The honey locust tree is native to the United States. It goes as far as Kentucky to the north and Texas to the West. However, it can be grown in many other areas.
In the wild, this tree grows up to 100 feet tall. When grown for landscaping, it goes up to 70 feet high. Planting a honey locust wood tree can provide shade for a home or yard, as well as some attractive flourishes in warm weather.
The tree has an assortment of thorns all over its bark. These thorns keep away nosy animals and people (if you’re not attentive enough).
The bark also contains tannin, which makes it useful for tanning leather. The fascinating tree aside, what about honey locust wood?
Is honey locust wood good for anything?
The Osage Indians traditionally used honey locust wood to make bows. Today, woodworkers make the wood into crossties, poles, fence rails, flooring, furniture, millwork, and veneer.
Woodworkers have no problem working with honey locust wood. The grain is usually straight, although the texture is medium to uneven. The wood is resistant to rot, and it turns, glues, stains, and finishes nicely. Those are just a few fascinating facts.
Allow me to take you through nine more exciting facts about the honey locust wood:
Is Honey Locust Hardwood or Softwood?
The honey locust tree is hardwood. I can equate its mechanical properties to red oak wood. This wood has a density of about 670 kilograms per cubic meter.
Honey locust trees can grow in zone 4 to 9 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Plant Hardiness Zone Map. This means that they can survive temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit to as high as 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Honey locust is a member of the legume family and typically has a very hard and durable wood. The honey locust wood is relatively light in weight, but it is also extremely strong, hard, and dense. On the Janka scale, which measures the hardness of the wood, honey locust wood ranks at 1,580.
What Grain and Color is Honey Locust Wood?
The wood is known for its reddish-brown color. The heartwood of honey locust trees has a medium to a light brown that appears reddish.
The wood has wide sapwood, which is light yellow. There is a clear distinction between sapwood and heartwood.
While the grain is usually straight, it can also be irregular or interlocked. I’d describe the honey locust wood’s texture as coarse and uneven, with a luster ranging from dull to medium.
The wood is ring porous with large earlywood pores. Some of the pores have dark inclusions with no formation of streaks.
How Does Honey Locust Wood Dry?
Some honey locust wood pieces are large. These require splitting for efficient drying. Perfect drying takes up to a year when you have the size in check.
I would advise that you get as much wind and sun to help you with drying. Fortunately, honey locust wood does not shrink excessively. It has around 10.8% volumetric shrinkage.
Air-drying is not a good choice for honey locust in the humid East because of its susceptibility to checking. Kiln-drying is a better option. In the dry West, honey locust will probably check less in air-dried lumber than it does in kiln-dried lumber.
Can You Burn Honey Locust Wood?
Honey locust wood is excellent for burning. Just be careful to avoid the thorns, and you’ll be fine.
Since it is a dense hardwood, it burns very hot and for a long period. The BTU value of this wood is 26.7 million per cord.
Unlike black locust wood, honey locust is easy to split and dry quickly. You can comfortably burn honey locust wood indoors.
I have tried it before, and I can assure you that it sparks and pops nicely.
Can You Smoke with Honey Locust Wood?
Yes, you can. It is hardwood and will burn for a long time. Remember that the wood burns very hot, so you must keep checking on your meats or vegetables. You sure don’t want to serve your guests’ burnt meat.
In the past American settlers extracted the sap and boiled it to make syrup. If the sap can make syrup, surely that qualifies the wood as safe for smoking.
Additionally, the wood has a mild and subtle floral profile. Some people compare the wood to cherry, while others mention honeysuckle. Either way, the flavor profile from this wood is unique.
How Workable is Honey Locust Wood?
Honey locust wood does not work well with hand tools. It’s rather difficult to plane and hard on saws and other edged tools.
I would recommend power tools with carbide-tipped blades for cutting or shaping the wood. The hardness of honey locust wood also makes it difficult to drive nails and screws.
Fortunately, honey locust wood turns, glues, stains, and finishes nicely after all that trouble. It also has a low natural resistance to rot, and the end products look great. Honey locust lumber has long been valued for its unique strength and durability.
Honey locust trees can be coppiced (cut down to ground level) to produce a supply of fast-growing poles that are strong enough to use as fence posts or telegraph poles. The wood also makes farm tools, railroad ties, and woodenware such as barrel staves and tool handles.
If you are using honey locust wood as your material of choice, you should be aware that this particular wood has some very low shrinkage values.
The combination of low shrinkage values and high strength values makes the honey locust wood one of the most stable woods available domestically.
Does Honey Locust Wood Have an Odor?
Although honey locust is said to have an odor similar to black locust when freshly cut, dried honey locust lumber smells a bit like clover honey. At least that’s what I think.
However, do not forget to wear a mask no matter how sweet-smelling honey locust wood is.
Is Honey Locust Wood Allergenic or Toxic?
Except for the standard safety precautions you should take when working with wood, there are no health risks associated with honey locust wood.
Ensure you wear the usual protective gear. A mask, gloves, and googles because of the fine wood dust.
How Sustainable is Honey Locust Wood?
Honey locust wood is not an endangered species. Moreover, it is not in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
There are honey locust trees in various regions of the world. Therefore, I don’t think you would get into trouble for cutting one down.