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How difficult is Hickory to work with?

3134 Views 7 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Roger D
New to woodworking and am in the planning stage of my shop and like the look of Hickory. Was wondering if it would be a good wood to work with as a first timer. What do you think?
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Rot Resistance: Considered to be non-durable to perishable regarding heartwood decay, and also very susceptible to insect attack.

Workability: Difficult to work, with tearout being common during machining operations if cutting edges are not kept sharp; the wood tends to blunt cutting edges. Glues, stains, and finishes well. Responds well to steam bending.
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Light touch, sharp (very sharp) tools, and a way to refresh the edges on those tools and it works well. Finishes very nicely as well. Since it is so hard, proper pre-drilling for screws will help stop it from splitting--though it can still split if screwing. For that reason, my jointing preference for hickory is dowels or splines instead of screws.

Okay--typing the above makes hickory sound tough to work, but for me it's worth the effort!!
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I like to work with Hickory. I didn't seem to have any trouble machining, I does darken with age and that is not a negative,more beautiful.

Very durable,think of Baseball bats and axe handles.

What Stick said. I like the look, but not the work. It can be tough on tool edges.
I've not had any significant problems working it, but you need to do it with sharp tooling. Ash seems to machine about the same for me. Hard and splintery, if the tooling isn't sharp.


Welcome to the Router Forums if I haven't already personally welcomed you. You will get lots of various opinions on hickory, and there's good reason - it's a wood that can surprise you! You can build some beautiful furniture with it, but it can be difficult at times to work with. When wood goes to lumberyards, the several species of hickory and pecan are usually stacked and labeled as "hickory". Hickory wood is quite dense.

I'm a kinda stumpy little fellow...5'-7" and currently 195 pounds. A few years ago I had built a hickory (pecan) bookcase for my middle daughter. It was on a Saturday morning and I had just a day or two prior finished the build - she wanted to do the staining and the top coats of polyurethane. I have no choice but to get-up early because I have always had dogs that think they're roosters. I had already walked my dog and it was wet outside - so I took off my shoes to not leave a mess.

My wife was still asleep. She had a couple dozen of her lady friends coming-over in the afternoon for a bridal shower, so I seized the opportunity to bring said bookcase upstairs. With no shoes on, the cuffs of my blue jeans (remember my stumpy legs) were dragging the floor slightly. With my right arm positioned within said (very sturdy, very heavy) bookcase I made my way up the stairs. At the very top step, when I reached for the doorknob - I lost my balance and could not re position my foot because my pants were being stood on! Due to this and my arm being basically "locked into" the bookcase - the bookcase and I tumbled-down the stairway backwards. WE evidently made the same number of flips and I landed on my head on the concrete floor. I still do not know how long I was unaware of what exactly happened - but it HAD to be at least 30-45 minutes. Fortunately, my cell phone was lying on the bottom step as I was crumpled in a heap on the concrete. I called my wife's cell phone and she answered (from her sleep), but sounded very drowsy. I said "Joy can you come LOOK at something for me?" She said can it wait until later?" I said "Please come to the basement stairs as soon as you can - I need to show you something!". Our bedroom is all the way at the other end of our (ranch style) house. I soon heard a toilet flush, then I heard her footsteps and then she said, "What are you doing down there?" I explained.

The bookcase took that tumble much better than I did! I took a Sharpie and wrote my initials and that date on the underside of the bookcase. Melissa has moved a couple of times. She breaks-down and cries when she sees that date and my initials, but I always tell her it was MY FAULT!

Otis Guillebeau from Auburn, Georgia
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Thanks to all who have responded. Sounds like I’ll need to find a different wood to start out with.
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