Is Honey Locust a Hardwood or Softwood?

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Honey Locust is indeed a hardwood known for its rare beauty, characterized by warm colors and striking grain patterns. However, its durability may not be on par with some other hardwoods. 

To help you decide if Honey Locust is suitable for your project, I have provided an in-depth evaluation of its characteristics. Read on! 

The Classification and Hardness of Honey Locust Wood

Honey Locust is categorized as a hardwood owing to its impressive density, remarkable strength, and exceptional durability.

Its physical properties make it a popular choice for many woodworking projects that require sturdy and long-lasting materials, especially for exterior applications and construction projects.

It is also one of the toughest hardwoods commonly used for domestic applications, including furniture, flooring, cabinetry, and other interior projects.

honey locust log

As a hardwood, Honey Locust is known for its ability to withstand wear and tear, impact, and other forms of damage. It has a tight grain structure that contributes to its strength and density, While its high Janka hardness score reflects its resilience and durability.

Honey Locust has a Janka hardness score of 7,030 N (1,580 lbf), which is higher than many other popular hardwoods, such as Red Oak, Maple, Beech, Walnut, and Ash.

Generally, the Janka hardness score measures the relative hardness of different wood species. It is an important factor to consider when choosing the right wood for your project, especially if durability and wear resistance are essential.

A higher Janka hardness score indicates that a wood species will be more resistant to dents, scratches, and other forms of damage. This makes the hardwood a good choice for high-traffic areas, furniture, or other applications that will be subjected to wear and tear.

Let’s take a closer look at the Janka hardness score of Honey Locust in comparison to other hardwoods to better understand its strength and durability.

two honey locust log wood

Type of Wood

Hardness Value

Brazilian Walnut

16,390 N (3,684 lbf)

Turpentine, Red Mahogany

12,000 N (2,697 lbf)

Jatoba, Brazilian Cherry

10,500 N (2,350 lbf)

Golden Teak

10,400 N (2,330 lbf)

Satinwood, Hickory, Pecan

  8,100 N (1,820 lbf)

Honey Locust

  7,030 N (1,580 lb)

Sugar Maple, Hard Maple

  6,400 N (1,450 lbf)

White Ash

5,900 N (1,320 lbf)

White Oak

6,000 N (1,360 lbf)

American Beech

5,800 N (1,300 lbf)

Northern Red Oak

5,700 N (1,290 lbf)

Baltic Birch, Yellow Birch

5,600 N (1,260 lbf)

Teak

5,140 N (1,155 lbf)

North American / Black Walnut

4,500 N (1,010 lbf)

Imbuia, Black Cherry

4,200 N (950 lbf)

Red Maple

4,200 N (950 lbf)

Cherry

4,430 N (995 lbf)

Silver Maple 

3,100 N (700 lbf)

Douglas Fir

3,158 N (710 lbf)

Alder

2,624 N (590 lbf)

Black Spruce

2,313 N (520 lbf)

Hemlock

2,402 N (540 lbf)

Sitka Spruce

2,268 N (510 lbf)

White Spruce

2,135 N (480 lbf)

Cypress

2,269 N (510 lbf)

Redwood

1,868 N (420 lbf)

Sugar Pine

1,690 N (380 lbf)

Engelmann Spruce

1,735 N (390 lbf)

As shown in the table above, Honey Locust has an impressively high Janka score in comparison to other popular hardwoods commonly used in woodworking. So, it may even be a better option than some of the more expensive hardwoods on the market.

Distinguishing Features of Honey Locust

lifting honey locust wood

Honey Locust is a unique hardwood that is mostly valued for its beautiful color and grain patterns. The heartwood of the Honey Locust tree ranges from reddish-brown to golden-brown, while the sapwood is typically a pale-yellow color.

It often features attractive knots and other distinctive patterns that add character to the wood. Over time, it can develop a darker, richer patina with exposure to sunlight and air, enhancing the overall look of your Honey Locust wood pieces.

In addition to its remarkable hardness, Honey Locust has a high density, making it more durable for outdoor applications. Essentially, it has good stability, so it’s less likely to warp or crack compared to other hardwoods.

Its high density and tight grain structure make it a sturdy and reliable material that can withstand changes in temperature and humidity. 

Additionally, it is naturally resistant to rot and decay, which makes it a popular choice for decking, fencing, and other outdoor construction projects.

cleaning honey locust wood

However, the high density of locust wood can make it more challenging to work with compared to other hardwoods, as it can be harder and more difficult to cut and shape. This may be a consideration for projects that require intricate or detailed woodworking.

Below are Honey Locust’s main qualities:

Meanwhile, below are Honey Locust’s main characteristics:

Pros And Cons of Honey Locust

While Honey Locust has many benefits for woodworking projects, it is important to be aware of some of its unique characteristics that may also present challenges.

