Why isn't Hickory more Fashionable?

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Forum topic by RichardDePetris posted 01-30-2014 04:24 PM 2021 views 1 time favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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61 posts in 1684 days

01-30-2014 04:24 PM

Topic tags/keywords: hickory lumber firewood

Being in the southern part of the US, I haven’t found many opportunities to use my fireplace. I had a bag of hickory firewood I purchased from the local supermarket that became bone-dry after sitting in my living room for a few years. I decided to run it through my bandsaw to see what kind of lumber it yielded, but I didn’t expect much.

The logs were very tough and splintered easily, but became surprisingly smooth, durable and stable after sawing it. I used a couple of the largest pieces to build a mallet and saved the remaining smaller pieces for future projects.

Boy, the grain is gorgeous and prettier than oak and features flecks just like white oak. It was very hard, but it sanded well and stained beautifully. I actually debated with myself whether the firewood was actually hickory and not oak, but the scent and fibrous bark gave it away. Had I known it had these properties, I would have purchased more.

I am having a tough time figuring out why it hickory isn’t used more often in woodworking. The very thought of offering this beautiful wood to the fire for heat instead of a deity is pure sacrilege! The US is very wasteful with its natural resources. Why import lesser quality lumber from other countries? I heard it’s used for tool handles and a substitute for oak in cabinets and flooring, but even so, it ought to have more prominence.
It’s definitely a tough wood to saw and plane, but given today’s hard steel and carbide technology, it shouldn’t be much of an issue.

Why isn’t hickory more popular with woodworkers?

21 replies so far

View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2631 days

#1 posted 01-30-2014 04:38 PM

As you mentioned, its kind of hard to work with. Takes its toll on blades and splinters easily. Its a good looking wood, but so is cherry, maple, oak, etc, etc.
Even with that said I do like hickory. I’m considering making some cheese boards with a piece of 4/4 I’ve been sitting on for a while.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15352 posts in 2617 days

#2 posted 01-30-2014 04:42 PM

I turned a mallet from hickory and that went very well, but the stuff laughs at my hand planes whenever I try to work up a piece for possible use in a project. Haven’t given up, but it is tough stuff…

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Domer's profile


252 posts in 3365 days

#3 posted 01-30-2014 09:08 PM

I made a couple of bar stools with Hickory. They turned out pretty well. However, the wood is very heavy and a little hard to work with although it is fairly inexpensive.


View Earlextech's profile


1161 posts in 2689 days

#4 posted 01-30-2014 09:20 PM

When my shop was in Ft.Lauderdale all I sold was cherry, maple and hickory cabinetry and very little oak. When I moved outside of Tampa all I sold was oak and pine and very little cherry. Then, over time, as wealth increased locally, that changed and I sold a lot more hickory and cherry and not so much oak.

I don’t think it’s woodworkers that don’t use it, I think it’s customers that don’t ask for it and that changes due to people being exposed to it. If you’ve never seen anything made of hickory, how would you know to ask for it?

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View darthford's profile


602 posts in 1922 days

#5 posted 01-30-2014 11:33 PM

I went with Hickory in my new kitchen, if I had a do over I’d go with oak or cherry.

View richardwootton's profile


1699 posts in 1953 days

#6 posted 01-31-2014 12:33 AM

Are you sure that’s Hickory? I have never noticed medullary rays like that in Hickory, but I could be wrong about that.

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3289 days

#7 posted 01-31-2014 12:55 AM

I love hickory. My parents had their dark pine 1980s kitchen cabinets replaced with it a few years ago, and the contractor left a couple of mis-cut drawer fronts there – that was pretty much my intro to anything other than pine and red oak. It strikes me as a “specialty wood”, best saved for when you really need hard and heavy. I turned a carver’s style mallet from it, which you can see in the “mallets of your dreams” thread (post #41), and maybe I just got lucky on all the dimensions and weight, but it’s perfect.

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2562 days

#8 posted 01-31-2014 01:35 AM

hickory is by far my favorite wood. Gonig to be using it to build my work bench when I get around to it

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2688 days

#9 posted 01-31-2014 02:13 AM

I’ve sawed a fair amount of pecan and hickory (same family) on my mill and I’ve never seen medullary rays in either.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View ShaneA's profile


6929 posts in 2596 days

#10 posted 01-31-2014 03:46 AM

Looks like oak to me too.

View Gary's profile


9331 posts in 3431 days

#11 posted 01-31-2014 03:53 AM

It doesn’t look like hickory to me either. But, I really like hickory. I like to use it in pie safe’s and such. It sells well to country folks.

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View TravisH's profile


578 posts in 1933 days

#12 posted 01-31-2014 04:02 AM

I have some in my stash but haven’t found anything I want to use it for (yet). My problem is I look at it and all I can ever see is kitchen cabinets, flooring, rustic uses. I have a difficult time envisioning it in other applications, my shortsightedness.

View WDHLT15's profile


1743 posts in 2474 days

#13 posted 01-31-2014 04:02 AM

I agree with the others. What you show in the pic with the ray fleck is white oak. The medullary rays in hickory are very small and are not visible to the naked eye.

That said, hickory is one of the most difficult woods to saw and dry straight. Very pretty, but very hard on your equipment. That is one of the main reasons that it is not so popular, although it is beautiful wood.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View richardwootton's profile


1699 posts in 1953 days

#14 posted 01-31-2014 10:38 PM

Here are a couple pictures of some hickory slabs I was working on getting flat to give you a good idea of the grain comparison. The pictures aren’t great and there is a little spalting though.

-- Richard, Hot Springs, Ar -- Galoot In Training

View RichardDePetris's profile


61 posts in 1684 days

#15 posted 02-24-2014 09:52 PM

Pardon me while I wipe the egg off my face. I ought to sue the firewood company for embarrassment; it did say “hickory.” Still, it’s even more of a crime to turn this gorgeous wood into firewood. The real hickory is pretty too, but I can see how folks might be turned off by the overly—for the lack of a better description—LSD, wild, country look. Even so, the heart wood could be cut out for a more uniform appearance. I wonder what hickory looks like quartersawn?

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