It’s hard to imagine a wood that conjures up the image of the American frontier more than Hickory, which has a distinguished American pedigree. Hickory trees are found throughout eastern North America, and “Hickory” is one of the few extant Algonquin words. Along with moccasin, tomahawk, and hominy, the word pawcohiccora, from which hickory derives, was among those recorded by the explorer John Smith in Virginia circa 1608. This word survived because the wood and mast of the Hickory tree were extremely important to both the Powhatan and the early English settlers.
The Hickory nut was a significant Algonquin foodstuff; pounded and mixed with water, it made pawcohiccora, or hickory milk, a nutritious butter-like substance so prized that a quart of hickory milk was the barter equivalent of twenty pounds of pork.
Recognizing Hickory’s strength, Native Americans used its wood for their bows. European settlers used Hickory to make wooden wheels, wagon axles, plows, and tool handles. Parents inflicting corporal punishment selected hickory switches because they did not break easily (ouch). Because of its high energy content, Hickory was also a favored fuelwood, used for firewood, charcoal production, and for smoking meats.
Hickory’s toughness was so legendary in early America that the word hickory became synonymous with “strength”: a hard-wearing twill cloth was known as “hickory cloth”, and General Andrew Jackson was dubbed “Old Hickory” by his troops when he demonstrated his toughness on the battlefield.
Hickory is the only wood with the quintuple attributes of toughness, stiffness, denseness, shock resistance, and hardness. Because of these attributes, Hickory’s more modern uses have included flooring, furniture, tool handles, golf club shafts, ski bottoms, lacrosse sticks, ladder rungs, drumsticks, and other demanding applications.
Hickory floors are a perennial best seller at our sawmill; here at Hull Forest Products we utilize Hickory species native to the Northeast to make our wide plank Hickory flooring in grades from clear to character. Our Hickory floors are tough and impact resistant, and we recommend Hickory for kitchens and other high traffic areas. If you have little tolerance for dings and dents, a Hickory floor may be a good choice for you.
The striking color variation in Hickory can be played up with a clear finish (see figure 1 above) or the color difference can be minimized with a brown or darker colored stain (see figure 2 below).
In Figure 2 the floor has been stained brown to make the color more consistent. This gives the floor a very different appearance from the floor in Figure 1, which shows the striated light and dark color variation typical of Hickory wood.
Many of our log and timber frame home customers choose Hickory because they appreciate the wood’s color variation, and these customers also tend to prefer natural grade Hickory for its character markings (see figure 3), sometimes opting for a skip planed surface to add to the rusticity.
As you can see, Hickory wood floors look different depending on your choice of grade and stain/finish, and Hickory is a wood equally at home in a traditional or a modern setting. American Hickory wide plank flooring is at once a utilitarian and an attractive wood flooring choice. To see more photos of Hickory floors and other wide plank flooring species, visit us online at http://www.hullforest.com.
White Oak. Quercus Alba. Considering a White Oak floor? You’re not alone. White Oak is one of the most popular species of wood flooring in the United States, though not as popular as its cousin, Red Oak. Renowned for its impact resistance and beauty, white oak flooring makes an eye pleasing and practical addition to your home and is available in a wide range of cuts, grades, and styles.
As a saw mill, we find that floors can sometimes be hard to describe to the lay person – but if you look at enough pictures you will quickly notice what you like and don’t like. The point of this post is to illustrate the different varieties of White Oak so you can make an informed decision when choosing a White Oak floor.
For reasons both practical and aesthetic, White Oak is among our top selling wide plank floors here at Hull Forest Products. White Oak floors hold up well to foot traffic and are durable enough to be used in the highest traffic areas, including your kitchen. Scoring a whopping 1360 on the Janka hardness scale, White Oak is among the toughest of the North American hardwoods.
White Oak is also extremely versatile – the wood takes stain very well and can be left natural, stained dark (Figure 1, above), or whitened to a pickled or bleached appearance (Figure 2, below).
The appearance of a White Oak floor also depends on the method by which the log was sawn. Common styles are: plain sawn (see figure 3 below), quarter sawn, and rift sawn. Let’s start with plainsawn oak first, since that style is the most common. Figure 3 below shows the traditional cathedral grain pattern of plain sawn White Oak, which most of you will recognize:
Notice how the grain in Figure 3 rises into peaks – those are what we call the “cathedrals.” This is how 90 percent of the oak floors out there today are sawn, and this method of sawing is the most efficient.
In contrast, when a log is quarter and rift sawn, the radial and vertical grain are exposed on the face of the planks, and the floor has both undulating and straight grain like the floor shown in Figure 4 below:
As you can see by comparing the White Oak floors shown in Figures 3 and 4, the grain of plainsawn White Oak and the grain of quarter/rift sawn White Oak look completely different.
Quarter and rift sawn White Oak was popularized by the Arts & Craft movement and remains a hallmark of Mission style. Quarter and rift sawn wood is also exceptionally stable, which makes it popular for use over radiant heating. When the planks are further sorted to contain only rift sawn grain, you get a floor with consistently straight grain like that shown in Figure 5 below:
Now let’s talk about grades of White Oak. The photos shown above all feature select grade White Oak, which is a clear grade with few to no knots or character markings.