So, before choosing this wood for a specific project, it is important to consider both its advantages and disadvantages, such as the following:

pros and cons of honey locust wood

What I Like

Cons

Uses of Honey Locust

Generally, Honey Locust is an essential material for woodworking due to its versatility and suitability for various applications. Its exceptional strength, high density, and natural resistance to decay make it a highly sought-after choice for a wide range of woodworking projects.

Below are the most popular uses of Honey Locust:

Strength of Honey Locust

honey locust wood used

Essentially, Honey Locust is considered one of the toughest and strongest hardwoods. Its high Janka hardness score and density make it more durable compared to other hardwoods.

However, there are other factors that you should consider when determining the strength of the wood appropriate for your project, such as compressive and bending strengths.

Generally, compressive strength is a measure of the maximum amount of stress that the wood can withstand without breaking or deforming permanently. It is an important factor to consider for your woodworking projects to ensure that they are durable to withstand weight or pressure.

It is particularly relevant for projects that require wood to support heavy loads, such as furniture, cabinets, flooring, or structural components. 

On the other hand, bending strength, also known as flexural strength, is a measure of wood’s ability to resist bending or breaking under load.

It is an important factor to consider when choosing the appropriate wood for your projects to ensure that it has the essential structural stability and flexibility.

honey locust log wood

In woodworking, wood species with higher compressive strength can typically support more weight or pressure, making them suitable for load-bearing applications. 

On the other hand, wood species with higher bending strength are more versatile and less prone to breaking or cracking when shaped, making them ideal for various woodworking projects.

Let’s look at the compressive and bending strengths of Honey Locust below:

Honey Locust has superior compressive and bending strength compared to certain hardwoods, including Oak, Maple, Teak, and Mahogany.

This means that it can endure greater weight or force before bending or breaking under pressure. Consequently, Honey Locust can be an excellent choice for your project, especially if strength is a crucial factor in its design and construction.

Is Honey Locust Harder Compared To Oak?

honey locust wood blocks

Honey Locust is relatively harder and stronger than both White Oak and Red Oak. Additionally, Oak has a lower density, making it softer, weaker, and less durable than Honey Locust. Below is the comparison of Janka’s rating of Oak and Honey Locust.

Type of Wood 

Hardness Value

Honey Locust

7,030 N (1,580 lb)

White Oak

6,000 N (1,360 lbf)

Red Oak

5,700 N (1,290 lbf)

Although Honey Locust has a higher Janka hardness score, it’s important to note that there are other factors to consider when selecting wood for a project, such as availability, cost, and the specific requirements of the project.

In fact, Honey Locust is not as widely distributed or cultivated as Oak. Therefore, it may be less commonly available in some markets, especially in regions where Oak is prevalent.

Is Honey Locust a Suitable Type of Wood for Creating Cutting Boards?

honey locust wood

Yes, Honey Locust is a suitable type of wood for creating cutting boards due to its excellent durability, high density, and superior hardness. 

These characteristics make Honey Locust resistant to scratches, dents, and wear, which means that it can withstand repeated use without showing significant signs of damage.

Additionally, Honey Locust has natural antimicrobial properties [1]. This means that it can resist the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause food contamination.

It has a tight and even grain structure, so it does not have many open pores that can trap moisture or bacteria. This makes it an excellent choice for cutting boards, as it’s easier to clean and helps prevent the spread of harmful pathogens to ensure food safety.

Is Honey Locust Hard To Break?

Honey Locust, with its high density and tight grain structure, is relatively difficult to break. Using the right tools, like log splitters, can make the splitting process easier. Additionally, Honey Locust is a suitable choice for firewood, especially when compared to other hardwoods.

Is Honey Locust Harder Compared To Hickory?

Holding hickory woods

Hickory is significantly harder, denser, and more durable than Honey Locust. In fact, Hickory is one of the popular hardwoods with the highest Janka hardness score. Below is the comparison of Janka’s rating of Hickory and Honey Locust.

Type of Wood 

Hardness Value

Hickory

8,100 N (1,820 lbf)

Honey Locust

7,030 N (1,580 lb)

In comparison, Honey Locust is also a dense and durable hardwood, but it is not as hard as Hickory. Honey Locust has a lower density and Janka hardness rating than hickory, which means it is slightly softer and more flexible.

However, Honey Locust is still a strong and durable wood that is suitable for a wide range of applications.

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Conclusion

Honey Locust, being a hardwood, is a suitable choice for woodworking projects that demand durability and strength. Its high density gives it exceptional strength and resistance to wear, while its natural resistance to decay ensures longevity.

This makes Honey Locust an excellent choice for creating both beautiful and long-lasting wood pieces.

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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