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Poplar drawers unattractive

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Forum topic by jaminv posted 06-10-2018 03:04 AM 1727 views 0 times favorited 40 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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jaminv

12 posts in 410 days


06-10-2018 03:04 AM

Topic tags/keywords: poplar drawers finish shellac birch

I’m building some kitchen cabinets. Per multiple recommendations I’ve seen across the web, I decided to use poplar for the drawer sides, but I’m not really happy with how they look. Wondering if there’s anything else anyone recommends.

It’s also worth noting that I’d like to finish the drawers in some way. I’d like to protect the wood, have a nice smooth surface, and make the drawers look high end. Per many people’s recommendation, I tried using shellac. Shellac takes to the birch plywood bottom really, really well. But it turns the poplar orange (even with clear shellac) and makes the green parts of the poplar really, really obvious.

Before the shellac, the poplar looks decent. The green can be made less obvious through good sanding, but it’s still not the most attractive. It’s hard to find poplar that isn’t green; even harder to find enough for a large kitchen drawer.

Perhaps a polyurethane would work better? Or should I try bleaching the wood? Or should I just try another wood instead? (I definitely don’t want to use oak)

Thanks for any pointers or ideas you can offer.


40 replies so far

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woodbutcherbynight

5966 posts in 2831 days


#1 posted 06-10-2018 05:06 AM

If you want the high end look try mahogany. Easy to work with, the grain looks okay even if you darken it with stain. It takes well to poly, oil or water based, shellac, or lacquer.

OR, you can use 1/2 plywood and edge band it. You can stain it all, or use some darker wood and show off the edge banding.

I am sure others with more experience can offer better aids for working with popular. Myself I have only ever used it on projects that got painted or small picture frames with a dark stain and some poly.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View AlaskaGuy's profile

AlaskaGuy

5317 posts in 2732 days


#2 posted 06-10-2018 05:17 AM

For kitchen cabinet I prefer 1/2 Baltic birch or soft maple or even hard maple. I also prefer to spray on a water based clear coat. At least 2 coats and no more than 3. I’m also kind of a start over guy when difficulty occurs. Why? Well trying to fix something that I don’t like or just looks bad usually is more work/time than its worth and many times it still doesn’t turn out to be what I want. I said usually. If I was working with some 25 .00 a board foot lumber I many put some effort in to it.

Beyond that it have make any recommendations because I don’t know if your are dealing 2 drawers or 200 hundred , how many you have built, how many have you put a finish on, how many have cut or not cut from you stock pile of popular.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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jaminv

12 posts in 410 days


#3 posted 06-10-2018 05:38 AM

I’m just working on one cabinet right now to see if I can do it up to a high enough quality to make it worth it. Eventually, I’d have to make 6 lowers with 5 small drawers and 4 large ones.

Right now, I just made the one drawer and I really dont like the look of it. I dont think Ill be using it.

I did some additional experimenting today with a scrap peice of 1/2 inch birch ply. The results were pretty good, but I can’t do a box joint with it like I could with the poplar.

I found some lumber yards in the area that open Monday. I’ll see how much maple is and do some experimenting with it. I’d rather use solid wood if I can, but the birch plywood is definitely serviceable.

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pintodeluxe

5955 posts in 3236 days


#4 posted 06-10-2018 05:39 AM

I made a few drawers with poplar, and like you wasn’t impressed with the look or the softness of the wood. I switched to maple and never looked back. A coat or two of clear shellac and they look beautiful.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View AlaskaGuy's profile

AlaskaGuy

5317 posts in 2732 days


#5 posted 06-10-2018 05:51 AM

How you doing your box joints? I made this simple jig for my table saw and it does good box joints on Baltic Birch Plywood.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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AlaskaGuy

5317 posts in 2732 days


#6 posted 06-10-2018 05:57 AM

I often use a locking rabbet on kitchen drawers with BB plywood. BTW oil base finishes with leave you drawers smelling like oil of a long long long time. Not to mention the long drawn out finishing times and all the dust and nubs you get with it’s long drying times.

I’ll post a picture shortly of a what I’m calling a locking rabbet joint.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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AlaskaGuy

5317 posts in 2732 days


#7 posted 06-10-2018 06:08 AM

The drawer sides get the dado/grove and the front and back get the tongue. I use some brad nail along with glue.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View jaminv's profile

jaminv

12 posts in 410 days


#8 posted 06-10-2018 06:16 AM

Using a router jig (very similar to yours). I imagine that the table saw would do a better job, but I dont have a dado stack and Ive yet to find a simplenbox joint jig for a table saw that didnt require a dado stack.

