Is Poplar Wood Strong? Is it a Hardwood or Softwood?

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Poplar wood is used on different wood projects. But if you want durable lumber for your specific project, you probably wonder if poplar wood is strong enough to last. 

To clear this matter, let our resident wood experts explore poplar wood’s strength and uncover the true potential of this lumber to determine if it is versatile enough for your indoor and outdoor woodworking projects. 

How Strong is Poplar?

If you’re considering the strength of poplar wood, you’ll want to look at its compressive strength, density, stiffness, hardness, and bending strength. 

About the density, the higher it is, the stronger it is—which is why poplar’s specific gravity of 0.42 makes it a very strong wood. 

Poplar log

It has higher values than many softwoods and certain hardwoods. All these factors are put together to make it one of the strongest woods out there. 

Just be aware that compared to other hardwoods, poplar is slightly softer and not as strong. 

Compressive strength




Bending strength






Is Poplar Wood Ideal For Furniture-Making Strength-Wise?

Despite being more delicate than other hardwoods, a poplar is good for furniture making. It offers a high degree of dimensional stability and is easy to work with, making it ideal for carpentry tasks. (But is poplar good for outdoor use? Read more here!)

building furniture with stained poplar wood

However, when working with poplar, ensure that your equipment is well-honed as using blunt cutting tools might cause the wood to tear readily. 

You should also feed slowly when drilling or doing alternative carpentry activities and use sandpapers with a fine grit beginning with 80 grit, followed by 150, then 300, and ultimately 400 grit for improved refinement before staining. 

Following these tips will allow you to create strong, poplar furniture suitable for both indoor and outdoor uses. 

Benefits and Drawbacks of Poplar for Furniture Pieces

In the realm of woodworking and furniture design, the choice of materials plays a crucial role in determining the final product’s functionality, aesthetics, and durability. 

Poplar wood surface making furniture

One such material, poplar, presents a unique blend of advantages and disadvantages that can impact the overall quality and longevity of furniture pieces. 

In the following section, we will delve into the benefits and drawbacks of utilizing poplar for constructing furniture, providing an expert and informative overview to guide your decision-making process.



Is Poplar Wood Strong Enough for Building Bookshelves?

Among the best wood for shelves, poplar is the perfect choice for bookshelves, as it is hard enough to fulfill the purpose without being too expensive. 

Its toughness surpasses white pine yet remains inferior to yellow pine, making it effortless to handle and paint. So, between poplar vs pine, the former is a good choice of wood. 

After building the shelf, we suggest finishing it with either polyurethane or paint, which will increase its lifespan. Poplar is also a fantastic option for bookshelves because of its high grade and strength. 

So if you are looking to use woodworking skills and create a bookshelf yourself, using Poplar is a great choice! Simply ensure to sand and apply the finishing product to achieve optimal outcomes.

Poplar bookshelves

The most effective alternatives to using poplar for bookcases are:

Is Poplar Strong Enough For Making a Bed?

Renowned for its robustness and enduring nature, poplar wood emerges as an ideal choice for crafting bed frames and other interior furniture pieces. But for other options, here’s a list of the best wood for bed frames and slats!

Poplar bed frame

This remarkable material boasts prominent grain patterns and can be found in lengths of up to 16 feet, simplifying the assembly process and minimizing difficulties. 

Furthermore, the exceptional resistance to shrinkage and impressive strength exhibited by poplar make it even more attractive for use in interior furnishings, particularly when compared to other types of softwoods.

Coupled with its consistent color and texture, poplar offers an attractive balance of aesthetics and functionality that lends itself well to a wide range of furniture applications.

How Hard Are Poplar Lumbers?

Although classified as a hardwood, poplar is comparatively softer than the majority of other hardwoods. It does, however, rank higher than softwoods on the test value of Janka’s hardness [1], which gives us an indication of its strength. 

In comparison to other hardwoods, poplar wood has a lower rating of 540. Because of this, it has poor resistance to denting and wear.

cutting poplar lumber

Type of Wood

Value of Janka Hardness




Very Soft

White Pine


Very Soft


2400 N (540 lbf)





Douglas Fir














Somewhat Hard



Somewhat Hard

White Oak






Golden Teak


Extremely Hard



Extremely Hard



Exceedingly Hard

Ebony (Brazilian)


Exceedingly Hard

Poplar Wood vs Pine: Which is Stronger?

Poplar’s enhanced durability relative to pine is evidenced by its Janka hardness rating of 540 lbf, outperforming white pine, which registers at 420 lbf. 

It is important to note that there are multiple variations of pine, such as yellow pine, with hardness values reaching up to 870 lbf. 

Although yellow pine’s strength approaches that of poplar, pine wood tends to be more prone to denting, cracking, and splitting during the drying process.

Poplar wood

Furthermore, pine’s susceptibility to temperature fluctuations renders it less suitable for various applications. 

As a result, poplar emerges as a more favorable choice for both exterior and interior furniture, owing to its superior durability and strength.

Poplar vs Oak: Which is Better?

Examining the Janka Hardness values reveals a substantial difference between oakwood and poplar wood, with oakwood boasting a robust rating of 1290 lbf in comparison to poplar’s 540 lbf. 

This disparity indicates that oakwood possesses greater durability and dependability for various applications. Nonetheless, poplar wood offers its own set of advantages, including its unblemished, straight grain free of knots. 

pine vs oakwood

This characteristic makes poplar more amenable to bending and shaping, which proves especially beneficial in crafting shelving, framing, and pathways. 

Consequently, despite oakwood’s superior hardness, poplar wood’s unique attributes make it an attractive choice for specific woodworking projects.


What is poplar wood good for?

Poplar wood is good for furniture, cabinets, wooden toys, and plywood. Although it technically belongs to the hardwood family, it is easy to work with, just like pine boards or other softwoods.

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Poplar wood is strong and a popular hardwood for woodworking projects. Its workability is great for those new to woodworking, and it can be used to make bookshelves, bed frames, and other items. Its strength makes it a suitable alternative to more common hardwoods. 

It is worth considering for your next wood project, and its results should be satisfactory. 

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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