What is Poplar Wood? Uses, Wood Type, and More

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Oak is a go-to for many woodworkers, including me. But did you know that poplar wood can hold its own against other popular hardwoods?

In this post, I’ll dive into a comparison to see if they really stack up in terms of durability and versatility for our projects.

What is Poplar Wood?

Like most hardwoods, Poplar wood is also a hardwood used in crafting fine furniture, cabinets, and other woodworking projects. It’s a great wood to utilize because of its uniform grain pattern. 

person stacking poplar wood

It has 35 wood species, so don’t be surprised if they appear in various colors, such as white, pale yellow, or yellowish-brown. You can identify them apart from other options as they also come with green, light cream, or heartwood stripes on their surface. 

Where Does Poplar Come From?

These wood are sourced from trees often planted in the Northern Hemisphere. Aspen is an example of this wood specie, but it’s also associated with many other names such as Liriodendron Tulipifera, Yellow Poplar, White Poplar, and American tulipwood.

Where is Poplar on the Janka Scale?

I went ahead to test the density of poplar hardwood using the Janka Hardness Test. Although its 540 Janka rating pales in comparison with Black Walnut, it can certainly stand in line with yellow cedar and fir. 

On the bright side, its Janka Hardness Rating surpasses pine and other woods often used in furniture-making. 

manufacturing poplar plywood

Is Poplar Wood a Hardwood or Softwood?

Poplar is classified as a hardwood, but it falls into the softer category, making it easier to work with.


Poplar wood is a lot cheaper than maple. Its price only ranges from $3.50 to $10 per board foot, depending on its prepping. 

Types of Poplar Wood

Rainbow Poplar

This type of hardwood is called “rainbow” for its colorful mineral stains. Its ray of green, brown, purple, and red may be visually pleasing but remember that its surface may turn brown within a year. 

rainbow poplar board

Tulip Poplar

Tulip or yellow poplar is a stable material, so it wouldn’t be a problem to use it to create house furniture. However, it’s crucial to note that its dense rating is lower than cherry wood and white oak. 

Uses of Poplar Wood

Trim and Millwork

Like typical plywood [1], poplar is utilized in millworks because they’re durable. They’re also sold without knots, making them suitable for intricate trim work. 


Making cabinets and drawers could cost a lot, so many people use poplar plywood to keep costs down. Besides drawers, its ground-breaking components work well with sofa frames and other inner cabinetry tasks. 


Since poplar wood is straight-grained, it’s a popular choice for furniture-making. It’s also lightweight in structure, which is highly suitable for making upholstered furniture. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Poplar Wood



Did you know that this material was once called chameleon wood? Because no matter what project you’re working on, you can rely on it for easy cutting, molding, and trimming.


It may belong to the hardwood lumber category, but it’s soft enough to accommodate common uses in hand-tool woodworking.

Cheap and easy to find

Other hardwoods are sold for $10, so this wood’s base price of $3 is considered inexpensive in the industry. And because they’re mass-produced, you’ll find them widely available in local hardware stores. 

Easy to paint

Not many know this, but poplar wood has great texture. Thanks to this, it can absorb paint well. 

painting wood


It also has chemicals that can resist decay, so you can expect it to last longer than typical woods. 


Can tear with dull tools

Although it’s soft, it’s still hardwood. So using dull blades may result in unnecessary tearing. 

Needs finer sandpaper

When using this wood, it’s better to use sandpapers with finer grits to cater to its firm-to-touch texture.

Fading colors mean frequent repaints

As previously stated, woods from a Poplar tree will change color over time. Because of this, you may need to re-do the paint-work if you’re using this material for your cabinets and drawer sides.

staining poplar wood

Uneven staining

As you know, this wood has unique textures and streaks. Because of its sapwood and heartwood colors, staining it may not be as easy as you think, which is the one main drawback of poplar. You better use wood conditioner and sandpaper for better staining results. 

Poplar Trees

Can You Buy Poplar Trees?

You can buy these trees online, where tree nurseries and centers offer to deliver orders directly where you live. These saplings for sale could range from 8 to 12 inches tall.

Where Can You Plant Poplar Trees?

Generally, it’s recommended to plant these trees at least 100 meters away from your home. Although they can be in less than a 50-meter vicinity, the risk of having a tree fall down your house is a possibility you can’t ignore.

How to Space Poplar Trees

You can plant them six feet apart to have enough gaps as they grow or stagger the saplings for additional protection.

Poplar trees spacing

Preparing the Area, Soiling, and Mulching

Instead of putting the old soil back when planting, adding rich soil could help the tree grow better. It’s also best to mulch the treetop bases for about 2 to 3 inches to keep the soil fertilized. 

How Important are Poplar Trees?

Poplar trees are important wood sources due to their easy availability in the market. Besides, it has versatile wood components that suit different project needs, from furniture-making to crafting accessories and toys. 


Does poplar warp easily?

No, Poplar doesn’t warp easily. It’s made of chemicals and properties that are resistant to wood decays.

Is poplar better than pine?

Poplar is better than pine in terms of dense level. Its Janka level of 540 is higher than pine’s 420 ratings. Learn more about the differences of poplar and pine here!


If you’re just starting out with woodworking, give poplar wood a try. Not only is it budget-friendly, but it’s also super handy to work with. It’s both durable and soft, making it easier to shape and cut compared to other woods out there.

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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.

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