Andrew Jackson earned the nickname "Old Hickory" for his exceptional toughness as a general during the War of 1812. The name was quite fitting because hickory is one of the toughest and strongest woods among our domestic species. It exceeds ash, oak, and maple in both strength and hardness and has more than twice the shock resistance of those species. Among domestic species, hickory can't be beaten for bending properties.
Before the introduction of synthetic materials, hickory was commonly used for skis and toboggans. Today, craftsmen employ hickory when a design calls for bent pieces in chair backs. On the down side, hickory's hardness and density do create some workability problems. Cutting is a slow process and blades tend to dull quickly. It is not a good turning wood because of its coarse and splintery texture.
Exceptional elasticity has made hickory the wood of choice for hammer, ax, and other tool handles that experience harsh and sudden impacts. In the early days of baseball, hickory was used for bats, but its use declined because of excessive weight. It continues to find broad applications as structural members in lightweight projects like Windsor chairs, but the weight factor makes it less suitable for larger furniture assemblies.
Wood grain images provided by HobbitHouseInc.com