

Hickory is considered a more rare wood, with other woods being cheaper and more readily available.

There are other woods that are more commonly used for flooring and creating furniture, such as oak or maple.

These woods are cheaper and tend to be easy to find; however, there are perks to hickory which make the efforts worth the time.

Even though these woods are suitable for these jobs; they do not have the strength and hardness so highly valued in hickory wood by woodworkers.

To many, hickory wood is worth the slightly higher price and effort to find. 

How can You Tell if Wood is Hickory?

Hickory wood is best distinguished by its strength, hardness, and durability. Again, it rates at 1820 on the Janka scale, whereas maple only rates at 1450 on the scale. 

It has light brown hues, with slight reddish hues. Although, the colors can vary depending upon where you source your wood, what variety of hickory tree the wood comes from, and how the wood is stained and treated. 

Definitely one of the best ways to distinguish hickory from other woods is its density. It is very heavy in comparison to other hardwoods. 

Is Hickory Good for Woodworking?

Hickory is a good choice for a project that you want to last for many years once it is finished. Furniture made with hickory wood is often kept in families from generation to generation. 

It isn’t a good choice for beginners, because it is so hard. It makes carving very difficult, and sanding can be time-consuming. When laying flooring, many find that it is harder to cut evenly due to the grains in the wood; however, the strength of the wood is believed to be worth it. 

It is definitely a favorite among woodworkers who don’t mind the extra effort needed to sand, carve, and build with this extra hard material. 

Is Hickory Easy to Work With?

Hickory can be a tough wood to work with. Its hardness makes it good for building with. However, it can lead to trouble when attempting to put nails and screws into the woods as it has a tendency to split. 

It’s suggested that you do pre-boring into the wood to prevent the wood from splitting. Pre-boring is essentially when you prep the wood for the insertion of the screw or nail. 

Additionally, hickory is known to not hold a stain very well, so this may require extra time on your part when preparing the wood.

Lastly, although it is very hard, it is susceptible to attack from insects and this can lead to issues when you are considering this wood for outdoor use.

What can You Make with Hickory Wood?

Hickory was originally used primarily for hardwood flooring; however, this wood’s strength has made it a great candidate for sports equipment and furniture. 

Its hardness makes it good for making sport-associated equipment such as wooden flooring for indoor sports arenas. The wear and tear experienced on a court make this wood a perfect fit for the job.

It is ideal for making wooden tool handles as it can endure a lot of friction and use. As far as furniture goes, it is perfect for rustic furniture for its coloring and natural patterns.

Another interesting use of this wood is as a log cabin or cabin design. The shaggy-like bark on the wood is actually another aspect of this wood that is used in the more rustic design.

So, instead of removing this outer shell, some interior designers find it to be an asset to their interior design and the atmosphere it creates. 

Tips for Woodworking with Hickory

One of the primary tips for working with hickory wood is patience and time. It’s important that you do not rush your projects as you then run the risk of damaging the wood and cracking it. 

Sanding and staining this wood is another project which can easily be harmed if it is rushed.

Staining takes a lot of time with this wood as it is very hard and therefore does not absorb the stain as quickly and hold the stain as well as other woods. 

This can be resolved largely by ensuring you give yourself adequate time to this project. 

Do You Need Special Shaper or Router Bits for Hickory?

You don’t need a specialized router to cut hickory, although this doesn’t mean you don’t need to follow some practical steps to prevent overheating and burning. 

You should cut at a slower rate when sawing the wood and keep an eye on just how hot it is getting. This prevents burns from occurring due to overheating, as well as issues with uneven cuts. 

It is also recommended when overheating is occurring that you allow the adequate amount of time for it to cool before beginning again. 

Lastly, ensure your tools are sharp! Keeping your tools sharp and fresh is vital to ensuring the hickory does not splinter when you cut it.

Splintering occurs a lot with hickory due to weak or dull tools because it is such a hard, strong wood. 

It’s ironic that the hardness of the wood which makes it so highly prized is also the thing which makes it difficult to work with.