Making Cabinets with Hickory

Tips on machining and finishing this heavy, hard wood species. May 22, 2006

A customer wants me to make some custom hickory cabinets to match his hickory wood floor. He wants them made out of rustic hickory. I've made cabinets out of red oak, maple, alder and pine but never out of hickory. Is there anything I need to watch out for when I build the hickory cabinets? I know it is a hard wood but I will be using good quality carbide tools - saw blades, router bits, etc. Any comments would be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
We make about two sets of hickory a year. It is pretty hard and heavy. Definitely use sharp cutters, especially in the planer. The color will vary greatly also, from white to chocolate brown. You should pre-drill for screw holes. It sprays nice, though.

From the original questioner:
Actually, the various color tones would work out great. The flooring is from rustic hickory and I need something that has various colors, and knots to match. Are there any issues with tearout or splintering that you sometimes get with oak?

From contributor B:
You will have more issues with tearout and splintering than you have with oak, which has almost none. I have worked with Hickory often and have found that adding another 10-15% to your current waste factor is needed. Hickory does finish very well and is heavy.

From contributor C:
How is the hickory "rustic"?

From contributor D:
When milling hickory you should use cutters with less hook angle. We build 8 to 10 rustic hickory kitchens per year. The most frequent problem is tear out from planing that we resolved by sanding, starting with 24 grit and ending with 220. We start our doors at 7/8'', finishing at 3/4''.

From the original questioner:
To contributor D: I'll take you up on your sanding suggestions. I was worried about a lot of waste when working with the rustic hickory.