Hickory Wood – Characteristics, Uses, Pros and Cons

There are many options for domestic wood in America, but there are only a few woods that are very popular and suitable for home furniture. One of them is Hickory hardwood. In America, hickory wood is used for many purposes, so we can call it versatile wood.

What Is Hickory Wood?

Hickory is one of the most hardy, durable, and stable hardwood species. It is the most popular for building furniture and flooring because of its brown or reddish-brown appearance and strength. Hickory wood makes your furniture beautiful and also increases the value of your home.

Hickory is the name of about 18 hardwood species, of which 12 species grow in America and the rest in China, Indochina, and India (Assam).

Scientific nameCarya
Tree Heightbetween 60 -80 feet (19-25) meters
HardnessVery hard and dense
DurabilityVery Durable
Rot ResistantVery Resistant to rot and insects
UsesFurniture, cabinets, floors, plywood, veneers and more.

What Does Hickory Wood Look Like

Typically, the heartwood of hickory is a light to medium brown, and the sapwood is a paler yellowish brown, with some dark streaks and grain patterns.

Many people have questioned whether the color of hickory wood will darken or lighten with time. So the simple answer is:

Hickory wood bleaches out and becomes lighter over time, but its color fades much more slowly than other woods.

Hickory Wood Grain

The grain of hickory wood is often straight, but it can also be wavy or irregular in some places. Overall, hickory has a rustic and natural look.

Common Uses Of Hickory Wood

Hickory Wood is commonly used for furniture, tool handles, ladder rungs, wheel spokes, flooring, etc.

Hickory Wood For Furniture And Cabinets

Hickory is a fantastic hardwood for furniture and cabinets because it’s tough and beautiful. It is highly able to absorb shocks and impacts without cracking or breaking. The natural color enhances the aesthetics of furniture pieces, adding a rustic or traditional charm to the finished product.

Hickory Wood For Flooring

Hickory flooring is popular for its durability and distinctive grain pattern. Its hardness makes it highly resistant to dents and scratches. Another advantage of choosing hickory as flooring is that it is more affordable than other hardwood floors.

Hickory Wood For Smoking

Hickory wood is excellent for smoking beef and pork. It is a popular choice among barbecues and smokers as it imparts a strong, smoky, and spicy flavor that matches a variety of dishes. 

Hickory produces 28 million BTUs of heat per cord. The dense and slow-burning nature of hickory wood makes it ideal for low and slow cooking methods. 

Advantages Of Hickory Wood

Strength And Durability

Hickory wood is durable and stable. It is naturally resistant to rot and water damage, ensuring that items made from hickory will last for generations. Under regular care and maintenance, hickory furniture can be expected to last decades and even a lifetime.

Attractive Aesthetics

Hickory is light to medium brown with a reddish tint, which adds warmth and depth to the room. Its dark color is less likely to fade over time.

Resistance To Wear And Tear

Hickory wood is resistant to wear and tear because of its dense grain pattern and hardness. Therefore, it is an excellent choice for flooring or daily-use furniture.

Affordable Price

Hickory wood is inexpensive compared to many hardwoods. But it is more expensive than Red Oak and Poplar while it is much cheaper than hardwoods like Beech, Cherry and Cedar. Hickory wood is prized for its hardness and durability.

Disadvantages Of Hickory Wood

Difficult to work 

Hickory wood has great hardness and density. Although this hardness gives the wood strength, it also makes working with hickory challenging, especially for beginners.

Cutting, shaping, and sanding hickory can require more effort, and it tends to blunt the blades of tools more easily.

Proneness to Warping

The main drawback of hickory wood is that it is very prone to swelling and Warping when exposed to changes in temperature and humidity. Therefore, hickory wood may not be suitable for outdoor projects. To prevent warping, extra care and maintenance are required, adding to the overall cost and effort.

How Hard Is Hickory Wood

As I mentioned above, there are many types of hickory, whose physical properties such as hardness and weight are different from each other. The hardness and weight of Hickory woods are as follows:

Types of HickoryJanka HardnessWeightType
Pignut Hickory2,140 lbf (9,520 N)52 lbs/ft3 (835 kg/m3)True Hickory
Mockernut Hickory1,970 lbf (8,760 N)51 lbs/ft3 (815 kg/m3)True Hickory
Shellbark Hickory1,810 lbf (8,100 N)48 lbs/ft3 (770 kg/m3)True Hickory
Shagbark Hickory1,880 lbf (8,360 N)50 lbs/ft3 (800 kg/m3)True Hickory
Pecan1,820 lbf (8,100 N)46 lbs/ft3 (735 kg/m3)Pecan Hickory
Water Hickory1,550 lbf (6,900 N)*43 lbs/ft3 (690 kg/m3)Pecan Hickory
Bitternut Hickory1,500 lbf (6,670 N)*46 lbs/ft3 (735 kg/m3)Pecan Hickory
Nutmeg Hickory1,290 lbf (5,740 N)*42 lbs/ft3 (675 kg/m3)Pecan Hickory

Maybe here you are a little confused as to what is True Hickory and Pecan Hickory and what is the difference between them. So let me explain it in short.

True Hickory and Pecan Hickory both belong to the Carya genus. The Carya genus is divided into two groups on the basis of density, bands of parenchyma and ring-porous. The density and weight of True Hickory is higher than that of Pecan Hickory.

Finishing Hickory Wood

Finishing Hickory Wood

Although hickory wood is naturally beautiful, any wood can change shape and size due to moisture absorption or changing weather. Protecting your hickory projects with a finish will keep them looking good and durable for years to come.

The easy steps to finish Hickory Wood are as follows:

Prepare the Wood Surface 

Start by sanding the surface of the wood. Sanding helps to remove any rough spots, imperfections, or existing finish. Start with coarse-grit sandpaper (about 80-grit). Gradually move to finer grit (120, 180 and finally 220) for a smoother surface. Sand in the direction of the grain of the wood to avoid scratches.

After sanding, use a wet cloth to remove dust and debris from the surface of the wood. Make sure the surface is clean and free of any contaminants that could affect the finish.

Apply Wood Stain (Optional)

Choose a good quality stain for hickory wood. You can use a rag or cloth to apply the stain, starting in the direction of the wood grain. Oil-based stains are great choices for hickory wood. It would be best if you chose an oil-based stain of hickory wood. It gives good results.

Many people believe that Hickory wood does not need staining because it already looks beautiful. So these steps are optional for you.

Apply the Finish

Apply two to three coats of oil/varnish mixture or two to three coats of water-based polyurethane or lacquer. It gives an excellent shiny finish and protects the hickory from moisture and abrasion scars.

Is Hickory Wood Expensive?

The price of Hickory is moderate. It is more expensive than red oak, alder and cherry while cheaper than cedar, mahogany or maple. We can say that the price of hickory wood is affordable. Generally, Hickory lumber is available at $4-5 per square foot. The price of hickory lumber depends on several factors, including the type of hickory, its form (logs, lumber, chips, etc.), the region where it is sold, and current market conditions.