Looking for a Good Tight Grain Wood for Floating Shelf

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Forum topic by ajhellman posted 09-26-2016 06:41 PM 1850 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View ajhellman's profile


3 posts in 2645 days

09-26-2016 06:41 PM

Hello Folks,

First time post here actually…

I’m putting details together on making a couple real long (8’ – 9’) floating shelves for our family room which my wife wants to fill up with pictures and whatnot….

I’d like it to be solid wood, and will be stained a darker ebony to match our current hardwood floors.

My wife likes tighter grain type woods (i.e. NOT oak or large open / rough grain woods). I’m not sure what is a good wood to select. I’ll probably get 8/4 stock and end up getting it at Kettle Moraine Hardwoods (I live in the Milwaukee area). Obviously cost is an issue, don’t want to get too pricey just for a shelf but I’m willing to spend enough to get a nice piece. It’ll be ~18 bdft or so so I probably want to cap it at $4-5/bdft.

I was thinking potentially Basswood or Poplar but wasn’t sure if there would be some better guidance from the forum here. I’ve worked with Poplar but never Basswood. From what I understand it’s used commonly for carvings.


9 replies so far

View Aj2's profile


4146 posts in 3087 days

#1 posted 09-26-2016 06:53 PM

I don’t go wood hunting with a price in mind.I already know for me that goes out the window when i get around all the racks of wood.
The first thing that i thought of after reading your post is.A nice piece of Wenge would look nice.You see trying to make a cheap piece of wood look like a expensive piece is not always easy.
And dark colors are the hardest.
Everything you spend making poplar or basswood look right will add up fast.
Buy hey good luck.
Ive been wrong many times.


-- Aj

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 2065 days

#2 posted 09-26-2016 07:01 PM

You want:
-tight grain

It’s possible to make poplar “not ugly,” but its known for being a paint grade wood. It can be really blotchy too. Also poplar is soft, and basswood even softer, so could get dented.

Consider cherry or maple? Hardwood pricing is very local, so tough to give you much feedback other than that.

Could go with macassar ebony if you wanna skip the staining.

View jmartel's profile


9264 posts in 3440 days

#3 posted 09-26-2016 07:04 PM

Use plywood (laminate 2 or 3 pieces together) and then put a thin piece of solid wood on the edges. If you get birch ply and put some thin ~1/8” strips of birch on the edges, it will be fairly continuous. And then stain it to whatever you want. That’s probably the cheapest option.

Also, use dye instead of stain. That should give you a better effect and make it closer to ebony than staining will.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View ajhellman's profile


3 posts in 2645 days

#4 posted 09-26-2016 08:47 PM

Wenge would look amazing. At nearly $27/bdft however yikes.

I’ll definitely take a look at either maple or cherry. I’ve never worked with cherry before. Have worked a bit with maple for cabinets and face frames. Which one would take stain more evenly? I’ll stay away from poplar for that reason alone…


View Kirk650's profile


741 posts in 2038 days

#5 posted 09-26-2016 10:33 PM

Maple, at least Hard Maple, blotches pretty badly. Cherry will blotch, though not quite as much. Walnut takes stain very well. White Oak might do well for you.

A good stain grade plywood, with some hardwood edging, as jmartel suggests, might be the best option,

View 000's profile


2859 posts in 2189 days

#6 posted 09-26-2016 10:58 PM

Alder would be my choice. Stains great, easy to work with.
It’s a little soft, but your not making a baseball bat so it would be fine.
I wouldn’t worry about blotching it’s “el natural”. It’s a shelf, not an armoir….

View Ub1chris's profile


133 posts in 2670 days

#7 posted 09-26-2016 11:03 PM

I’m not sure why you’d need solid 8/4 materiL for a floating shelf. Maybe you do them a different way but I’ve also done them torsion box style which involves not as much material and none of it 8/4


View TheFridge's profile


10863 posts in 2776 days

#8 posted 09-26-2016 11:18 PM

Ply or maple. Unless the woods natural color is the one you want you probably want to use some sort of blotch control. Or a wash coat of shellac.

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

View Woodknack's profile


13585 posts in 3670 days

#9 posted 09-27-2016 12:18 AM

I don’t know of any tight grain wood that stains easily. If you’re going to ebonize it then use something cheap like red maple.

-- Rick M,

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