Is Hickory a Hardwood? More About its Janka Hardness!

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A popular flooring and huge furniture piece material, Hickory wood has made a name for itself brought about by its impressive characteristics. Felled from a medium-sized tree, you’ll be surprised by what this wood can do. 

Bolted with exceptional strength and shock resistance, it surely is durable for numerous woodworking projects, but is hickory a hardwood?

Hardness Rating of Hickory

Harder than Red Oak, Hickory is considered the hardest domestic hardwood. A Hickory wood primes itself for its durability and hardness, making it one of the top-rated choices in creating furniture pieces all over the world. 

Hickory is 41% harder than Red Oak and is coined the second hardest wood in North America, next to Black Ironwood.  

Like most hardwoods, Hickory stems from giant flowering plants or those trees that shed their leaves and are broad-leaved. It’s rated 1,820 lbf (8,096 N) on the Janka Hardness Rating scale and is considered a good choice if you’re looking for woods with high traffic. I’ve installed Hickory flooring in homes and commercial spaces, and it stands up incredibly well to daily wear and tear.

a paramount piece in the wood market

Hickory woods are truly a paramount piece in the wood market, brought about by its combination of solid and impeccable characteristics that sets it apart from other wood pieces. 

The aesthetic appearance and hard-as-nails durability of Hickory make it a good flooring material. 

This wood type is also scratch resistant and has distinct growth rings on its fiber structure. Like all other hardwoods, it has vessels, pores, and elements that are unique to this type of wood. 

The semi-ring-porous structure that is present in the grains of Hickory woods makes it an aesthetic material as well. 

Here, let’s take a look at the Janka Hardness Rating scale [1] to get a better visual of how strong and durable a Hickory wood is.

Wood Species

Hardness Value

Brazilian Walnut

3,684 lbf (16,390 N)

Turpentine and 

Red Mahogany

2,697 lbf (12,000 N)


1,860 lbf (8,300 N)

Jatoba and Brazilian Cherry

2,350 lbf (10,500 N)

Golden Teak

2,330 lbf (10,400 N)


1,925 lbf (8,560 N)


2,345 lbf (10,430 N)

Honduran Rosewood, 

Cabreuva, Santos Mahogany, Bocote

2,200 lbf (9,800 N)

African Padauk

1,725 lbf (7,670 N)

Balfourodendron riedelianum,

Kyrandy and Guatambú

2,240 lbf (10,000 N)


1,820 lbf (8,096 N)

Satinwood, Pecan and Hickory

1,820 lbf (8,096 N)


1,780 lbf (7,900 N)


1,910 lbf (8,500 N)

Red Pine, Wenge, Hornbeam

1,630 lbf (7,300 N)

Sugar Maple and Hard Maple

1,450 lbf (6,400 N)

White Ash

1,320 lbf (5,900 N)

Australian Cypress

1,375 lbf (6,120 N)

White Oaks

1,360 lbf (6,000 N)

American Beech

1,300 lbf (5,800 N)

Yellow Birch / Baltic birch

1,260 lbf (5,600 N)


1,155 lbf (5,140 N)

Northern Red Oak 

1,290 lbf (5,700 N)

North American Walnut and Black Walnut

1,010 lbf (4,500 N)


995 lbf (4,430 N)

Imbuia and Black Cherry

950 lbf (4,200 N)

Red Maple

950 lbf (4,200 N)

Silver Maple

700 lbf (3,100 N)

Heart pine

1,225 lbf (5,450 N)

Southern Yellow Pine – 

Shortlead and Loblolly

690 lbf (3,100 N)

Douglas Fir

660 lbf (2,900 N)


75 lbf (330 N)


70 lbf (310 N)

Characteristics of Hickory Wood

I can’t emphasize enough how much of a powerhouse Hickory wood is. If you’re into the rustic vibe, this wood delivers it in spades, thanks to its light to medium color hues. The end grains of hickory wood have ring-porous woods and earlywood pores with close spacings and narrow rays.  

It has a medium texture and extremely high hardness, which is why often it’s a little bit difficult to work with. 

Hickory lumbers have a high density. Given its hardness as well, hickory isn’t the most forgiving wood to work with. If you’re a beginner, maybe start with something a bit easier because hickory doesn’t cut any slack. It’s aesthetic but may not be the best wood for beginners.

If you insist, sharpen your tools, and make sure you understand completely how to work with Hickory woods to avoid damaging your material for good or wasting it. 

hickory wood logs

On the bright side, hickory doesn’t come with any funky smells. It’s one of those woods that’s safe for pretty much any project—everything from kids’ toys to larger construction projects. But heed my advice: Know what you’re getting into. Hickory demands respect, but treat it right, and it’ll reward you with durability and aesthetics that are second to none.

Here are the top characteristics you’ll find in hickory wood:

Meanwhile, here are the more specific characteristics:

Pros and Cons of Hickory Wood

Stack of hickory wood ​board

Every wood type has its pros and cons, and the same goes for Hickory. Its hardness is one advantage, but for some, this characteristic is also its greatest disadvantage.



What Projects Do You Use Hickory Wood?

Hickory woods are versatile pieces and can be used pretty much on any woodcraft. Here are some ways you can maximize your priced hickory:

Hickory wood piece

One exception to its use would be cutting its board due to its hard nature. If you want to use it for tinier projects, you’ll have to make sure that your tools are well sharpened and the cutting speed is adjusted well to avoid the wood from burning.

Is Hickory Wood Strong?

When compared to other types of wood, Hickory stands out due to its remarkable compressive and bending strength. In fact, it is considered one of the strongest hardwood options available in the market.

A block of hickory wood is also considered highly flexible, yet still maintaining its robust and dense. Here are the figures to prove the compressive strength and bending strength of Hickory woods.

However, Hickories don’t break easily, sometimes even with cutting materials. The narrow spacings between the wood’s growth ring highly influence Hickory’s strength characteristics.

Comparison of Hickory’s Hardness to Oak

Hickory wood table

While oak is significant and coveted for its durability, it’s undeniable that Hickory is still harder than Oak. 

Hickory wood and oak, whether white or red, is part of the North American Hardwood species. However, by nature, Hickory is still harder than oak. 

As recorded in the Janka hardness rating, here’s the breakdown to compare the hardness of oak and hickory. 

Wood Type



1,820 lbf

White Oak

1,360 lbf

Red Oak

1,290 lbf

Is Maple Wood Harder Than Hickory?

Between Maple and Hickory, the latter is still harder. The wood’s impressive bending strength and hardness make it a good replacement or alternative for Maple

Here’s the Janka hardness rating of Maple and Hickory:

Wood Type



1,820 lbf

Hard Maple

1,450 lbf

Soft Maple

950 lbf

Hickory or Walnut: Which Wood is Harder?

hickory logs for furniture

Walnut is also one of the most capable and strong hardwoods in the market. However, compared to Hickory, the latter still wins in terms of hardness. 

Hickory woods are stiffer than walnut, and even in the Janka hardness rating, Hickory still tops the bill. 

Wood Type



1,820 lbf


1,010 lbf


What wood is stronger than hickory?

Brazilian Walnut is stronger than Hickory. Nevertheless, Hickory woods are significant in strength, and durability, making them one of the top wood material picks in North America. 

Though there are other woods stronger than Hickory, it is undeniable that it is one of the most coveted hardwoods.

Related Readings: 


Now you know that hickory is a hardwood that’s useful while offering aesthetics. Hickory can withstand an excessive amount of force. 

But considering its durability and hardness, it can be tough to work with, but it can be your favorite hardwood type once you’ve learned your way around. 

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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