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I have used poplar from big box stores for years on various projects, and it has always been really soft, wimpy-feeling wood.

I just recently got some poplar from a friend who saws his own lumber, and it just seems to be a lot better, harder, sturdier wood…

Is there some reason for this?
 

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Poplars grow fast in general, but there are hybrids that grow crazy fast, six foot plus a year kind of fast. I would imagine that your Borg is getting wood from plantations with such "super-trees". Where I live our Borgs have such plantation woods, you can tell by the lightness and comic-book style growth rings, but sometimes really good wood as well. But the good wood in our Borg comes from Eastern Europe and is of dubious origin- some Siberian spruce I got for dirt cheap was just way too good to be true, very likely from illegal logging in virgin forests.

A small mill can get great wood in a perfectly legal and sustainable way because they're not taking thousands of trees in a sweep, in fact they're helping maintain the forests by making them a valuable renewable resource.
 

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Poplar is tricky. Around here (eastern Canada) it mostly refers to trembling aspen, which is really only one subspecies of true poplars. Others might be considerably stronger or weaker. Eastern cottonwood is a poplar and is a bit stronger. But tulip poplar (not a true poplar at all, closely related to magnolias, according to Roy Underhill) is a much harder and stronger wood.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
This stuff definitely has the green streaks through it, like the poplar I see at Big box stores, but it also has some deep black sections as well. Does that specify a certain type?
 

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This stuff definitely has the green streaks through it, like the poplar I see at Big box stores, but it also has some deep black sections as well. Does that specify a certain type?

- 12strings
The stuff with the green and other colors would be Liriodendron tulipifera, which is what jdh122 was referring to above, while the many kinds of true poplars (populus) which includes aspens, cottonwoods, generally have pale wood. "Really soft, wimpy" sounds more like a description of the true poplars.

Another spanner in the works might be that what's sold as "poplar" in a big box store could be mixed woods, which is certainly the case with firs/spruces. It's also possible that there is now "super-tree" tulip tree ("yellow poplar") and that's what you have in your store.
 

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As was said there are quite a few that could be sold under the poplar name. Most of the time dealing with mills here (central PA.) their poplar is going to be Tulip Poplar. Which can be white to green to purple, depending on the minerals it gets from the soil. It usually is figured as hard or semi hard class of wood, (some people figure it with the soft). But you may get Lynn (Basswood) or other aspens in the mix. Some Lynn and Tulip Poplar is hard to tell apart rough sawn even to someone working around it all their life. Lynn can usually be told by it's weight, but not always.
 
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