If raised panel use MDF for the panel. Less shrinkage. Poplar for the door/face frames and paintgrade birch interiors although MDF would be fine for interior considering the quality of pait grade chinese import birch.
Tom, I'm not a big fan of MDF, but if you're going to do a raised panel door, I'm like JAGWAH, do the panel in MDF. Quick note, if you are doing raised panel doors, whether you do a solid wood panel or MDF panel, make sure you at least prime it before you assemble the door. (if the panel should move at all after assembly, you won't see raw wood). Poplar is fine for the doors, drawer fronts and face frames. Poplar is fairly soft, so if you want to use a harder wood, Maple works good. Birch or Maple Plywood is good for the casework. I would stay away from the cheap Chinese import plywoods. (They usually have a lot of voids in the core and splinter and blow out bad when you cross cut or daddo).
I'm definitly not a fan of MDF and the only reason I dont like it…..........is the dust. I might add that not all MDF is created equally and the crap they sel at the big box stores is exactly that….crap. HDF (high density fibre board is way nicer. That said, MDF is perfect for painting and can be used for the rails, stiles and panels.
I find birch to be too open porous and you can see the grain through the paint but maybe thats what you want. I prefer maple (soft) over birch and the nice thing about maple/birch is that its "hard" and resists dents.
On a budget, poplar paints up perfect, albeit not as hard as birch and maple.
I would go with the MDF panel certainly but I personally think I would work with soft maple. I have used poplar and I beleive that works well also but it does seem to me to be just a little softer then soft maple. The cost should be close to the same between soft maple and poplar. Just my thoughts.
Poplar paints very well. Your choice of primer is probably just as important as choosing your wood. Bin alcohol based (shellac) works best for me. The chemistry differs from the oil based and gives a smoother surface. Dale
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