I’ve re-read what I wrote about Hickory when I first turned it and had such a great experience. I also re-read my SECOND experience and chuckle to myself just a bit as that second time sounds more like the recent reality. It would be nice to young as a wood turner, flush with excitement at every new wood encountered, loving everything you try. But the thing is that as much as I loved Hickory the first time, which unfortunately caused me to buy a fair amount of it, it really isn’t the best turning wood to choose.
On paper, some of the Hickory data suggest that it should be brilliant as a turning wood, especially because, in its pignut form, it is the 10th hardest of the North American woods. And the more common Shagbark Hickory is number 11. Hard woods often make great turning woods because they usually cut clean and require little extra sanding effort. But Hickory has a rough texture that can be a bit chippy when it gets thin, unlike Maple which can be shaved down to paper practically. That rough texture creates significant end grain fiber lift and believe you me, it is really tough to sand that out. The only way I have found to overcome it is to lock the lathe and apply focused sanding in the areas of difficulty. There will be two of them, one on each side where the cross grain is located. The with the grain areas will be reasonable smooth but will still benefit from a good sanding too, just not as much as the end grain areas.
Hickory is also quite plain. It looks a fair bit like other utility woods such as Ash, White Oak, Sassafras, Kentucky Coffeetree, all of which have that same rough texture and open pores. For the effort, I would prefer something a bit prettier to look at.
Hickory does, however, take a fantastic high shine finish.
These two dishes measure ~ 7″ x 2″.
I am on a mission to clear some shelves in the wood storage area and I am taking and working with what happens to be there. Some of it is fantastic, some of it awful, and most of it somewhere in between. Hickory veers more toward the awful and I will be glad when the stocks I foolishly acquired in the enthusiasm of a beginner are depleted.
All cuts were made using the Easy Wood Tool system on my Robust American Beauty lathe. Forward chucking was in a Nova Chuck, while reverse chucking was done using a Nova Chuck with Cole Jaws. Sanding was with Gold and Green Wave sanding discs from Packard Woodworks. Final finish is Shellawax.
As always, I wish all my readers a great experience in whatever your wood working interests happen to be and to those who like working with lathes especially, do a good turn today!