White Oak is also available in other grades with varying degrees of character markings. Your choice of grade will have an impact on the overall look and feel of your floor. I’m making a generalization here, but IMO select grade floors tend to look more formal and modern, while character grade floors read as rustic and cozy, perfect for a mountain retreat or log cabin.
That being said, I must admit that with a little creativity, you can create a signature look within any grade. For example, if you take that same natural grade knotty White Oak floor shown above and give it a dark burnished stain (like the folks at the Frye Boot flagship in Manhattan did with our character grade White Oak – See Figure 7 below), you get a decidedly more urbane vibe.
Hopefully you’ve found these pictures and descriptions helpful in determining what kind of White Oak floor best suits your style. To check out other species of wide plank floors, price wide plank floors, or order wood samples, you can visit our sawmill’s web site at http://www.hullforest.com.
Love the look of wide plank flooring but not the price? Don’t despair! With a little homework you can find the floor of your dreams at a down-to-earth price. Here are some tips from Hull Forest Products, a family-run New England sawmill that has been making wide plank flooring for three generations.
1. Buy mill-direct.
Many flooring manufacturers claim to be mill-direct, but they are really just buying someone else’s lumber and re-milling it into flooring. To find the best deal, you want to circumvent the middleman and go right to the source. At Hull Forest Products, we manufacture our wide plank flooring from start to finish. We grow the trees, harvest them, and make flooring with them. It doesn’t get any more direct than that. Because we control the entire supply chain, we are able to keep our prices reasonable for the quality of wood floor we offer.
2. Choose random widths.
In most cases, you will save money by choosing wide plank flooring in a range of widths–for example, a percentage each of six inch, seven inch, and eight inch planks instead of all six inch planks. Random width orders require less sorting of the product than orders of equal width or orders of repeating patterns. Random width flooring also provides a more natural and historically accurate look. In the old days, people used the entire log or resource that was available to them, so floors in old homes have planks of several different widths, known as random widths. Traditional floors were not only a mix of widths but also a mix of grades, and we frequently mix grades for customers who want this historically accurate look.
3. Consider narrower widths.
If you like the look of wide plank flooring but need to keep costs down, consider going with a mix of three, four, and five inch widths. A mix of 3-5″ widths is more affordable than wider widths. If you are okay with slightly shorter lengths (say, a range of 3-12 foot long planks instead of 6-12 foot planks) you will also save money.
4. Trim ends on site.
Choose plank flooring that is not already end trimmed. Yes, you will have to trim some ends on site, but you will save at least 50 cents per square foot by doing this yourself.
5. Be flexible about the product you want.
Love the look of select grade Cherry but want to spend less money? Consider other grades of Cherry that show some color or character variation like the photo above. When a log is opened up by our saws and turned into planks, the boards are not identical. If you want a floor with consistent color and grain, we have to sort and select for that, and this additional handling adds to the price. Embrace the natural look and go with a range of planks from the inner and outer part of the log (the sapwood and the heartwood), and you will save money.
Last but not least: Always ask about sawmill overruns and sales.
Most primary producers (a.k.a. sawmills) will have some overruns or odd lots of inventory gathering dust in a warehouse. These items are usually heavily discounted, though the volume may be limited. If you’re not doing a whole house and only need enough for a room or two, look for these sales and sawmill overruns to save even further.
Stairs are utilitarian–but they can also be a work of art. Imagine ascending and descending a beautiful stairway each day. Shouldn’t you take the time to make sure your stairs are not just functional, but lovely? Here are a few photos of custom staircase treads, risers, nosing, and landings we have crafted for our clients.
Thinking about using tongue and groove paneling on your walls? This is a great way to add architectural detail to your home, and it may be less expensive than you think given the cost of plaster and wallboard these days. Plus, with walls this rich in detail, who needs to hang artwork?
At Hull Forest Products, we’ve been milling bead board and other styles of wall paneling for our customers for years.
Whether used vertically or horizontally, half way up the wall or floor to ceiling, tongue and groove wall paneling creates a bespoke look.
Tongue and groove paneling can help define your home’s style. The styles shown above range from formal to cottage. But a more rustic take on tongue and groove paneling might use pine like this Virginia log cabin:
Every species of tree that we mill into flooring can also be used for tongue and groove paneling. Different edge profiles are available. Check out our species galleries to see more photos and find your paneling style. For even more photos, ideas, and inspiration on how to use tongue and groove paneling in your home, we love this article by a Houzz.com contributor:
For those of you interested in quarter sawn flooring, here are some pictures of a gorgeous quarter sawn White Oak floor we made for a client on Long Island. The homeowners loved the look of quartersawn White Oak, and they even incorporated some of the leftover boards to make stair treads.
