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Oak vs Hickory... the best firewood?

Discussion in 'Firewood, Heating and Wood Burning Equipment' started by gregfox, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. gregfox

    gregfox ArboristSite Operative

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    I have limited experience with hickory (shagbark) and have come to love oak and think it is the best firewood around. I'm hoping you seasoned burners will lend me your knowledge on this subject. I have gotten to burning almost exclusively oak as I love the way it burns, coals, and ashes. It seems to me that hickory tends to leave more ash but may put out higher heat longer? I have studied btu charts and understand that hickory has more btu's but want real life experience from people who burn all day, every day. I have come across an abundance of firewood(all oak and hickory) to cut and I'm trying to decide how much hickory to blend. Appreciate all comments/info you can provide. Thanks, Greg
     
  2. 7hpjim

    7hpjim Addicted to ArboristSite

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    They are both premium wood types and I wouldn't and haven't left either to rot in the woods , split it stack it BURN it!!!!:blob2:
     
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  3. oneoldgeezer

    oneoldgeezer ArboristSite Lurker

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    They are both fantastic fire woods once you get the Hickory split. It can be a pain to split. But it is still one of the best woods.
     
  4. haveawoody

    haveawoody Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Any of the oak or hickories are serious firewood with great btu and coals.
    Some people say Sugar maple is just that bit better and i would be in that list.
    Most of the fruit wood like apple, pear peach etc are all in the same great firewood group.

    Only real step up from any of them is osage orange or rock elm.
     
  5. Marc

    Marc Addicted to ArboristSite

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    If I'm processing it, I'll take oak... white or red, over hickory. Tends to grow straighter, MUCH easier to split, and seems to attract fewer ants than hickory. The higher density in hickory probably isn't worth the trouble if you have a choice.

    But really, when given the choice, the answer is "both." But I still prefer not only oak, but sugar maple and white ash as well.
     
  6. Whitespider

    Whitespider Lost in the 50s

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    I think the answer is… it depends. BTU charts are a great reference, but I wouldn’t live and die by them. The BTU charts are developed using a mathematical formula based primarily on weight of seasoned wood… or, the potential BTU’s of the firewood. But, in the real world, there’s more to it than that; the burning characteristics of a particular wood species will influence how many of those BTU’s can, or will be radiated from the firebox, and at what rate.

    For example, many charts list Douglas Fir and Box Elder as equal (or close to equal). I’ve burned both and can tell you they are not… A firebox full of Douglas Fir will make my little furnace so hot it becomes hard to stand close, but a firebox full of Box Elder won’t even make me sweat unless I set the dampers wide open. The two may be (about) equal in potential BTU’s, but getting that heat extracted at a useful rate is two entirely different things.

    The red and white oaks are another example. The red oaks start relatively easy, burn good, heat well and coal-up nicely in near any appliance, but if you load-up your firebox with one of the white oaks and use the same damper/vent settings you’ll probably have a disappointing, smoldering fire that doesn’t heat well… white oak just needs more air to burn right (in most appliances, my experience).

    Oak vs. Hickory? Which makes better firewood? I’d say it probably depends on a whole bunch of things… like type, brand and size of appliance, chimney set-up, amount of draft, cast or steel firebox, EPA or non-EPA, CAT or secondary, etc., etc., etc. What may be “better” for me may not be “better” for you… and the next guy might think we’re both nuts.
     
  7. branchbuzzer

    branchbuzzer Undiagnosed

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    They are both great firewood. Honestly, I wouldn't worry much about which to take. Deciding between the two is a problem most people wouldn't mind having. Take whichever is the most convenient or manages your woodlot the best.

    Hickory is harder to hand split and a bit tougher on chains than oak, but it has excellent BTUs and coaling properties. Hickory will be slightly easier to manhandle, since it has a lower moisture content than oak, and will season faster.
     
  8. gregfox

    gregfox ArboristSite Operative

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    How about ashes? Is it my imagination (or limited experience) but does hickory seem to leave more, finer ashes? I'm gonna try not to let any rot but I've come across about 20-25 cord in this one woods alone and in the last couple days I got permision on another woods with alot more than that. Plus over 10 cord at my dad's. Nasty storms last summer have left a ton of wood layin around. Before that I was gonna have to start lookin hard to find wood. Got enough on the ground, or halfway there to last many years.
     
  9. 4seasons

    4seasons ArboristSite Operative

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    I heat with about 50% white oak, 25% red oak with the other 25% being a mix of locust, beech, and hickory. Some people don't like white oak. While it is harder to split than red oak it is nowhere near as tough to split as hickory. I think most people don't let white oak season long enough to get it to burn well. I find 2 years is a minimum for white oak where red oak only takes a year and hickory a little less. White oak also burns better if mixed with another wood like red oak, hickory, or locust. Where I live winter isn't terrible cold and when we do have sub-zero weather it doesn't last for more than a couple of days. I like to hold my hickory and locust for those really cold nights and use oak on nights when it stays around freezing. I get long slow burns out of white oak where hickory tends to get the living room to hot on days that the temps stay above freezing. So I guess I prefer oak over hickory because of easy splitting and not as hot a burn. But if our weather gave us some really cold winters I would go to hickory and locust as my best wood. As it is I like to save my hickory to use on the smoker.

    P.S. Hickory tends to make a mess as bugs like it. You get little piles of sawdust all in you wood stacks as the bugs bore into hickory. Hickory also pops and throws lots of sparks too. When I bust up a chunk of hickory with the poker I get sparks busting out the door at a furious rate. While those sparks have never caught anything in the room on fire I have learned to wear gloves when poking hot hickory and still get an occasional burn spot on my arms from it.
     
