If you are looking for the best type of wood to use for various construction and building purposes, you’ve come to the right place. Right now we are going to do a side-by-side comparison of two very popular types of wood that are often used in North America, pine and hickory.
Pine and hickory both have their pros and cons that are important to consider and by the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what they are.
What Is Pine?
To start, we have the pine tree, and here we are focusing on the eastern white pine. The reason that this is our main focus for today is that this is one of the most common types of pine in North America and one of the most popular to use for a variety of utilitarian and structural construction purposes.
The eastern white pine tree is a softwood and coniferous evergreen that grows primarily in North America. The lumber from the eastern white pine tree features a whitish-brown color, or can sometimes be pale yellow if we are talking about the sapwood.
The grain of the wood is typically even and straight, it has a medium coarse texture, and a lot of knots, gaps, and resin canals.
Furthermore, the eastern white pine tree is quite soft and is in fact one of the softer types of wood in North America, so it’s not very resistant to physical damage. On top of this, it’s also not very resistant to moisture, pests, fungi, or decay.
Therefore, this is not really a type of wood that you want to use for outdoor purposes, but it is structurally sound enough to hold up a bit of weight, so it can be used for low-end furniture and cabinets. However, it’s mostly used for utilitarian purposes, such as for making boxes, crates, pallets, carvings, millwork, and other related items.
What Is Hickory?
We then have the hickory tree, which is a type of hardwood that can be found in Canada, China, India, Mexico, and the United States. One of the most popular and commonly occurring types of hickory is the mockernut, so this will be our main focus for today.
Mockernut hickory has a relatively straight grain with a close and tight pattern, with some possible waviness. It features a medium coarse texture along with a whitish-brown color. hickory wood tends to be quite dense and hard, so it is fairly resistant to physical damage.
Furthermore, hickory is not the most moisture-resistant type of wood in the world or the most pest-resistant. Therefore, it is not the best choice for outdoor use, but it works just fine for indoor purposes.
Hickory wood is somewhat expensive due to its appearance and hardness, and it is popular for indoor applications such as furniture, decorative pieces, and more.
Pine vs Hickory: What Are the Differences?
Now that we know what both pine and hickory are, let’s do a side-by-side comparison based on the most important factors to consider.
Pine features a Janka hardness rating of 380 lbf, whereas hickory comes in at 1,970 lbf. As you can see, hickory is several times harder than eastern white pine, and therefore also much more physically resistant to denting, stretching, and related types of damage. It’s much stronger on this front.
In terms of weight, eastern white pine comes in at around 25 lbs/ft3, whereas hickory comes in at 51 lbs/ft3. As you can see, hickory is therefore also much heavier than eastern pine, which leads to it being more durable, but also a bit harder to work with.
Pest and Moisture Resistance
If we are talking about pest and moisture resistance, neither of these types of wood is the best. With that being said, pine is not at all resistant to the elements, whereas hickory is somewhat resistant.
If you properly seal and treat a piece of hickory, you could potentially use it for outdoor purposes, although we still wouldn’t recommend it for anyone that sees a lot of moisture. When it comes down to it, neither of these types of wood is great on this front.
Overall Durability and Strength
If we take a look at the various factors that determine just how strong a piece of wood really is, such as the compressive strength, the modulus of rupture, and the modulus of elasticity, hickory scores much higher in all of these categories.
It has better weight-bearing capabilities, it takes more to bend, and it is more structurally sound, making it the better option.
Neither of these two types of wood is really difficult to work with per se. However, pine does have a lot of sap and resin canals which can lead to a lot of stickiness on your blades.
On the other hand, hickory is just very hard and dense, which can also lead to some issues with your saw blades.
Appearance – Grain and Color
In terms of appearance, these two types of wood actually look fairly similar. They both feature a fairly light brown color, although hickory can be a bit darker.
Both also have a pretty straight and even grain, along with a medium coarse texture, although hickory may have a bit more waviness in its grain. Of course, this is more a matter of personal preference than anything else.
Both pine and hickory will cost you anywhere between $8 and $12 per board foot, which means that they are both fairly reasonably priced.
When to Use Pine Wood?
If you need an affordable type of wood to use for indoor purposes, especially something really basic that is good enough for utilitarian use, then pine is always a good option to consider.
When to Use Hickory Wood?
If you need a type of wood that is extremely structurally sound and can bear a lot of weight, and you like the look of hickory, then it’s a fine choice to consider as well.
Remember that if need be, you could use hickory for outdoor purposes, although we do not recommend it.
Alternatives to Pine and Hickory
The reality is that neither of these types of wood is ideal for outdoor use. If you need a type of wood that is best for outdoor purposes, options such as cedar, mahogany, ebony, and teak all make good alternatives.
As you can see, both pine and hickory have their pros and cons to consider. Now that you know exactly what they are, you can make an informed decision between the two for your next big woodworking task.