When a log is quartersawn, it is sliced at a different angle than when it is plainsawn. As a result, the radial and vertical grain of the wood is revealed instead of the tangential grain. The rippled figure and flecks and medullary rays you see in quarter sawn wood are only visible when the wood is quarter sawn. One of the benefits of quarter sawn wood, besides the different grain, is extreme dimensional stability. You can check out more of our quarter sawn floors here.
During a recent expansion to our offices here at Hull Forest Products, we had the fun of choosing what kind of floor we would lay down. Ah, the perks of being a sawmill! We chose Curly Birch, and we videotaped the installation, sanding, and finishing. We have a talented team here at HFP, and our flooring consultant Greg Anderson (who installed hardwood floors in a previous career) installed the floor. Another one of our floor experts, Jon Ramos, coordinated the video so you could learn about the process. Enjoy!
Our woodland owning clients sometimes like to know where their wood is going and what it’s going to be used for after a harvest. So today we’re telling the story of the not-so-lowly wood chip, and how it’s keeping New Englanders warm in winter.
When we buy your timber and saw those logs at our mill, nothing is wasted. Bark is peeled off and turned into landscaping mulch. Sawdust is recycled in our biomass-powered dry kilns and also sold to wood pellet manufacturers. Slabs, edgings, and trimmings are ground into wood chips, a versatile product with uses ranging from paper production to playground surfacing to biomass heating.
One ton of wood chips has the energy equivalent of approximately 60 gallons of heating oil.
Hull Forest Products supplies mill quality as well as whole tree wood chips to New England institutions that utilize biomass heating, including Ponagansett Middle and High Schools in Rhode Island, Mt. Wachusett Community College and the Quabbin Reservoir Visitor Center in Massachusetts, and Bennington College in Vermont.
Since its biomass heating system came online in 2008, Bennington College has reduced its annual emissions by 40 percent. The school used to burn 400,000 gallons of oil to heat the campus through the Vermont winter; now they use less than 10,000. Bennington is committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2020, and currently their biggest liability is the 15 percent of the campus not connected to their biomass system. They are now working to extend their steam lines to all areas of the campus.
One ton of wood chips has the energy equivalent of approximately 60 gallons of heating oil, but unlike oil, wood chips are a renewable (and local) source of energy. Bennington College uses approximately 6,000 tons of wood chips each year. These chips come from trees grown in family owned working forests, and their use helps promote a healthy market for local wood.
Managing for Multiple Use: The Mark Greer Scout Reservation
Like so many Scout properties, Camp Tadma, an active boys summer camp in Bozrah, CT found itself on the chopping block in 2010 as the Boy Scout Council considered selling the 340-acre property. Friends of Camp Tadma Chairman Bruce Sullivan hoped that a timber harvest would generate some additional income and also improve the long-term health and productivity of the forest, making it more attractive to the Council. Hull Forest Products had conducted timber stand improvement work at Camp Tadma in the 1980s. Now the time had come to revisit those woods.
According to Chris Casadei, the forest resource manager at Hull Forest Products who was assigned to Camp Tadma, ”When a forester revisits a woodlot that has responded nicely to the sound management practices applied by his predecessors, there is a feeling of great satisfaction.” “This feeling was abundant as I cruised the productive stands on the opposite side of Tadma Pond at the Mark Greer Scout Reservation. The vigorous growth was a direct result of our timber stand improvement work from the 1980s.”
Managing for Income & Recreation
Casadei reworked the property’s forest stewardship plan to reflect the current conditions and presented his findings and recommendations to the Council’s property committee. He scheduled a timber harvest to take place over two successive winters so it would not conflict with the activities of the seasonal camps held on the property for hundreds of Cub Scouts. Management prescriptions within the stand were tailored to the woodland’s current condition and the way it had responded to the previous work. ”We did areas of timber stand improvement and intermediate sawtimber thinning, as well as two small areas of shelterwood harvest,” says Casadei, adding “There was also some ‘while you’re here with the equipment’ clearing of a few new campsites and some problem tree removal within the camp.”
Benefits for the Camp & the Campers
First and foremost, the forest itself has benefited from a flush of natural regeneration and the accelerated growth of the residual stand. The woodland will continue to provide quality wood, clean air and water, recreational opportunity, and wildlife habitat.
Camp Tadma has reestablished itself within the Council as a viable piece of the Connecticut Scouting experience and for the time being, talk of closing the camp has ceased. Whether the income from the timber sale influenced the fate of the camp has yet to be acknowledged, but it certainly could not have hurt.
The objectives and activities of the first winter havest at Camp Tadma were profiled by the Norwich Bulletin, providing both the camp and Hull Forest Products with great publicity.
Camp Tadma has turned the managed areas into a forestry classroom, and campers hike through the different stands, learning firsthand about woodland management. The Friends of Camp Tadma were so pleased they proudly erected a “BSA Forestry Management Camp” sign at the camp’s entrance. Cub Scouts now have the opportunity to learn firsthand how working forests provide multiple benefits, including wildlife habitat, a sustainable supply of timber, and recreational opportunity.