Poplar Nightstand

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Project by mitchota posted 08-16-2013 10:04 PM 3417 views 3 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

In what is probably the fastest project I’ve ever done with the exception of the jigs for my table saw, I built a nightstand out of poplar for my bedroom. It’s just over 24” tall and the top is about 19” square. It’s built out of poplar that I got from the blue borg. I was able to complete the woodworking for it in about 3 days and the finishing took another 3 days, so I was able to put it all together in a week, which is impressive for me because it usually takes me at least two weeks to finish anything I’m working on.

I based this design on a Shaker table that Norm built way back in the first season of NYW, and I stayed fairly faithful to that design aside from the change in dimensions—I’m pretty sure his table had a smaller top, and it was taller. I used mortise and tenon joinery for putting the base of the table together. This gave me a chance to use my router table, and it came in very handy. I didn’t find any major problems so long as I was careful with the layout and worked slowly. While I don’t have a dedicated mortising machine, I have a feeling that I’ll be okay making my projects working with the router table. It wasn’t a difficult process, and the mortises came out great.

Staining came by the way of some Rustoleum Ultimate Wood Stain in traditional cherry. I tested out some golden mahogany and black cherry stain along with the traditional cherry on a scrap, and I found that the traditional cherry was the nicest one to my eye. The mahogany was a very close second. Considering what I’ve heard about trying to stain poplar, I was happy that it didn’t come out too blotchy and that it was actually pretty even and the color was very nice. The boards for the top weren’t really the same color at all, and the stain helped to get them to an even color.

I protected the piece using some Minwax satin poly that I thinned with mineral spirits to make a wipe-on finish that I wet-sanded into the wood with 400 grit wet-dry sandpaper. I then placed a few more wipe on coats and did a little wet sanding with 600 to smooth it all out. I think I’ve stumbled on a process that works really well for me, and I think I’ll continue using it in the future.

Overall, I’m very happy with this. I’m glad that it went smoothly and I was able to get it done fast. I’m also glad that this project helped me learn some new joinery techniques and gave my router table a good workout. I’m feeling more confident with my woodworking because of this, and so I’m ready to work on new things. I think a dresser is in order next for my fiancee, and after that a bookcase. Then I should have most of the basic furnishings for my room done and can work on other things for the house.

7 comments so far

View Oldtool's profile


3325 posts in 3436 days

#1 posted 08-16-2013 11:31 PM

Nice table, nice build. Good job on this one. I like the breadboard ends, look nice.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View firefighterontheside's profile


21501 posts in 3102 days

#2 posted 08-17-2013 12:05 AM

Very nice. I like the color.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View MadeinMT's profile


299 posts in 3405 days

#3 posted 08-17-2013 02:10 AM

Beautiful piece. Well done. I may have to try a little poplar myself.

-- Ron, Montana

View aussiedave's profile


3114 posts in 3069 days

#4 posted 08-17-2013 11:22 AM

Very nice night stand…great job.

-- Dave.......If at first you don’t succeed redefine success....

View Beginningwoodworker's profile


13345 posts in 4918 days

#5 posted 08-17-2013 10:03 PM

Nice nightstand.

View rustythebailiff's profile


100 posts in 3187 days

#6 posted 08-17-2013 10:08 PM

I came out great! I have been using poplar as external pieces for some projects lately. Personally, I think poplar has gotten a bad rap over the years because you have to be more careful when choosing your pieces. Most of the poplar I have gotten over the years, even from HD, looked just fine (although I have gotten some pieces that I would only use for jigs…too much color variance). It does take a bit more care when staining, as you noted yours did not blotch. It’s just like working with pine or cypress (both of which I use a lot), you just have to match the finish type to the wood and it will look just fine.

It’s a well made table, it should look great in your room.

-- "Necessity is the mother of invention"

View mitchota's profile


48 posts in 3315 days

#7 posted 08-18-2013 03:07 AM

Thanks for all the positive comments. I am also beginning to think that poplar does get a bad rap for being a secondary wood and not being worth much as a primary wood on an unpainted project. I’m going to give poplar some more attention as a primary wood in the future and hopefully I can learn to work with it. I love the fact that it won’t break the bank and will turn out some beautiful projects if treated right.

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