Is Hickory A Hardwood? All You Need To Know!

is hickory a hardwood

Hickory is a popular wood in flooring, cabinetry, home decor, and furniture. It is a medium-sized tree with lots of great qualities that are important in woodworking. When I was working with Hickory I was surprised because of its qualities and wondered, Is Hickory a hardwood?

Here’s what I learned:

Yes, Hickory is a hardwood. It has an exceptional hardness, strength, and shock resistance. Hickory has a hardness rating of 1,820 lbf (8,096 N) which is significantly higher than most woods. Hickory is the hardest wood of all domestic woods. The high hardness makes it tough and durable for many woodworking projects.

But there’s more to know about the hardness of Hickory.

In this article, we’ll explore is Hickory a hardwood, how hard is Hickory, Hickory wood characteristics, the pros and cons of Hickory, and its uses of Hickory wood.

Furthermore, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions about the hardness of Hickory compared to other popular wood types.

Let’s dive in deeper.

How Hard Is Hickory?

Hickory is considered the hardest domestic hardwood. it is the second hardest wood in North America. Hickory is 41% harder than Red Oak and it is a combination of hardness, strength, and durability.

According to the Janaka hardness ratings, Hickory has a hardness rating of 1,820 lbf (8,096 N) which is harder than most of the woods.

Hickory comes from a deciduous tree like all other hardwoods. But it has some unique characteristic features that make it special from other hardwoods. Because of having high hardness, Hickory is extremely durable and tough. It is hard as nails with a good appearance.

High shock resistance and scratch resistance are added advantages of Hickory because of its extremely high hardness and density. Therefore, it is a popular option in flooring.

Hickory has elements, vessels, and pores that exist in hardwoods only. When we look at its fiber structure, has diffused pores structure with distinct growth rings. It has semi ring-porous structure which visualizes the gradual transition of pore from large to a small diameter within the growth ring.

So, let’s have a look at the hardness of Hickory according to the Janka hardness scale.

Janka hardness test is a standard method of measuring the resistance of wood against wear and dent. If a particular wood has high wear resistance and dent resistance, it has a high value in Janka hardness ratings.

Likewise, Hickory has a hardness rating of 1,820 lbf (8,096 N). so, let’s have a look at the Janka hardness rating of popular wood types compared to the Hickory to get an idea about how hard Hickory is.

Wood speciesHardness value
Brazilian Walnut3,684 lbf (16,390 N)
Red Mahogany, Turpentine2,697 lbf (12,000 N)
Brazilian Cherry, Jatoba2,350 lbf (10,500 N)
Mesquite2,345 lbf (10,430 N)
Golden Teak2,330 lbf (10,400 N)
Guatambú, Kyrandy, Balfourodendron riedelianum2,240 lbf (10,000 N)
Santos Mahogany, Bocote, Cabreuva, Honduran Rosewood2,200 lbf (9,800 N)
Merbau1,925 lbf (8,560 N)
Jarrah1,910 lbf (8,500 N)
Purpleheart1,860 lbf (8,300 N)
Hickory1,820 lbf (8,096 N)
Hickory, Pecan, Satinwood1,820 lbf (8,096 N)
Rosewood1,780 lbf (7,900 N)
African Padauk1,725 lbf (7,670 N)
Wenge, Red Pine, Hornbeam1,630 lbf (7,300 N)
Hard Maple, Sugar Maple1,450 lbf (6,400 N)
Australian Cypress1,375 lbf (6,120 N)
White Oak1,360 lbf (6,000 N)
Ash (White)1,320 lbf (5,900 N)
American Beech1,300 lbf (5,800 N)
Red Oak (Northern)1,290 lbf (5,700 N)
Yellow Birch / Baltic birch1,260 lbf (5,600 N)
Heart pine1,225 lbf (5,450 N)
Teak1,155 lbf (5,140 N)
Black Walnut, North American Walnut1,010 lbf (4,500 N)
Cherry995 lbf (4,430 N)
Black Cherry, Imbuia950 lbf (4,200 N)
Red Maple950 lbf (4,200 N)
Silver Maple700 lbf (3,100 N)
Southern Yellow Pine (Loblolly and Shortleaf)690 lbf (3,100 N)
Douglas Fir660 lbf (2,900 N)
Cuipo75 lbf (330 N)
Balsa70 lbf (310 N)

As you can see Hickory is extremely hard. It is harder than most of the hardwoods that we use mostly. In other terms in terms of hardness Hickory is irreplaceable.

Let’s discuss characteristics of Hickory that directly affect its hardness.

Hickory Wood Characteristics

Hickory is a light to medium color wood with a reddish hue with straight grain and medium texture. It creates a rustic appearance. When we look at the end grain, it is a ring-porous wood with large earlywood pores with narrow rays and close spacings.

