Poplar ~ The Rodney Dangerfield of wood

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Blog entry by josephbert posted 05-08-2012 06:48 AM 5081 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

It seems to me that you never hear of Poplar without hearing at least 1 of 3 key words. Those words are prototype, paint, and never…ever.. STAIN IT!!! I think good old domestic Poplar gets a bad rap. I mean, it mills nice, has a closed pore grain, and get ready for this.. I LOVE THE LOOK! The greenish, yellowish, gray mix is awesome in my opinion. I believe if it were from South America of Africa, we’d all be buying it for a bazillion bucks a board foot. I don’t know why you would want to stain it, but I’m not big on stain anyhow. Maybe it’s good no one uses it as “furniture grade”.. that way it stays cheap for me!

-- Comfortably covered in dust

15 comments so far

View montanahands's profile


7 posts in 3238 days

#1 posted 05-08-2012 10:11 AM

I would have to agree with you on the “bad rap”. I have been using it for several years to repair the bottom rail on exterior wood storm windows, of which this area seems to have more than its share. Haven’t had a single failure in over 50 years to my knowledge. I think it is on a par of any other more common shop wood and is just as stable as some of this “rapid growth pine” we are subjected to these days. Anyway I would vote in your corner on this one.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


16433 posts in 3250 days

#2 posted 05-08-2012 10:39 AM

I like the look of ‘aged’ poplar.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 3866 days

#3 posted 05-08-2012 12:08 PM

I agree with Smitty, when the green turns brown (which can be sped up by leaving it in the sun for a while) it looks great. Also, if you look at the butcher block table I did, the base is all poplar and it stained great – just use some of Charles Neil’s conditioner on it.

The only real downside is its softness, which is more like doug-fir or pine, so it can dent quite a bit easier than say cherry or walnut.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View derosa's profile


1597 posts in 3467 days

#4 posted 05-08-2012 01:09 PM

I don’t use it for the same reason I avoid pine, it is much too soft for my tastes. My wife bought a cheap table for the kitchen made of pine and in 6 months it was already distressed beyond what I would like. Had the same problem with butternut which I’ll never use again.

-- A posse ad esse

View FirehouseWoodworking's profile


768 posts in 3905 days

#5 posted 05-08-2012 04:41 PM

I, too, agree whole heartedly with you. I love to use poplar. Of course, like any other species, it has its advantages and disadvantages, uses and limitations.

-- Dave; Lansing, Kansas

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 3672 days

#6 posted 05-08-2012 04:56 PM

It’s all in the Imagination
Click for details

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View josephbert's profile


20 posts in 3227 days

#7 posted 05-08-2012 06:02 PM

Thanks for reading & commenting my fellow LumberJocks!

-- Comfortably covered in dust

View pintodeluxe's profile


6063 posts in 3445 days

#8 posted 05-08-2012 06:45 PM

Heck, even the poplar trees look good. If you like the streaking in the wood, then any stain will work. If you want to hide the contrast, a gel stain works well.
My main problem with poplar, and even cherry – they are too soft.
I can buy rough white oak cheaper than I can buy milled poplar, so that’s what I tend to do.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View willie's profile


534 posts in 3086 days

#9 posted 05-09-2012 12:17 AM

I worked on a complete den/library done entirely in poplar and stained with a walnut stain. When I first heard about this job I dreaded the staining part. I thought it would be easier to just build it from walnut, (the guy could afford it!!!). It was a large job with lots of raised panel doors and cabinets. I was amazed at the way it all looked when done. Poplar is a great wood to work with, although soft, and took stain much better than I expected. It wouldn’t have been my first choice for the job but it’s a wood I will consider on future projects as an alternative to more expensive woods. (I’d post some pics but they are all 35mm, nothing digital)

-- Every day above ground is a good day!!!

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3901 days

#10 posted 05-09-2012 12:28 AM

Poplar – the great poor man’s hardwood. I love the stuff as the price is always right. It is not the most beautiful wood in the box…but with proper work and selection it can make a beautiful project. I always keep a few board foot on hand to use as accents to dark woods and I have made several prototypes from it (don’t tell the folks that told me they wanted to buy the prototype…lol). It is a good utility wood at a great price…it is durable and can be made quite beautiful with a bit of discrimination.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View lumberdog's profile


245 posts in 3899 days

#11 posted 05-09-2012 12:58 AM

I built a storm door out of poplar with interchangeable screens and installed in at the main entrance to our house, it was there for 16 yrs., then i did some remodeling and replaced it. It was still solid and in excellent shape. a neighbor down the road saw it leaning against the garage and offered to buy it, i sold it to him and he is using it on the side entrance to his garage. It will probably last another 16 yrs. or longer. I have used poplar for other projects and enjoy working with it and you usually can find it at a decent price.

-- Lumberdog.. Morley, Michigan

View Martyroc's profile


2712 posts in 2937 days

#12 posted 05-09-2012 03:27 AM

I hear you, I have no problem with poplar, it’s a little soft but it all depends on what your project is. I have used it for many of my projects. I wouldn’t use it as a table top for the same reasons derosa sights, but I think poplar is a good choice. I also like pine, it’s soft but it depends on the project, stained and finished correctly it looks great. Just my 2 cents.

-- Martin ....always count the number of fingers you have before, and after using the saw.

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3481 posts in 4344 days

#13 posted 05-09-2012 05:59 AM


We felled and milled a bunch of poplar and air-dried it. We prefer it to pine when a light wood is needed since there isn’t a pitch problem. However, we do not appreciate the way it tends to clog up the dust collection system; it makes “shreddings” rather than sawdust when planed. We’ve never had an issue with staining it; it always turns out fine.

It definitely has its place, but we probably wouldn’t pay the price they want for it at the lumberyards.


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View Sylvain's profile


955 posts in 3131 days

#14 posted 05-09-2012 02:27 PM

As far as I know (seen on TV and on wikipedia) the luxuous Louis Vuitton trunks are made out of poplar.
Poplar is light and strong (enough).
But of course it is lined with leather and canvas with their well known LV monogram so the wood doesn’t show.

A good choice for a toolchest (I mean poplar not a LV trunk) ;-))

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View Don W's profile

Don W

19477 posts in 3199 days

#15 posted 05-10-2012 12:06 AM

i’ve always like poplar. I got some I just sawed out. Be ready in about a year.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

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