Every wood is unique, even if it may seem similar or have almost the same properties. A furniture maker will tell you that every tree has its own story, hence why their grain pattern varies even though they are from the same species.
Compared to other wood species, Ashwood has a minimal grain and color variation because the heartwood and sapwood are almost similar in color. Its strength and flexibility make it easy to work with; nevertheless can barely withstand outdoor use.
Hickory wood is denser with a hardness and stiffness that contributes to the shock-absorbing property, making it a perfect fit for making tools.
Ash and Hickory wood are hardwood with natural appearances, ideal for tool making, cabinetry, and furniture. However, Ashwood has a light-brown color while Hickory wood has a reddish-brown color. Also, Ashwood is less dense than Hickory wood, making it easier to work with.
Comparison table for Ash vs Hickory wood
|Ash wood||Hickory wood|
|Color||Beige to light-brown||Reddish-brown|
|Hardness||1,320 lbf on janka scale||1,820 lbf on janka scale|
|Workability||Easy to work with||Difficult to work with|
|Durability||Durable for interior application only||Highly durable|
|Cost||$3.50 – $7.00 per board foot||$4 – $5 per board foot|
|Resistance||Scratch-resistant but susceptible to insect attacks and not entirely waterproof||Scratch-resistant but not resistant to mold and water|
|Applications||Furniture, cabinet, door, windows, boxes and crates, tools handle, molding and millwork.||Flooring, furniture, tools and work handles,|
|Texture||Medium to coarse||Coarse|
Although Ashwood and Hickory wood can be used interchangeably in some applications, we cannot ignore their unique differences, which include their cost, availability, workability, density, color, durability, etc. let’s discuss these differences below.
In recent times, Ash trees- which make up a large number of the trees found in urban areas- have faced severe biological threats in Europe and US, caused by invasive pathogens and pests called the Ash borer and Ash dieback. As a result, thousands of Ash trees have been taken down to combat the spread of the infections, reducing its availability on the market. Nevertheless, you can still get them from timber merchants.
On the other hand, hickory wood is commercially available, especially since it is the hardest domestic hardwood in America.
Color and Appearance
Ashwood has a pale color that runs from beige to light-brown and large but straight wood grain that gives it an attractive appearance, mostly when used in spaces with modern décor. Constant exposure to UV light and oxygen will cause Ashwood to change its color over time, becoming lighter. It absorbs stains well, making it an ideal option for furniture and cabinetry projects.
Hickory wood has a rustic but appealing appearance, and this is a result of the sapwood that has a pale white to reddish-brown color and the heartwood that has a light to medium brown color. Its grain is usually straight and, in some cases, slightly irregular, and generally, it has a coarse texture because of its open pores.
On the Janka scale, Ashwood has a hardness rating of 1,320 lbf (pounds of force), which is hard enough for fine furniture, flooring, and roof construction. Also, the hardness of Ashwood makes it resistant to shock, making it ideal for use in high traffic areas without unnecessary worries, especially when used for flooring. At 1,820lbf (pounds of force), hickory wood is the hardest domestic hardwood and the second hardest hardwood species in North America. Its toughness and hardness are quite impressive, though making it difficult to work with.
Ashwood tends to be easier to work with than hickory wood, and its hardness is a major contributor to it. With Ashwood, you can conveniently work with any type of wood tool and get your desired result. Additionally, it is easy to glue, maneuver, bend, stain, and finish.
On the other hand, Hickory wood’s stiff nature makes it difficult to work with, especially with the tendency of the grain to tear out when cutting. Nevertheless, it responds well t glue, stains, and finish, even though the tight grain and pore may prevent the stain from penetrating efficiently as it would with ash wood.
When used for indoor purposes and in spaces with low humidity, ash wood has excellent durability. Otherwise, it is prone to rot over time if exposed to a damp environment.
Although they are both affordable, there is still a slight difference in cost between them at $3.50 – $7.00 per board foot; Ashwood costs a little more because of the issues surrounding its availability. The price for Hickory wood per board foot ranges between $4- $5. Note that their prices vary with the board thickness.
Ashwood is resistant to dents, scratches, and shock. However, it is neither resistant to insect or pest attacks nor waterproof and so cannot be used for outdoor projects. Hickory wood has high shock resistance but low resistance to mold, pests, and water. Nevertheless, you can always opt for the engineered version if you intend to use it in areas or spaces where it could be exposed to these factors.
The choice of whether to use ash or hickory wood depends on the project it is intended for. Although they are both ideal for flooring, furniture, tool handles, and cabinetry uses, their characteristics make one better than the other in different applications. For instance, the natural appeal of Ash makes it ideal for spaces with contemporary interior designs while hickory dark hues are perfect for creating or adding a rustic effect to a space.
Also, Ash has a lightweight and unique elasticity that makes it ideal for projects that require flexibility, while Hickory works well for projects that require strength and shock resistance.
Both Ash and Hickory wood have beautiful appearances and are durable hardwoods with a natural appeal. While many people may mistake one for another, their differences are clear, as discussed above. For a start, Hickory has a darker color than Ash, making it easy to identify when placed side-by-side. So, choosing between the both will depend on the project you need it for.