Is Poplar Good for Cutting Boards? Is it Hard or Soft Wood?

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Poplar wood is a great option for indoor furniture and is less expensive, considering it is a hardwood. It has always been used for framing, upholstering furniture, and support. But if you are looking for kitchen fittings, you may be wondering if Poplar is good for cutting boards.

Here, I will reveal the limitations you need to know about Poplar wood and more.

What to Know About Poplar Wood

Poplar trees are considered one of Europe’s fastest-growing and most efficient trees in terms of sustainability. It can be planted regardless of water source and type of soil, optimizing the unproductive land to increase timber and source of raw material in the market.

Poplar wood grain pattern is multi-colored, but mostly you can see green hues. Its soft and porous wood fiber makes moisture and water absorption easy if not conditioned, painted, or sealed. Staining this wood is challenging and often undesirable because of its light shade.

Also, this wood has minimal resistance to decay or rot, making less preferred hardwood. Nevertheless, Poplar wood can be used in a wide range of applications, such as furniture frames, pallets, crates, and decorative moldings. It offers high-quality finishes and is easy to cut.

Knowing poplar wood

Wood manufacturers use Poplar to make paper, plywood, and cardboard, while its core inside is used for snowboards, chopsticks, toothpicks, and the inside structures of guitars and drums.

However, Poplar wood ranks among the lowest of the hardwoods, making it unsuitable for cabinet-grade wood projects.

Is Poplar Ideal to Use as a Cutting Board?

You know, I’ve seen a lot of people tempted to use poplar for cutting boards, but let me set the record straight: it’s not your best bet. Yeah, it’s a hardwood, but it’s on the softer end of the spectrum. 

It can take the occasional slicing and chopping, but frequent contact with kitchen knives can tear and wear it down. You can also find some deep knife-cutting marks, making cleaning hard.

Poplar is porous wood. Therefore, if used for kitchen fittings, including cutting boards, it will hoard bacteria from the food debris and juices.

Is it Food-Safe?

Using poplar wood as a cutting board is not a food-safe kitchen fitting unless you apply a food-safe finish. To make poplar kitchen furniture a food-safe material, use mineral oil, shellac, beeswax [1], tung, linseed, or walnut oils.

using mineral oil on cutting boards

A cutting board is essential in food preparation to ensure food is clean, thus preventing food from spoiling. But given that poplar wood has flexible wood fiber, it cannot hold frequent cutting from kitchen knives, resulting in dents and scratches.

Is Poplar Too Soft to Make Cutting Boards?

Poplar wood is too soft to make cutting boards with its 540 Janka hardness, which is at par with the ideal harness of a cutting board which is around 1,500 lbf.

A lower rating won’t keep up with the continuous stress from cutting, and a higher than 1,500 lbf Janka hardness can damage your kitchen knife. So despite Poplar wood being categorized as a hardwood, its low wood density affects its strength.

poplar wood for cutting boards

For your reference on which hardwood is best to use as cutting boards, here are the Janka hardness ratings of well-known hardwoods. This table shows that the higher the numbers, the harder the woods are.

Wood Type

Janka Hardness Value (N)

Ebony (Brazilian)






Golden Teak


Hickory, shagbark






White Oak


Ash (White)


Oak (Northern red)




Walnut (Black)


Cherry (Black)




Douglas Fir


Cedar, yellow





2400 (540 lbf)

Spruce, Sitka


Hemlock (Western)


White Pine




Pine (Eastern White)


Red cedar (Western)




Pros and Cons of Using Poplar Wood for Cutting Boards

To give you a clearer view of how Poplar wood cutting boards will work in your kitchen, here are the disadvantages and advantages you should consider:



How About Poplar as a Butcher Block?

Poplar can be used as a butcher block. You can stick it together to form a solid block you can use as a cutting surface for food and a serving plate. If poplar is glued together, it can create various styles and sizes depending on your needs.

However, when compared to other hardwoods, butcher blocks crafted from poplar exhibit lower durability. The thickness and strength of poplar butcher blocks are insufficient to withstand the pressure exerted during cutting tasks.

piece of poplar wood on a table

Factors to Consider When Looking for a Good Cutting Board


If your knife is your main concern in choosing a cutting board, look for a cutting board with a Janka hardness of 1,500 lbf, an ideal hardness scale that won’t make your knives dull.

When it comes to cutting board, the harder the surface can damage your knives, and if it’s softer, it won’t stand frequent use.


A cutting board should be a food-safe material. So look for the Food and Drug Administration’s approved mark or label as “food contact surfaces.”

Easy Cleaning & Maintenance

To ensure food safety, look for a cutting board that is easy to clean and maintain to extend its lifespan. You can check the cutting board instructions for cleaning and maintenance.

Good Size and Shape

Cutting boards can range from different sizes and shapes depending on your style and what is suitable for your kitchen. You can choose a cutting board that can easily store away. Otherwise, you can have the traditional rectangle or circle for aesthetic kitchen fittings.

size and types of wood for cutting boards

Price and Value for Money

Before buying a cutting board, compare the prices of similar styles and shapes. There are affordable cutting boards that offer the same as the expensive ones. Nevertheless, ensure you get what you pay for a cutting board.

Woods that Are Great for Cutting Boards

Here are several hardwoods that are more suitable for cutting boards than poplar:


Maple wood can withstand the consistent cutting and slicing of food without absorbing food particles or juices. It is a high-density wood with 1,450 lbf Janka hardness. Its wood fibers are small, making it less porous wood than Poplar.


With a high density and 1,070 lbf Janka hardness, Teak is considered a hardwood. It is rich in natural oil, which makes it resistant to rot, unlike Poplar wood. Teak wood only shows signs of tear and wears after a couple of years used as a cutting board.


Walnut is considered medium-hardwood, unlike teak and maple. This wood perfectly balances hardness and softness as a cutting board, so it won’t dull your knife, which is the opposite of Poplar wood. It offers a deep, rich color cutting board with a 1,010 lbf Janka hardness.


best wood for cutting boards

Regarding food-safety concerns, beechwood offers much more than Poplar wood. Beechwood has a tight wood fiber which makes it water resistant. However, beech shrinks over time because of harmful environmental elements.


Poplar is not good for cutting boards due to its limitations than other hardwoods. I would recommend going for other hardwoods such as maple, teak, and walnut, which can withstand the wear and tear of knife use.

In choosing the ideal cutting board, also consider its durability, quality, and food safety.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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