Is Poplar a Good Wood for Making Furniture?


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Poplar is one of the most standard hardwoods that you can find across the United States of America and Canada. It grows in the eastern United States and enjoys the position among the top ten kinds of wood in the country. One of the reasons this wood is so popular is the wide color variation in its sapwood and heartwood.

The color of poplar can vary from black and light brown to dark green. Several woodworkers are extremely sensitive to this color variation and prefer a particular shade. Hence, it is not uncommon for lumberyards to supply the color type of “SAP/1F” to satisfy their customers.

We also refer to poplar as “American tulipwood” or simply “tulipwood.” It is also one of the top exported types of wood in the US. Poplar also serves as a substitute for other popular hardwoods such as magnolia, aspen, and cottonwood.

Common Uses Of Poplar

Poplar wood
Poplar wood (Image: Associated Fabrication)

We use poplar wood in a variety of different applications as well as for making furniture. Here are some of the various uses of poplar:

Moldings and Trim

Poplar takes paint quite easily, but you may have to use a pre-stain wood conditioner before applying stain. It is also easy to carve and shape with a great deal of detail. Thus, it serves well as a material for making moldings and trims. Moldings are the exquisitely-carved borders that you may put on the edges of furniture to enhance the look. Trims are what we use to make the borders of furniture more appealing. Poplar is useful for both these items in woodwork.

Cabinetry

White wooden kitchen cabinets
White wooden kitchen cabinets (Image: u_jup1hbno)

An essential aspect of cabinet making or cabinetry, as we also call it, is finishing and applying paint and stains. Poplar wood takes paint and stains very readily, making it a preferred choice for using to make cabinets. It also cuts easily and responds to machining and sanding very well, which is an added advantage.

Furniture

It goes without saying that poplar plays a prominent role in furniture making. We can make a variety of indoor and outdoor furniture with poplar, but we will discuss it later on in this post.

Picture Frames

This wood shapes easily to make trims, as we have mentioned above. Hence, it also serves well in making attractive and ornate picture frames.

Crates And Pallets

It is easy to procure poplar, and this wood also comes at a reasonable price. There is no wonder, then, that it finds a prominent use in making packing materials. The main application of poplar in this respect is to make pallets and crates for industrial use.

Is Poplar Wood Good for Making Furniture?

Now, coming to the aspect of poplar being a useful wood species for making furniture. Is poplar wood good for making furniture? Of course, poplar makes good furniture. It plays a prominent role in making all varieties of furniture.

Poplar does not have exquisite grain patterns and differently-colored hues like other woods like cherry, walnut, or oak. Thus, it is more of a utilitarian wood when it comes to furniture.

However, poplar does occupy quite a prominent role in furniture making, mainly due to its easy availability and low cost. Here are a few examples of the furniture that we can make from poplar:

Tables

Poplar often appears as a wood veneer for applying to plywood tabletops. It also makes some excellent solid wood tables. Poplar’s ability to take paint and polish easily makes it an excellent choice for outdoor furniture. It can be well-coated, securing the surface of the wood against the elements.

Chairs

For the same reasons, you can get great satisfaction out of making chairs from poplar. Although poplar is a hardwood, it is one of the softer varieties. It has a hardness of 540 (Janka scale), which is considered comparatively soft. The softness of poplar makes it an easy wood to create intricate carvings on chairs as an added advantage.

Cabinets And Cupboards

As we mentioned above, poplar makes suitable cabinets. It also makes useful cupboards thanks to its ability to take varnish and paint. Poplar even can resemble other types of wood with appropriate staining. Hence, woodworkers find this wood a very versatile option for making expensive-looking furniture at a reasonable cost.

Benches And Workbenches

Although soft, poplar is a hardy wood and withstands rough use. Due to this reason, woodworkers find it a viable wood for making woodshop workbenches and benches. Although this wood has a fair degree of susceptibility to insect attack, we can treat it with insecticide and seal it with varnish or paint to enhance its durability.

A workbench top made of poplar will be cheap enough to replace regularly. The wood’s softness also helps in pinning and nailing and screwing workpieces to the tabletop without fear of the wood splitting.

Making Shelves

Poplar is a useful wood for making shelves for storing light objects. As the wood does not look all that appealing on its own, you may find that you have to apply some sort of finish or wood veneer.

Conclusion

Poplar is the common wood of America. If you have to make something out of wood, but an elegant finish is not the objective, poplar serves as a suitable option. This wood usually is not the preferred choice for furniture. But then, it is available and affordable. After all, everyone cannot afford to fill their homes with expensive cherry, walnut, and oak.

If you are a fan of solid wood but are on a limited budget, then furniture from poplar will serve you well. If you want to add a bit of class to poplar furniture, you can experiment with stains of different textures and colors. Adding a smart wood veneer is a no-brainer as well. You can’t fail to impress with a veneer, mainly if you apply a good finish. You can read more about some of the best wood finishes in another of our interesting posts.

If you were not convinced about the uses of poplar in furniture making, you would hopefully be assured now that poplar can and does make good furniture. It is definitely a wood that is worth trying out in your next woodworking project.

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