Ash vs Hickory – A Clash of Woodworking Titans

ash vs hickory differences

Ash and hickory are two popular commercial hardwoods with their own distinct properties and uses. If you are confused between ash and hickory wood for your next project or are just curious about the difference between these two hardwoods, here’s everything you need to know about Ash vs Hickory.

While both are hardwoods, Hickory is stronger, denser and more durable than ash, which can be prone to decay and insect attack. While it is suitable for outdoor use due to its natural durability and rot resistance, Ash on the other hand is easier to work with due to its lower density. Read on to know the individual properties of each timber along with their pros and cons and the differences between the two.

Why does Ash Vs Hickory Matter?

Every timber is unique with its own unique grain pattern and physical properties. Even if two species look alike, they might be quite different in terms of strength and other characteristics. This is the case with ash and hickory.

It is important to know the difference between the two to make the right choice for your woodworking project. Ashwood may not always be the best alternative to hickory in a woodworking project, and vice versa.

Both are hardwoods with attractive natural appearances, which make them suitable for a wide range of applications, ranging from furniture making to cabinetry and tools.

What is Ash wood?

It is coming from the genus Fraxinus, is a popular hardwood species renowned for its exceptional strength and versatility.

The heartwood of ash is pale cream to light brown with a distinct grain pattern, providing an aesthetic appeal to the project. Also prized for its strength and flexibility, ash wood boasts excellent shock resistance, which makes it a favoured choice for building sports equipment like baseball bats and tool handles.

It is also famous for its impressive workability, which allows for its use in intricate designs and millwork. The availability of ash timber has been a concern lately due to its decreasing number, mainly because of the damage caused by the emerald ash borer.

What is Hickory wood?

It is prized for its robustness, durability and distinctive grain patterns, is a hardwood species considered suitable for many applications ranging from interior uses like cabinetry to many outdoor applications.

The heartwood color may range from pale white to reddish-brown in different parts of the same piece of wood. The visually striking appearance of hickory timber makes it a popular choice for furniture and flooring. The shock-resistant wood is also ideal for tool handles and sporting goods like baseball bats.

It can be challenging to work with due to its hardness but has outstanding durability in terms of resistance to rot, insects and wear and tear. It’s unique combination of strength and appearance keeps its demands in diverse woodworking projects.

Ash Vs Hickory Wood

In terms of appearance and other physical properties, both are two completely different kinds of timber. While ash has a light tone, hickory is slightly darker. Ash is also less hard and durable, but it’s easier to work with. Hickory is more easily available than ash but priced in the same range. Ash timber is slightly more popular among woodworkers due to its outstanding workability.

Let’s take a look into detailed differences between the two in terms of appearance, strength, workability, availability, cost, etc.


Ash timber, identified by its pale cream to light brown color heartwood, has a subtle, straight grain forming unique, attractive patterns, making the wood suitable for various interior uses. Different Ash species may exhibit different grain patterns and colors. The texture is usually medium to coarse.

Hickory, on the other hand, has a more pronounced and varied grain, with the heartwood color ranging from pale white to darker reddish-brown in different pieces. The distinct grain pattern gives it a visually striking appearance, making it a perfect choice for projects requiring a rustic aesthetic, such as furniture and flooring applications and a variety of interior work.

Strength & Hardness

With a Janka hardness rating of 1,880 lbf, Hickory is considered a very hard and dense wood with outstanding strength. This makes it a prime choice for applications requiring strong wood, such as tool handles and sports equipment.

Ash, while being a strong timber, falls slightly behind hickory in terms of hardness and density. With a Janka rating of 1,320 lbf, the wood is considerably strong but not as suitable as hickory for high-stress situations.

Both timbers have excellent shock resistance and are two of the most popular wood types for tool handles and baseball bats.

Durability & Resistance

Between the two, hickory is a more durable wood, especially in exterior conditions.

Many species of hickory are quite durable and strong and show excellent resistance against damage by decay and insects. This is the reason why it can be used in outdoor projects where it is likely to be in contact with water or exposed to weather. It’s also considered suitable for applications demanding resilience and shock resistance. Due to the high density of hickory wood, projects last long and can survive without damage even in high-stress applications such as flooring and framing.

Ash is only moderately durable, though powerful. It cannot resist decay and insects and is easily damaged by impacts, making it better suited for low-traffic places and interior applications.


Ash is better than hickory in terms of workability, thanks to its moderate hardness and density. It is easier to machine and shape and can be used for making intricate designs and carving.

Hickory, with its hardness and high density, requires more effort and can create troubles during the woodworking process. However, the resulting product is quite strong, long-lasting and very durable.

Availability & Price

Both woods have good availability in their native regions and the price ranges from moderate to high depending on availability.

Ash is generally more budget-friendly due to easier access and availability. Hickory, on the other hand, is not as easily available and requires labor-intensive processing, which adds to its final cost.

Ash’s versatility, flexibility and strength make it a popular choice for a range of applications, from furniture and flooring to tool handles and carving projects. Its moderate hardness and flexible nature cater to diverse projects. Other common uses include millwork, boxes, crates, and turned objects.

Hickory is particularly prized for its unparalleled strength and durability and is extensively used for making tool handles and sports equipment, where durability and shock resistance are paramount. Other uses include ladder rungs, wheel spokes, and flooring.