The dado/rabbet joint is what I used for the birch plywood. As I said, its serviceable. I just like the look of the box joint better. Even if noone ever notices. I know.

View AlaskaGuy's profile

AlaskaGuy

5317 posts in 2732 days


#9 posted 06-10-2018 06:21 AM



Using a router jig (very similar to yours). I imagine that the table saw would do a better job, but I dont have a dado stack and Ive yet to find a simplenbox joint jig for a table saw that didnt require a dado stack.

The dado/rabbet joint is what I used for the birch plywood. As I said, its serviceable. I just like the look of the box joint better. Even if noone ever notices. I know.

- jaminv

Maybe it’s time you invest in a good stacked dado blade. Yeah a good dado blade can hard o the budget but it will last you a life time.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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AlaskaGuy

5317 posts in 2732 days


#10 posted 06-10-2018 06:29 AM


Using a router jig (very similar to yours). I imagine that the table saw would do a better job, but I dont have a dado stack and Ive yet to find a simplenbox joint jig for a table saw that didnt require a dado stack.

The dado/rabbet joint is what I used for the birch plywood. As I said, its serviceable. I just like the look of the box joint better. Even if noone ever notices. I know.

- jaminv


This is one reason we build out own “stuff”. We can have it our way. Even if no one ever seen it.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View CaptainKlutz's profile

CaptainKlutz

1509 posts in 1917 days


#11 posted 06-10-2018 10:48 AM

For heavy duty drawers in Kitchen, I like 1/2 BB plywood.
For smaller drawers inside furniture, lower cost woods like Popular and Alder are too soft for my liking, so I typically use Maple (when I do not use plywood)
My difficultly is that maple is fairly expensive in Arizona, and finding 5/4 that can be resawn for 1/2 drawer sides is difficult. Other thicknesses result in excess waste and milling. So unless I stumble across some cheap hardwood, usually 1/2 inch BB plywood ends up as choice for all drawers.

Furniture designs always suggest using a secondary (cheaper) wood for internal parts like drawers. IMHO – secondary wood choice depends on what is less expensive in your area. Ash often shows up cheaper than Maple here, and have used it for drawers on a project. So check with your lumber dealers to see what options they might have?


Using a router jig (very similar to yours). I imagine that the table saw would do a better job, but I dont have a dado stack and Ive yet to find a simplenbox joint jig for a table saw that didnt require a dado stack.

- jaminv

Nothing wrong with using a box joint jig on router table. It is cheapest tooling for box joints, especially if you do not make box joints on consistent basis.

FWIW – If you can not justify cost of full dado set, several mfg produce a box joint blade set designed for 1/4 and 3/8 inch joints. Cost is about 1/2 of full dado set. Can also buy a single 1/4 inch kerf box joint blade for about same cost of high end router bit.
I have used both router and saw methods: Biggest difference is that saw blades will handle higher feed rate and work gets done faster. Both tools need regular cleaning during heavy use when using plywood, and router bits need edges de-gummed more often than saw blade to get consistent clean cuts. When I switched to a table saw box jig that uses both miter slots, it was more stable than my router table jig, and helped cutting tall box sides.

As far as finishing drawers: Used to exclusively use shellac on drawers for fast finishing time. Recently started spraying general finishes GF WB Endro-var on drawers. It dries quick and holds up as well as shellac. Enduro-var seems to be more water resistant than High Performance WB clear, provided some amber color is acceptable. It might improve look of popular if you want to keep using it.

Best Luck.

-- I'm an engineer not a woodworker, but I can randomly find useful tools and furniture inside a pile of lumber!

View Bill_Steele's profile

Bill_Steele

525 posts in 2154 days


#12 posted 06-10-2018 10:49 AM

I used a lock miter joint on a recent project with birch plywood. I like the look and I think the joint is strong.

View Redoak49's profile

Redoak49

4052 posts in 2411 days


#13 posted 06-10-2018 01:17 PM

I use Ash for my drawer boxes in furniture. It is relatively cheap and strong. I use dovetails for the joint and 1/4” BB for the bottoms. I finish it with shellac and poly. I finish the sides before dovetails. The BB I finish before assembly.

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5457 posts in 2774 days


#14 posted 06-10-2018 01:17 PM

The green can be made less obvious through good sanding, but it’s still not the most attractive. It’s hard to find poplar that isn’t green; even harder to find enough for a large kitchen drawer.

Over time, about a year, the green will turn brown.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Woodmaster1's profile

Woodmaster1

1182 posts in 3010 days


#15 posted 06-10-2018 01:23 PM

I buy 5/8” rounded edged with groove soft maple drawer stock from my local lumber dealer. It saves me time and cost no more than buying rough lumber.

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