The hickories are an important group within the eastern hardwood forests. Botanically, they are split into two groups; the true hickories, and the pecan hickories (fruit bearing). The wood is virtually the same for both and is usually sold together. The sapwood of hickory and pecan is white, tinged with brown while the heartwood is pale to reddish brown. Both are coarse textured and the grain is usually straight but can be wavy or irregular.
Common Uses for Hickory
Hickory is being used more and more for hardwood flooring, furniture, and cabinetry. Lending itself to an attractive rustic look and its hard-wearing properties, hickory is an excellent choice when durability is a key factor. Hardness and durability are key reasons that Hickory has long been popular for tool handles, wooden ladders, dowels, and sporting goods.
Hickory is also often sought after for home projects. The durability and sturdiness of hickory cabinets and hardwood flooring makes hickory a good choice for home and commercial projects. The strength and moisture-resistance of hickory also lend it to use in areas like kitchens, laundry rooms, high-traffic areas, and even children’s bedrooms.
Working with Hickory Wood
The heaviest of American hardwoods, hickory can be difficult to machine and glue, and are very hard to work with hand tools, so care is needed. The wood hold nails and screws well, but with a tendency to split so pre-boring is advised. The wood can be sanded to a good finish. The wood is well-known for its very good strength and shock resistance and also has excellent steam-bending properties. It is extremely tough and resilient, quite hard, but only moderately heavy. Read more on the specific wood qualities of hickory.
Wood Properties of Hickory
Perhaps the most desirable aspect of hickory wood is the unique combination of strength, hardness, and toughness that cannot be found in any other species. It is considered an extremely durable wood, thought to be able to withstand nearly anything. On the Janka scale, hickory comes in at an impressive 1820. That’s about 41% harder than the traditional Red Oak. It is the second hardest hardwood species in North America.
Cool facts about Hickory in History
- In Eastern North America, it survived the catastrophic changes of the Glacial Epoch 50 million years ago, earning the title of first strictly American hardwood species.
- Pioneers heading westward made hickory wagon wheels a prerequisite.
- The Wright brothers whittled hickory for their “flying contraption.”
- Hickory sawdust and chips are used to flavor meat by smoking.