Ash vs. Hickory: Which One to Use?

Ash vs. Hickory: Which One to Use?

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If you want to build something out of real wood, then you have come to the right place. With that being said, there are many different types of wood to choose from, with ash and hickory being just two of them. These are two very popular types of wood, as they are both very durable, hard, and resistant.

However, there are some big differences between them that you need to know about, and this is exactly what we are here to figure out today. Let’s pit these two materials against each other and figure out which one is best for your next woodworking project.

What Is Ash?

First, we have ash, and here we are talking about white ash. There are many different types of ash out there, although white ash is the most popular and commonly found in North America, so it makes sense to focus on this. This is a hardwood tree that is deciduous in nature, and it grows in the eastern parts of North America, particularly in eastern Canada, and can reach heights of up to 80’.

The ash tree features a regular and straight grain, although it may at times have some moderate curls. It also features a medium to coarse texture, along with a good bit of knots. As for the color, the sapwood is beige to light brown, with the heartwood being medium brown. Additionally, this is a pretty hard type of wood that has a good bit of strength, although it’s not very resistant to pests, fungus, moisture, or decay.

For this reason, ash is a good choice for interior purposes, but it doesn’t work very well for outdoor use. What needs to be said is that ash is very easy to work with, as it paints and stains very easily, it’s easy to nail, screw, and saw, and it does also bend easily with steam.

It is also an inexpensive type of hardwood, one of the cheapest types around, and it is best used for utilitarian purposes, such as for basic flooring, interior millwork, boxes, crates, baseball bats, and turned objects.

What Is Hickory?

We then have the hickory tree, which is also a deciduous hardwood, with a few different species existing in the United States, Mexico, Canada, India, and China. The types of hickory that we often use for construction here in North America usually come from the United States and Canada.

In general, this wood features a very straight, close, and tight grain, although it may have some waviness at times. It features a medium texture, with colors ranging from white to light brown. Hickory wood is also quite hard and dense, therefore making it fairly durable and resistant to physical damage of all kinds.

This wood doesn’t contain a whole lot of natural sap, resin, or oils, but it is decently moisture-resistant. Untreated Hickory wood however is usually not pest or moisture-resistant enough to be used for outdoor purposes, although if treated, it should be fine for a few years in the element.

Ash vs. Hickory: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both Hickory and ash are, let’s take a closer look at what makes them different from each other.


First, ash comes in at 1,320 lbf on the Janka hardness scale, whereas Hickory comes in at 1,900 lbf. This means that hickory is significantly harder than ash, making it more resistant to physical damage such as denting and scratching.


In terms of weight or density, ash usually comes in at around 42 lbs per cubic foot or about 675 kilograms per cubic meter. On the other hand, hickory tends to be significantly heavier, with most varieties coming in at around 52 lbs per cubic foot or about 835 kilograms per cubic meter, if not more. The bottom line is that hickory is heavier and denser than ash, therefore making it a bit more durable on that front, although also harder to work with.

Pest and Moisture Resistance

Neither of these types of wood is particularly pest or moisture-resistant on its own. With that being said, hickory is slightly more resistant than ash. However, neither of these types of wood is ideal for outdoor use, at least if they are left untreated.

Overall Strength

In the grand scheme of things, when it comes to hardness, compressive strength, modulus of rupture, and modulus of elasticity, hickory tends to be the much more durable of these two types of wood.


Because hickory is significantly harder and denser than ash, it does tend to be a bit harder to work with, which is true on all fronts, whether we are talking about sawing, nailing, or painting.

Appearance – Color and Grain

Both ash and hickory have a fairly straight and tight grain, and both may sometimes be a bit wavy, although hickory more so than ash. As for the color, hickory tends to be white or light brown, whereas ash tends to be a bit darker brown in color.


Both of these two types of wood are pretty cheap, as ash comes in at anywhere between $8 and $10 per board foot, with hickory coming in at around $7.50 per board foot. As far as the different types of hardwood go, both of these are relatively cost-effective in the grand scheme of things.

When to Use Ash?

The fact of the matter is that ash is relatively good for indoor purposes, as it has a great deal of strength, particularly in terms of physical durability. Although it works best for utilitarian purposes, you can also make fairly decent indoor furniture out of it. It is a good type to use if you like that medium brown color and you don’t want to spend a huge amount of money. Just keep in mind that it really doesn’t work well for outdoor purposes.

When to Use Hickory?

If we are talking about hickory, it’s also not very ideal for outdoor applications, although if we had to choose between the two for outdoor use, hickory would be our choice. Moreover, this is a very nice-looking and affordable type of wood that also happens to be extremely durable, much more physically durable than ash. Therefore, if you need any furniture or other woodworking projects to last for many years to come, hickory is the better choice to consider.

Alternatives to Ash and Hickory

Yes, both hickory and ash are good types of hardwoods to use, but if you’d rather use a softwood, consider going for various types of spruce, fir, pine, and hemlock.


Now that you know what the main differences between ash and hickory are, you can make an informed decision between the two.