Because of having extremely high hardness value, Hickory is difficult to work with. Cutting, nailing, and screwing are quite difficult in Hickory because of their high density and hardness. Therefore, I do not recommend Hickory for a beginner in woodworking to practice with. Your woodworking tools need to be sharpened well and you need to have a clear understanding of the wood before working with Hickory.

Even though Hickory is so hard and dense, it has poor rot resistance and poor resistance against environmental elements. There is no characteristic odor in hemlock. Therefore, it can use for any woodworking project including constructions and children’s toys.

As a summary, here’re the top characteristic qualities of Hickory,

  • Hardwood
  • High density
  • Susceptible to insect attacks
  • Poor rot resistance
  • Poor workability
  • No characteristic odor

Here’re the main characteristic features of Hickory,

ColorLight to Medium
Density0.72 kg/m3
Wood TypeNorth American Hardwood
Stiffness2.16 Mpsi
Hardness1,820 lbf (8,096 N)
ApplicationsFlooring, Constructions, Furniture

So, let’s have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of Hickory in terms of its hardness.

Pros and Cons of Hickory

ProsCons
High HardnessPoor Workability
Easy to glue, paint, stain, and sealProne to insect attacks
High durabilityExpensive
Dent resistant 
High strength 
Nontoxic 
Shock resistant 

As you can see Hickory is a versatile wood with lots of pros than cons. Most of the disadvantages can be skipped if you’re good at woodworking and if you have well-sharpened woodworking tools.

Read: How to Sharpen a Gouge? Top 2 Methods

What is Hickory Used For?

Hickory can be used pretty much for any woodworking project because of its great hardness. Here’re some of its applications,

  • Flooring
  • Wood construction project
  • Ladder rungs
  • Tool handles (hammers, axes, shovels)
  • Wheel spokes
  • Cabinetry

When you’re using Hickory for different woodworking applications, make sure to maintain the sharpness of the hand tool frequently, and the cutting speed needs to adjust according to the wood’s nature to avoid burning. Better to slow down cutting speed and predrill for screws to avoid unnecessary wood splitting.

How Strong is Hickory?

Hickory is one of the strongest hardwoods on the planet. It has significantly high compressive strength and bending strength compared to most other wood types. Hickory can withstand any force because of its great strength. Overall, Hickory is extremely hard, dense, and strong.

The compressive strength and bending strength of Hickory are as follows,

  • The compressive strength of Hickory is 9,210 psi
  • The bending strength of Hickory is 20,200 psi

As you can see, the bending strength of Hickory is significantly high, and therefore it is a highly flexible wood. Being so hard, dense, and strong with high flexibility make the Hickory so special.

Because of having narrow spacings between growth rings, the strength characteristics of Hickory influence.

So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions is Hickory a hardwood compared to other wood types.

Is Hickory Harder Than Oak?

Hickory is harder than Oak. Hickory is considered one of the hardest woods and it is significantly harder than both Red and White Oak. Theoretically, it is 41% harder than Red Oak. Both Oak and Hickory belong to the North American hardwood species.

According to the Janka hardness ratings, the hardness of Hickory and Oak is as follows,

Wood TypeHardness
Hickory1,820 lbf
Red Oak1,290 lbf
White Oak1,360 lbf

Is Hickory Harder Than Maple?

Hickory is harder than Maple. Hickory is harder than both hard Maple and Soft Maple. Plus, Hickory has high compressive and bending strength than Oakwood as well. Therefore, in terms of hardness, and strength Maple can be easily replaced with Hickory due to its exceptional qualities.

According to the Janka hardness ratings, the hardness of Hickory and Maple is as follows,

Wood TypeHardness
Hickory1,820 lbf
Hard Maple1,450 lbf
Soft Maple950 lbf

Is Hickory Harder Than Walnut?

Hickory is harder than Walnut. Hickory has higher compressive strength, bending strength, density, and stiffness than Walnut. Therefore, I recommend Hickory over Walnut any day.

According to the Janka hardness ratings, the hardness of Hickory and Walnut is as follows,

Wood TypeHardness
Hickory1,820 lbf
Walnut1,010 lbf

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Is Hickory a Hardwood?

In this article, we have deeply discussed is Hickory a hardwood and how hard Hickory is by taking its characteristic qualities, pros, and cons. We have discussed the uses and strengths of Hickory to get an idea about its exceptional hardness.

Hickory is a hardwood with significantly high hardness, density, and strength. This is why it is an excellent option for large woodworking constructions. But always make sure to keep your woodworking tools sharp and make the right move without splitting the wood.

Furthermore, I have answered some frequently asked questions regarding is Hickory a hardwood compared to other wood types as well with standard values.

Hope you have gained a piece of good knowledge about the hardness of Hickory and how useful it is for many woodworking projects. So, let’s begin your next woodworking project with Hickory to sharpen your knowledge. Keep learning and have fun!

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