Black Locust uses guide: historic to modern

April 23, 2024

Black Locust uses - a guide from historic to modern uses of sustainable Black Locust hardwood material.

Ever wondered what wood types pioneers used as fence posts? How about shipbuilders masts? Naturally, they went for the hardwood material that outshines all wood materials due to its durability and hardness: Black Locust wood. No wonder Black Locust has a long-standing history for uses in the olden times. Yet, Black Locust has never attained commercial status until today: now it is the new up and coming sustainable hardwood in modern architecture. If you are wondering why architects in green building prefer to use Black Locust, our uses guide will guide you from historic to modern uses of this sustainable wood material.

Black Locust building uses by colonists

100 years after the founding of Jamestown, Virginia in 1602, English naturalist Mark Catesby wrote about finding the ruins of the first inhabitants’ homes. The only remaining parts were the Black Locust posts which made up the four corners of each home. He was astonished to find they were as solid as the day they were built. Afterward, Black Locust uses became even more popular due to the tree’s durability and longevity first and foremost. 

Pioneers used Black Locust wood for fence posts because of its durability of 50+ years. Illustration: Jim Stevenson

Black Locust was used by Virginians and Native Indians as bows. Later it winded up as fence posts but was also widely used for windbreaks, and erosion control along streams. In 1686, Captain William Fitzhugh wrote that Black Locust wood is “as durable as most brick walls”. Black Locust was one of the very first export materials, which shows evidence of its value and range of applications. After all, Black Locust wood contains Heartwood which makes it strong and stiff, outlasting oak and hickory. 

Black Locust wood has won a war

In 1812 the Americans won the war against the British due to their use of the strongest hardwood material for their fleet: Black Locust wood. The British Navy used oak pins while the American ships were held together by Black Locust pins. Black Locust wood’s Janka hardness scale is 1,700 lbf (7,560 N) compared to White Oak Janka hardness scale of 1,360 (6,000 N). As a result, American ships could withstand more cannonball damage than the British, essentially leading to their decisive victory. Afterward, the British started importing thousands of locust nails to upcycle the British Navy. 

Black Locust vs Oak: in 1812 the Americans won the war against the British due to their use of the strongest hardwood material for their fleet.

Modern Black Locust uses: decking

Seeing the building use and miracle characteristics of Black Locust since the early 1600s,  Black Locust Lumber is becoming very popular for exterior use in architecture. This is due to its beauty, durability of 50+ years. Nowadays green building and sustainability are becoming focal points of modern architectural projects.  Black Locust Lumber has been instrumental in bringing historical usage into the modern world of modern architecture. 

Naturally durable, rot-resistant, and maintenance-free Black Locust Decking at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Visitor Center | Brooklyn, NYC 

Black Locust wood is the perfect type of wood for residential and urban green space Decking projects as well. We see an increase in using Black Locust lumber in green building projects. Black Locust wood is naturally durable, rot-resistant, and maintenance-free. It is not required to use chemicals, oils, or any other additives to preserve its beauty. For example the beautiful glass building of Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Visitor Center | Brooklyn, NYC incorporates numerous environmentally sustainable features. The project consisted of Black Locust Lumber's sustainable Decking among others. The innovative and sustainable design of biodiversity in an urban public space earned an AIA NY State Design Award in 2013.

Paving the way with Black Locust modern uses

Black Locust lumber is more popular than ever for being a green, renewable source of carbon-sequestering building material. It will help address environmental, social, and economic issues. Its historically proven durability allows for a use of sustainable paving material


Video created by Romex Canada shows the installation and testing of the ProFlow Permeable Pavers™ surface at their headquarters in Germany. 

And just how strong can a natural wood paver surface be? ProFlow Permeable Pavers™ provides a highly permeable, durable surface that will last for decades. Even when driving a 60-ton crane over it, it can withstand the pressure. ProFlow Permeable Pavers™ is an environmentally sustainable surface that reduces stormwater runoff and a great replacement for poured ashpalt driveways and walkways.

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