Honey locust trees and black locust trees both share similar names and some characteristics but are vastly different from each other. These two tree variations have plenty of individual traits that help to distinguish one from the other. Continue reading to learn what makes black locust and honey locust trees different.
Origin of Black and Honey Locust
Black Locust and Honey Locust can be found practically anywhere in the United States. These trees both originated from the United States. Southeastern parts of the United States is where you can find Black Locust and the central-eastern region has honey locust.
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Considering hardness should be the first thing you look at before making a decision on wood. The Janka scale shows the level of hardness by pound-feet, as lb-ft or lbf.
This scale shows how strong and impenetrable the wood is. Lighter wood is more prone to damage and can be harder to stain due to the unbound texture of the wood or unusual coloring. Hardwoods can be more difficult to cut, but they are easier to stain and last longer.
The honey locust weighs in at 1580 lbf, but the black locust is at 1700 lbf. This shows the black locust is harder, stronger, and more durable.
The color of the wood is dependent on where the wood was cut. The center or heartwood of a larger and older tree might have a minimal shade difference from the outer wood.
For the honey locust, the wood is a light yellow shade with a slightly darker center, with colors of red/brown from light to bright throughout the wood piece. The honey locust is similar to the colors of a Kentucky Coffeetree.
Black locust lumber is slightly darker than honey locusts. The heartwood is reddish-brown, while the outer area is light yellow, sometimes with a greenish tint.
Grain and Overall Appearance
As for grain appearance, the honey locust tree usually has a straight grain, however, it may have natural waves or be irregular in places. The texture is reasonably even, and the wood has a natural polish of its own, which is average in comparison to the organic luster of other trees.
Black locust has a similar grain. However, it is slightly straighter than the honey locust. In comparison, its wood has a medium luster and texture. Both honey locusts and black locusts are reasonably pleasing to the eye.
Both locusts are acceptable for a variety of uses. Honey locust wood makes exceptional furniture, and solid fence posts and is useful as utility lumber. Some woodworkers like using honey locusts for various projects.
Black locusts may be used for many more projects due to their extra level of solidity, ability to withstand weathering, and resistance to rot. This wood is often used as fence posts, like the honey locust; but can also be found in mine timbers, railroad ties, and flooring. Sometimes it is crafted into veneer or made into beautiful furniture. Overall well-liked for its vast possibilities.
The Ease of Workability
Black locusts can be difficult to work with in comparison to other types of wood due to their durability. Its straight grain can be helpful during the machining process, but because of its hardness, may cause tools to become dull. Lathe shaping or steam bending are preferred ways to work with this type of wood.
Additionally, honey locust lumber can be a bit tricky to deal with as well. Its hardness and density make the machining process longer, and tools will need frequent sharpening if you are working with a lot of them. Yet, it is easily stained, glued, finished, and turned very well.
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One major difference between honey locusts vs. black locusts is the presence of tyloses. Tylosis is the distension of a plant cell that creates swelling. These abnormalities result from stress or damage to a wood plant. These swollen areas can alter the overall appearance of the wood.
Black locusts and honey locusts have many similarities in color, appearance, and durability. However, one important difference is the presence and amount of tyloses. Many black locust trees have pores that are full of tyloses and the honey locust wood has if any, minimal abnormalities.
Which One Should I Buy?
Both types of trees produce lumber that may be challenging to work with. Black locust wood is harder and more durable and often used for exterior installations, but its hardness makes it a challenge.
Honey locust wood is safer to work with, but it is equally as hard to process. While it is also hard, it lacks durability making it prone to insect attacks and rotting.
Since black locust is so durable, the time put into crafting the wood into what you want will reap more benefits than the honey locust. Not only will your product last longer, but it will also still provide the same beautiful results.
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Lawrence D. Reynolds is an experienced carpenter and woodworker who started this site to help others get into this craft by providing advice on choosing tools and materials and sharing How-To guides about woodworking. He has been into Woodworking for over 25 years and enjoys nothing more than sharing his knowledge and helping others learn about this wonderful material.