Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Hickory presents a real paradox for wood aficianados. It is one of the hardest and heaviest woods, but when the tree dies, a multitude of wood eating insects attack it, and turn it into sawdust in short order. A dead hickory is a downed hickory. Turn it into firewood immediately, or forget it.
Once you put a live hickory on the ground, you are on a timeline. Cut it, split it, stack it in the barn to dry, and burn it the next winter. Wait two years to burn it, and you have dust. I have seen joists and studs made from hickory a few times over the years. It's a bad idea. Powder post beetles move into hickory as soon as the wood is dry, and the wood quickly disappears.
Many hardwoods, but especially hickory, attract powder post beetles in the spring, who lay eggs in open pores. Larvae hatch, tunnel in, and turn strong wood into dust. The solution for hardwoods is to kiln dry, turn it into a product quickly, and apply a wood finish that seals the pores of the wood so insects can't break in. Way back in the pre-EPA good old days when you could buy effective insecticides, you could mix up some chlordane and kerosene, treat your hickory, and it was safe for decades. I once turned down a FREE fifty gallon drum of Chlordane because I had no way to move it at the time. Dang. I wish I could find a few gallons now to fight termites around the barn.