Hickory wood is known for its strength, hardness, and attractive grain patterns.
But is it suitable for making cutting boards?
This article examines the pros and cons of using hickory wood for cutting boards.
- Hickory wood is very hard and durable, but has an open grain structure that can trap food particles. This makes it less sanitary for cutting boards.
- Frequent oiling is needed with hickory cutting boards to fill in the pores and create a protective barrier. This increases maintenance.
- The hardness of hickory can cause knives to dull faster compared to cutting on softer woods.
- Woods like maple and cherry with closed grain and less porous structure are better choices for cutting boards.
- Hickory can add visual interest when used as an accent wood, but is not ideal as the primary cutting surface.
- Overall, hickory's open grain and density make it not the best choice for an all-hickory cutting board. It works better combined with more suitable woods.
The Hardness of Hickory
One of the main advantages of hickory wood is its hardness.
On the Janka hardness scale, which measures the force needed to embed a steel ball halfway through a sample of wood, hickory ranks very high at 1820.
This makes it significantly harder than oak (1360), maple (1450), and walnut (1010).
A hard wood like hickory can stand up well to heavy use and knife cuts without showing damage.
The hardness also means hickory cutting boards are less likely to warp over time.
Downsides of an Open Grain
However, hickory has a rather open grain structure with large pores.
This can be a downside for cutting boards, as the open pores have a tendency to collect food particles and debris.
Over time, this can lead to unsanitary conditions if the cutting board is not cared for properly.
Closed grain woods like maple and cherry are better when it comes to cleanliness and moisture resistance.
The Need for Frequent Oiling
To help fill in the open grain pores and create a protective barrier, hickory cutting boards require frequent applications of food-safe mineral oil.
This helps improve sanitation and visual appeal.
But it also means more maintenance compared to denser woods that need oiling less often.
Risk of Knife Wear
The high density of hickory that contributes to its hardness can be a negative as well in terms of knife wear.
Cutting repeatedly on a hickory board, especially an end grain type, may cause knives to dull faster than they would on softer woods like basswood or acacia.
The very thing that makes hickory so durable as a wood can be detrimental to delicate knife edges.
Is Hickory Ever a Good Choice
The negatives seem to outweigh the positives when it comes to using hickory as the primary wood for a cutting board.
However, it can serve well as an accent wood.
Using a hickory strip or border along with a better main wood like maple or cherry allows the beauty of the grain to shine through without the downsides of using hickory across the whole board.
This can create a visually striking yet functional cutting board.