Dense and durable, hickory is admired for its unique tan to brown coloring and popular for flooring, cabinets and furniture. It’s generally a slow but steady seller, according to suppliers interviewed by Woodshop News.
“It’s an intermediate species for us,” says Jack Egan of Frank Paxton Lumber in Denver. “We don’t sell a great deal of it like red oak or alder, but it sells fairly well. We sell a lot of rustic grade, a very low grade that has a lot of defects. We also have the higher grade which is fairly clear. It all depends on the look the customer wants.”
Patricia Johnson of Johnson Creek Hardwoods, a small sawmill in Mount Carroll, Ill., says she and her husband keep between 800 and 1,000 bf of hickory in stock and have sold about 1,000 bf in the past year.
“We can go several months without selling it or someone can come in and take all of it for a project. It’s always a market people are interested in. People always like hickory. It’s challenging to work with. It’s extremely hard and sometimes it does weird things when you’re trying to cut joints, so a lot of beginning woodworkers don’t want to mess around with it too much,” says Johnson.
“Because it’s got all of these different colors in it, has knots or not, it’s an interesting pile of wood in the first place. It can satisfy a whole bunch of different desires.”
Hickory’s fine grain gives it good finishing qualities, according to John Sliney of Vienna Hardwoods in Vienna, Va. “Customers prefer darker stained pieces but still want to see its knots and color variation,” he says. “Sales are a little down right now. There’s more of a demand for hickory flooring, and we sell that pre-finished, but people usually want it with a darker stain. The lumber itself tends to be on the light-colored side and that hasn’t been as popular lately.”
Top grade 4/4 hickory retails for about $5.30/bf. Rustic grade starts at $3.50/bf.
This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue.