Choosing Wood for Making Lacrosse Sticks

Hickory is the top suggestion in this discussion from the Sawing and Drying forum. December 1, 2005

I have began manufacturing lacrosse sticks. Red oak, white oak, and ash are not strong enough to support the 7/8" by 1 1/8" by 52" pieces needed to make a stick. I am looking into kiln-dried and/or fire-dried methods for hardening the wood to increase strength. Any suggestions? I think hickory will be my next option.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor R:
Hickory is harder than any of the 3 species mentioned. Then (in descending order), white oak, red oak, and ash.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
When you say "harder," do you actually mean stronger?

From contributor L:
Have you inspected the commercially available wooden sticks? Where are your sticks failing that their sticks aren't?

From contributor W:
A misconception about wood is that it can be made harder like we make steel harder, by heat treating. This is not true! Wood gets as hard and strong as it can be only by being dried to a low MC. You need to find the right species of wood for your application. Hickory sounds to me to be the choice. Very strong and flexible without breaking. It's commonly used for tool handles that require taking a lot of shock, like hammer and axe handles.

From contributor S:
I've fiberglassed canoe handles for a few locals after they had problems with breakage. I would also consider laminating the handles out of thinner strips with the grain direction alternating slightly, maybe 5-10 degrees back and forth.

From contributor A:
Persimmon or hornbean would make a very tough stick, as well as osage orange. You might consider a peach limb. My granny could wear out several little boys' bottoms before needing another!

From contributor C:
I like the persimmon choice. I think that was the wood of choice before metal came along for golf clubs.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
Persimmon was used for the head and not the shaft of golf clubs - so called woods. The hardness was the key in this case. That is why I asked the original writer to define the word "hard."

Some woods are very heavy and strong, others are limber but strong, and others have high impact resistance. Weight is certainly a factor in this case, so the idea of using a heavy species like hickory is possibly not a good idea. Most players want less weight and not more. Maybe a species with high impact strength is needed. (Note: You can always increase the size of a member to get more strength. Also, a 2x4 on edge is stronger than a 2x4 flatwise.)

But having said that, it is important to recognize that the species choice is only one factor. Grain angle is super critical, as well as moisture content, drying temperature, and so on.

Finally, impregnating the wood with a monomer and then polymerizing the monomer is a great way to get the required strength, but is the weight too high? Incidentally, practically all manufacturers of these sticks make more technically advanced sticks of aluminum, graphite or titanium. They last longer and perform better than wood (and cost more). Most men's sticks have an aluminum handle, so wood breakage is not an issue in the men's sport.

I suggest that the original writer consider the market, the trends and the demand before going too far. Others have already gone down this path looking for a better stick and have given up on wood.