About Eastern Hickory Hardwood
Eastern Hickory Hardwood – An Introduction:
Distinguished by extreme contrasts of light and dark colors, Hickory hardwood has a dramatic natural look that has taken American hardwood furniture patrons by storm. Hickories themselves, botanically, are an immensely significant species within the Eastern hardwood forests. They are split into two groups (true hickories and pecan hickories), but the wood is virtually the same for both (strong, beautiful, and full of color) and typically is not even specified in sales and commercial retail.
Shown Above: an example of the dramatic natural look embodied within Rustic Hickory Hardwood
If you are looking for strength, hardness, and durability; Hickory is the best commercially available wood in North America. There are woods that are stronger than hickory and woods that are harder, but the combination of strength, toughness, hardness, and stiffness found in hickory wood is not found in any other commercial wood. Hickory hardwood is even 41% harder than traditional Red Oak, making it the second hardest domestic wood species in the United states!
As one of the hardest, heaviest, and strongest woods in the United States (also found in Mexico and Canada), Hickory hardwood has had a rich history of uses. Hickory hardwood either has been or still is commonly used for tool handles (such as hammers for its distinct shock-absorbing propensity), bows, wheel spokes, drumsticks, lacrosse stick shafts, golf club shafts (sometimes still called hickory sticks, even though they are now typically made of graphite), the bottom of skis, and walking sticks. Hickory has also been historically used extensively for the construction of early aircraft.
Eastern Hickory Hardwood – A Description:
As with all hardwoods, Hickory has a sapwood and a heartwood, heartwoods being those woods closer to the center of the tree, and sapwoods being those closer to the bark. The color and texture of the wood is highly dependent on these two classifications.
Hickory sapwood is a creamy white, causing it to be commonly referred to as “white Hickory.” Hickory heartwood, on the other hand, is red, pink, and reddish brown with lighter, pale browns mixed in. Heartwood hickory is commonly referred to as “red Hickory.” Due to the contrast between the sapwood and heartwood, Hickory is noted to have a high degree of color variation, ranging from reddish brown to a lighter pinkish brown to white. This gives Hickory a dramatic natural look and rich rustic allure to which thousands of Americans today have come to value and cherish in their heirloom hardwood furniture.
Shown Above: a traditional Amish roll-top desk handcrafted from premium Hickory Hardwood
The color of Hickory wood will eventually darken and “amber” with age. Exposure to UV light will speed the darkening/ambering process.
Both the sapwood and heartwood of Hickories are coarse-textured with a fine, closed grain. The grain is usually straight but can sometimes be uniquely wavy and irregular.
Eastern Hickory Hardwood – Workability:
Hickory is extremely dense, so it is difficult to work with, even with the use of power tools, and especially for those woodworkers who still practice hand-craftsmanship. Hickory is particularly abrasive on hand tools, and while some say is has excellent machinability qualities, nearly all who work with it say that, overall, it is an immensely difficult wood.
For one, Hickory wood is immensely difficult to saw with hand tools. The density of the wood also makes it hard to sand. Sapwood is considered even more difficult to sand, as even the slightest blemish is immensely difficult to conceal. Hickory is also difficult to nail because it is easy to split the tongues of the wood. This, however, can be combatted by adjusting the angle in which the nails are driven into the wood.
Hickory wood is typically more expensive than other hardwood alternatives specifically as a result of its difficulty to manipulate and work with (along with its superior durability and color). Some woodworkers have even limited their designs with Hickory wood, choosing not to offer Hickory wood as an option for pieces with uniquely difficult structural elements.
Finishing hickory wood can also be difficult as its closed grain typically resists stains. Using a treatment to open the grain helps, but the process can be strenuous. When Hickory wood does take a stain, however, it stains very well and quite beautifully.
While Hickory wood is 41% harder than traditional Red Oak, Hickory is also slightly less stable than traditional Red Oak. This means Hickory is more likely to move, swell, and contract than other species. This can be combatted by keeping Hickory wood out of highly moist and humid climates, and attempting to maintain a consistent environment.
Shown Right: a traditional Amish tilt-out laundry hamper handcrafted from premium Hickory Hardwood
Hickory Hardwood Furniture – Maintenance:
Hickory hardwood furniture, like all other hardwood furniture, should be cleaned with a soft cloth and never scrubbed or scoured. It is important to keep water, chemicals, and hot food off of your hickory cabinets and to clean spills immediately to prevent damage.
To clean your Hickory hardwood furniture, you should only use soap and water or a cleaner made specifically for use on wood. Anything with ammonia or other cleaning chemicals should not be used to care for hickory furniture. Many websites for companies that sell hickory furniture include instructions on how to care for them best – it is highly advised that you adhere to the manufacturer-specific care and maintenance instructions for best results.
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