What is Hickory Lumber?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2019
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Hickory lumber originates from North America. The hardwood is used primarily in the manufacture of sporting goods due to its high shock resistance and ease of steam bending. Hickory lumber is not a prime building product; it is difficult to work with using both power and hand tools and requires pre-drilling prior to nailing. It also is very susceptible to infestations by bugs and beetles as it grows. It is, however, a mainstay in barbecue due to its rich smoky flavor and high heat output when used to cook meats.

Before any raw wood product can be used in a manufacturing environment, it must first be dried and seasoned. Wood has a tendency to twist and bend when drying. Hickory lumber resists this tendency, but the wood does have a tendency of shrinking significantly while seasoning. Hickory lumber can be polished to a brilliant luster, making it ideal for small trim work in home construction. The wood is very resistant to glue and extra care must be given when using this wood as an ornamental feature.


The hardness of hickory lumber also makes it an ideal candidate for flooring. The wood can run from a very light blonde color to a deep rich brown. The grain is typically straight, though it can be wavy on occasion. Hickory is often used as a laminate for sporting goods such as tennis rackets, hockey sticks and golf club handles as well. Plywood laminates and veneers are also popular uses for this colorful wood. Hickory is a fine wood for turning on a lathe, making it a good wood for manufacturing drum sticks and baseball bats.

Hickory is easily identifiable from other woods due to the dark color of the heartwood at the center and the light color of the sap wood close to the bark. It is because of this high contrast in color that many lumber mills sort the wood into a category that is known as calico-hickory. Purchasing this type of lumber assures the buyer of a highly contrasted wood featuring dark reds and browns along with light creams and whites. The lumber that was once thought only good for heating or making tool handles and sporting goods, has found a way into homes as flooring, trim and furniture. Its flavor has been enjoyed for decades on the grill as well, and makes a perfect compliment to bacon, chops and ribs; it's nut also is a delicious treat.


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