  10. Stihlofadeal64

    Stihlofadeal64 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Save that Hickory for me, don't use it for firewood! Use it for Bar-b-que (that would be Boston Butts cooked low and slow!) :hmm3grin2orange:

    View attachment 227472

    Some tenderloins occasionally, chicken and a few others. The smoked flavor is fabulous!
    Sorry, I'm having BBQ flashbacks:msp_sneaky:
     
  11. Preston

    Preston Addicted to ArboristSite

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    The best part of burning hickory is the sweet odor it gives off. I like hickory for the coals it leaves. Best one I found for next morning coals. Always have plenty to work with. White oak does pretty good with the coals and red for me just burns aways. My least favorite is red oak. I have a lot of it so I use it. But to me it's the longest to cure. But all three burn a good fire with good BTU output.

    Did I say I really like hickory? :msp_smile:
     
  12. branchbuzzer

    branchbuzzer Undiagnosed

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    Yer burnin' daylight boy, quit thinkin' and start cuttin! The wood's gonna rot before you make up your mind.....:D
     
  13. OhioGregg

    OhioGregg Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Oak, Hickory, Ash etc... Kinda like blonde, brunet, redhead etc... They are ALL good.:D Just a personal preference thing I think. Oak is my favorite, lean towards the white oak. Use to burn a lot of hickory. Shagbark is my least favorite to process though. The last couple years about 90% of the wood I cut & burn has been Ash. Thanks to the EAB.

    And will be for a number of years to come the way it looks. Beech and the hard Maples, like sugar maple ain't bad either. I Just don't cut alot of them. Ash has its advantages though. It "seasons" faster than most and can burn it sooner than the others. I heat with an indoor furnace, in the cellar, (basement). LOL I do like to put oak in when I load the furnace at bedtime, I think it lasts longer than Ash.

    Tighter barked Hickorys, like Pig nut, Mocker nut, etc. aren't as bad to process as Shag Bark. If I had to pick a favorite, I guess I would go with White Oak, then Hickory, or was that Blonde, then Brunet...I'm confused.:laugh:

    :cheers:
    Gregg,
     
  14. Eecho

    Eecho ArboristSite Operative

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    I use oak I prefer white but red is prominent. Hickory is sold here to bbq smokehouses for more money on the cord so thats the main reasoning behind it . We only cut smooth bark hickory , and I dont have a problem spliting it . I always seemed to think it grew straighter then some of the oaks here. By far though the red oaks are bigger . The only wood I hate to split is hedgeapple or osage orange . It tears chain up horribly and I have busted fiberglass handles on mauls with clean hits in the stuff . If your plan is like ours where your selling any then hickory can bring more bucks because of its smoking quality then save it for money , if not throw another log in the stove and go cut more.
     
  15. zogger

    zogger Tree Freak

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    Between those two, OAK, hands down. Burns almost as hot. Shagbark is murder on chains once it has any size to it, has freeking dirt and gravel embedded in it, then it is much harder to split, then it gets eat up with bugs after you have done all that work. I could show you right now in the same stack similar red oak chunks versus hickory. the hickory has gobs of sawdust from the freeking bugs, any piece that still has any bark on it, and it was just two bears and a bigfoot to cut and split. the oak is pristine, no bugs. I can do multiples of the cordage in oak over what I can do with hickory, with the same effort. And oak is just so close to the same heat....

    Once in the stove, sure, hickory kiks booty, but for the work involved, I am only taking blowdowns, easier stuff, I am not cutting any on purpose, I'll leave them for a food tree for the wild critters.

    I guess other hickories are different, and smaller shagbark might not be as bad, but large ones, forget it. I have one more big trunk to cut up sometime next summer, then that's it, no more big ones for me. I've knocked all the bark off of it now, so that should make cutting, splitting easier and it got rid of the bugs.

    With that said, I would prefer ash over the other two, even easier to cut and split, dries far faster, and throws plenty good enough heat.
     
  16. hardpan

    hardpan ArboristSite Operative

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    Both are very good but there is at least one distinct difference. Oak is more resistant to decay and insects so your method of storage can make a difference.
     
  17. ken45

    ken45 ArboristSite Operative

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    I have to agree about the sawdust-bugs with hickory.

    I often wonder if some of the poor results are from lack of full seasoning. White oak (we don't have any) is more rot resistant than red oak (which is pretty good) but I wonder if that same top notch rot resistance also requires longer seasoning. As I understand it, white oak is more closed cell than red oak. The closed cells improve rot resistance but I would also think increases the drying time.

    Ken
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2012
  18. CentaurG2

    CentaurG2 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I actually kind of like locust. Grows like a bad weed around here. Smells a bit when you open it up but it will burn hotter than the hinges of hell.
     
  19. haveawoody

    haveawoody Addicted to ArboristSite

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    CentaurG2,

    Locust is real nice firewood.
    Only down side to it is the tearathon when splitting.

    I think one of the all around nicest woods is mulberry, splits easy, burns hot and long, wonderful smell when burning and cures pretty quick.
    Crappy for an open fireplace though because of all the sparks and pops it makes.

    Just wish i had to choose from 30 cords of wood to decide oak or hickory LOL
    Ummm both :)
     
  20. J.W Younger

    J.W Younger Tree Freak

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    I rank it 2 behind white oak, both about the same for BTUs. Red oak #3
    hickory seasons faster than white oak but the bugs don't eat white oak and it don't rot like red oak or hickory.
     

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