Species for table legs and apron

  • Advertise with us

« back to Wood & Lumber forum

Forum topic by oliussw posted 08-23-2015 03:47 PM 1125 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View oliussw's profile


6 posts in 1648 days

08-23-2015 03:47 PM

I am a newer woodworker and lurker on this site for several months. I am currently working on a live edge dining table for my family. I have the table top glued up and at the sanding stage. It is made of wormy butternut and has a lot of character. The design my wife picked out calls for a apron and legs painted white. She thinks it will go well with our wainscoting and I defer to her on all matters of style. I had planned to use poplar for the legs and apron but recently read several threads where people talked about the poplar not being durable enough for such a task. We do still have small children in the home and I’m sure the table will see its fair share of abuse over the years.

Do you think I would be better served to go with a harder hardwood or will poplar do what I need it to?

8 replies so far

View bearkatwood's profile


1805 posts in 1525 days

#1 posted 08-23-2015 04:00 PM

Maple would be my first choice.

-- Brian Noel

View bondogaposis's profile


5542 posts in 2864 days

#2 posted 08-23-2015 04:13 PM

Soft maple would a good choice as well, but more expensive. I think that poplar would be fine also. It is plenty strong, it is a bit soft so, subject to getting dings. Using proper joinery and allowing for wood movement in the top you should be able to construct a table that will last more than one lifetime.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View pmayer's profile


1075 posts in 3578 days

#3 posted 08-23-2015 04:36 PM

Poplar will work fine for the legs an apron. It is somewhat soft, but it is harder than butternut. I would be MUCH more concerned about using butternut for the top. Butternut is beautiful, but from a durability perspective you would be better off using nearly anything else.

-- PaulMayer,

View TheFridge's profile


10859 posts in 1999 days

#4 posted 08-23-2015 04:51 PM

I wouldn’t use poplar. Way too soft.

Maple would be my next choice.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View pmayer's profile


1075 posts in 3578 days

#5 posted 08-23-2015 08:59 PM

Perhaps you should clarify what you mean by “not being durable enough for such a task” and “will poplar do what I need it to?”

If your question is “will poplar hold up structurally as a table base, providing sufficient strength without failing under the typical load placed on it for this application”, then the answer is absolutely yes. Poplar is used all the time in paint grade furniture applications and will provide plenty of strength for this project assuming that you use it in appropriate dimensions.

If your question is “will poplar still look perfect if a kid drives a toy car into it or hits it with a golf club?”. Then the answer is ‘no’. Poplar has a janka rating of 540 which makes it one of the softest commercially available hardwoods. You can press your fingernail into it fairly easily, so it is definitely prone to dings. That said, it is used commonly for paint grade furniture and as a secondary wood because it machines and sands nicely and it takes paint extremely well.

Butternut, on the other hand, has a janka rating of only 490, which puts it in the same hardness class as white fir. That’s where you wear and tear will really show. A painted base is easy to repair, but a live edge butternut top is much trickier. If I were building a dining table with a butternut top I would consider distressing it so that the inevitable new dings look like part of the design.

-- PaulMayer,

View bruc101's profile


1366 posts in 4055 days

#6 posted 08-23-2015 10:12 PM

I’ve turned 100’s of table and island legs and made table frames using popular and never had any problems. The image is a farm house island I finished and was picked up last Thursday.

The only thing not popular was the Cherry top and drawer fronts. The drawers are dovetailed oak. I left the tool marks in the table at the owners request.

I start a farm house table tomorrow and will use a different leg, 4 1/2” popular, and popular frame also.

-- Bruce Free Plans

View WDHLT15's profile


1819 posts in 2989 days

#7 posted 08-24-2015 12:37 AM

Yellow poplar will make a fine base for your table.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View oliussw's profile


6 posts in 1648 days

#8 posted 08-24-2015 02:38 AM

Thank you for all the replies. The butternut top is wormy and has sever knot holes that will all be epoxy filled. It has a lot of natural “distressing”. My wife likes that look, which is how I ended up with hand scraped wood floors. We don’t get lot of butternut here on Oklahoma but the pieces I’ve worked with feel slightly harder than poplar. I know there’s some variance within the species but I can’t make a fingernail mark on the butternut where it’s no problem with poplar.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics