It goes unsaid that the first step of furniture making is selecting the appropriate materials. Although pine and poplar are standard wood options, it can still be challenging to choose which is best suited for your project.
The wood you choose can either make or break your project after all. To help you out, I have thoroughly compared pine vs poplar so you know which is the more ideal choice for your furniture.
What is Poplar?
Poplar wood is a quick-growing, light-colored wood from a deciduous tree that is commonly used in construction.
Deciduous trees, like poplars, shed their leaves in the winter and reappear with fresh leaves in the spring. To identify the veins, look for the reddish-brown to gray tones that run through them.
Because of its color range of light cream to light brown, the wood is often called yellow poplar.
Poplar wood is an attractive wood that can stand in for more expensive species like aspen, cottonwood, and magnolia.
You can find black, dark green, and light brown colors in its heartwood. Its color has little bearing on its usability, but some lumberyards will allow you to specify color when placing an order.
What is Pine?
Pine wood, a type of evergreen conifer, retains foliage throughout the year. Pine wood is commonly found but is sometimes unusable in woodworking projects due to its apparent faults, such as knots and button holes.
Despite its classification as a softwood, pine trees come in a wide range of species, with varying strength and density. Soft pine trees are all but indistinguishable from one another.
The three most commonly found types are Sugar Pine, Western White Pine, and Eastern White Pine. Also, these varieties are known for their distinct characteristics and widespread availability in various regions.
Piles, roof trusses, bridges, subflooring, beams, and poles are just a few of the many applications for hard pines.
Meanwhile, plywood, veneer, and flooring are all products that find a use for Caribbean Pine. The hard pines are more expensive than poplar due to their higher Janka hardness grade of 690-870.
Which is Better, Pine or Poplar? Here's An In-Depth Comparison
|Pine Wood||Poplar Wood|
|Janka hardness||380 lbf / 1,690 N||540 lbf / 2,400 N|
|(Eastern white pine)||(Yellow Poplar )|
|Tree size||15 to 50 Meters||25 to 50 Meters|
|Color||Pale yellow to light brown (Eastern White Pine)||Pale yellow to yellowish-brown (Yellow Poplar)|
|Uses||Packaging boxes, matchboxes, paper||Construction, interior furnishing, furniture making|
|Workability||Excellent workability||Excellent workability|
Color and Appearance
Poplar wood ranges from nearly colorless to pale cream, with gray hues or brown streaks or patches along the vein. Yet, the color can shift from variety.
Poplar wood has a homogeneous texture thanks to its straight grain, which is apparent upon close inspection.
Meanwhile, most pine trees can be found in shades from nearly white to almost reddish brown, depending on the species. Color may vary from pine to pine, so it’s essential to check that out before you get started.
Remember that pine naturally turns brown as it ages. Pine wood has an even feel and straight grain.
Janka Hardness Rating
Hardness-wise, poplar wood hardness falls in between soft and medium. Thus, it is classified among medium-hardness soft woods or sometimes considered a soft hardwood.
Red oak is twice as hard as white and yellow poplar. Some poplar species are even softer than pine on the hardness scale/Janka scale.
|Poplar Species||Janka Hardness|
|Balsam Poplar||300 lbf / 1330 N|
|Black Poplar||460 lbf / 2,020 N|
|White Poplar||410 lbf / 1820 N|
|Yellow Poplar||540 lbf / 2,400 N|
Pine wood is often denser than poplar wood, though there are exceptions to this rule. When compared to other types of softwood, pine wood is exceptionally mild and lightweight.
See Also: Is Pine a Hardwood or Softwood?
Heart pine or Longleaf pine, Slash pine, and Loblolly pine are the hardest but are over-harvested, so it’s hard to find in stores. Western yellow pines, on the other hand, fall between hard and soft pine on the scale.
|Pine Species||Janka Hardness|
|Eastern White Pine||380 lbf / 1,690 N|
|Longleaf Pine||870 lbf / 4,120 N|
|Radiata Pine||710 lbf / 3,150 N|
|Scots Pine||540 lbf / 2,420 N|
|Southern Yellow Pine||690 lbf / 3,069 N|
Which is the more durable wood? Pine woods are a better option than poplar if you want a long-lasting material. Poplar is a soft wood that may be easily dented or scraped. Thus, poplar wood is better for interior construction rather than heavy outdoor furniture.
While pine might not top the list of the most durable woods, it typically fares better than poplar in longevity. Furthermore, I’ve observed that pressure-treated pine has a distinct advantage when exposed to the elements, largely due to the infusion of chromate copper arsenate and other preservatives .
Weight and Size
If you compare poplar wood vs pine varieties, poplar is more lightweight than pine since it holds less moisture. In light of this, poplar is the superior choice for any heavy-duty construction endeavor.
Poplar is more resilient than pine but much lighter in weight. Unlike pine, its texture is uniform and free of knots.
The hardwoods, in comparison to the softwoods, are often denser. However, poplar wood is low-density but still considered a hardwood.
It’s not as thick or heavy as regular hardwoods, so it’s easier to transport. Poplars are light because their porous, diffuse nature makes them lightweight.
As pine and poplar fall within the same range, this statistic will only help you make a final choice between the two. All pines and poplars except pitch pine have densities between 22 and 32 lb/ft3, or 350 and 500 kg/m3.
Remember, the density of your chosen wood will give you an idea of how much it will weigh. To express volume, either imperial or metric units are employed.
Because of their suppleness, both pine and poplar are excellent working woods. Poplar wood is the better of the two kinds of wood to deal with.
Poplar’s light weight makes it simple to shape with power or manual tools. You can skip the preliminary step of making pilot holes in the wood before nailing or screwing anything into place.
Given its lightweight and low cost, poplar is utilized in producing pallets, wooden boxes, photo frames, and paper. Moreover, it grows steadily, so there’s always enough.
Like many other kinds of wood, Poplar is surprisingly malleable and has a clean, uniform appearance.
Pine wood, on the other hand, serves mainly as a building material. It’s commonly used indoors for window frames, flooring, roofing, attractive ornamental plantings, and drywall gratings. You can use pressure-treated pine outdoors for fences, decking, fences, and other outdoor uses.
Boats can also be constructed from Eastern White Pine. Piano keys are crafted from Sugar Pine, a kind of pine that is much more fragile than southern yellow pine.
Poplar and pine are not ideal outdoor woods due to their density. With a good finish, they quickly rot in the elements and are, therefore, unsuitable for outdoor use.
Untreated poplar has a four-year lifespan outside, and untreated pine wood has a five-year lifespan.
Depending on the pine wood you buy, it may have a high resin content, which is one of pine wood’s disadvantages. This might block equipment blades and require additional attention when painting and staining.
Specific finishes may need to be sealed onto resinous pine to prevent bleeding. If the pine wood is dry or treated, it is easy to work with and accepts pine stain, glue, and paint nicely.
As a result of its softness, poplar often becomes fuzzy after being sanded or shaped. Because of this tendency, you must use finer grit sandpaper before applying a finish.
Poplar is easy to paint and glue on. But poplar take stains well only because of the wood’s color shifts. You can also use a pre-stain wood conditioner to make poplar wood strong and easier to manage.
Due to its uniform texture, poplar experiences less shrinkage throughout the drying process. While drying, however, distortions can occur. For this reason, the poplar wood must be properly dried before any work is done on it.
Pine contracts more than poplar does, but it is more resistant to distortion.
Both poplar and pine are cost-effective options. However, it’s crucial to understand that their costs can vary. A significant factor affecting the price is the locality of the timber. If the wood isn’t sourced locally, transportation costs can significantly increase the overall price.
Pine is the most commonly used and least expensive wood for building. It’s even cheaper than poplar lumber, which is an affordable hardwood, in many situations.
Other wood comparisons here:
How do you distinguish poplar from pine?
Knots and an uneven grain pattern are hallmarks of pine. Pine has a wide range of hues in pine, from white to yellow to reddish brown. Poplar trees typically have a milky white with grey or green streaks.
Which wood type stains better?
Due to their relative softness, both types of wood absorb stains inconsistently, which can lead to an unattractive finish. But when properly treated, pine accepts stains very well. Applying a finish on poplar will necessitate using finer grit sandpaper.
Which wood is more sustainable?
Pines and poplars are two fast-growing tree species that can be used in sustainable forestry practices. These are sustainable tree species, and it takes about 15 years for a poplar tree to reach full harvestability, while a pine tree reaches maturity after only 10 years.
Is poplar considered a hardwood?
As I have elaborated in this poplar vs pine comparison, telling which wood will serve you best highly depends on the project type and your personal preference.
Both poplar and pine are remarkable wood species, boasting their distinct attributes. However, determining whether poplar or pine is the superior choice is dictated by the intended use of your final product.