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Thread: Poplar vs. Pine stability for face frames?

  1. #1

    Poplar vs. Pine stability for face frames?

    I am wanting to build a 5' by 15' grid to create 27 18" square openings so students in my school can display 16" square paintings in our Media Center. I am planning on using 1x2's for construction, and I will use my Kreg jig to assemble everything.

    Because I am working on a budget, I am hoping to use pine. But, is pine going to be stable enough to keep everything from warping or twisting? All of the verticals will be 57" tall, and the horizontal dividers are going to be 18".

    Is poplar a better choice?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Brookhaven, MS
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    67
    I have used both with no warping that I can tell. The pine I used was from Home Depot and listed as 'select pine'. The poplar was also from the borg.

    Given the choice, I tend to like poplar better. It takes paint better IMHO

    Hope this helps...

  3. #3
    Poplar will be, in my experience, more stable. With either, I wouldn't try to stain them; you'll go crazy trying to eliminate blotching. You're better off clearcoating them with polyurethane. That'll keep them protected and (hopefully) warp resistant for years.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Saint Paul, MN
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    130
    I've stained clear pine from HD with excellent results, but I used a wood conditioner. I got very uniform (but very pale) color using cherry stain. After two coats, my wife still calls it "the pink box."

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Toronto Ontario
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    Darl, as long as the pine is dry enough, once you machine it will be stable.

    As others have indicated, coat all surfaces with polyurethane to prevent moisture from getting into the wood.

    Regards, Rod.

  6. #6
    Once dry and in a climate controlled environment there should be no problem with either pine or poplar. Keep in mind that many different softwoods are called "pine" today. Just a few are spruce, fir, Southern Yellow Pine, white pine, yellow pine and many more. Sometimes you just don't know what you are buying.

    When I need stable wood, I look for the wood that appears to be the most dry. Warpage problems occur mainly during drying.

    I also look for quarter or rift sawn. I doubt with 1"x2" you need to worry about that.

    Sometimes I use Western Red Cedar (same stuff as fencing) because it is lightweight and seems very stable. Plus its cheap. you might have to cut it to size though.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
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    Tallahassee, FL
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    27
    I'd be wary of 1x2's. In my experience they tend to be about the worst in the world to twist and bow. I'd buy wider and rip if stability is of concern. As I understand the mills will take the best wood for the widest boards and get worse as they get smaller.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Summit, NJ
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    Both are stable but I would HIGHLY sugest the popular.

    Usally much better quality than #2 pine especally for face frames and small pieces.

    It will hold up much better it is a harder wood. Pine is just to soft.

    Usally strigher to start with.
    -=Jason=-

  9. #9
    Thanks, everybody! I will go with the poplar and use poly as the finish.

  10. I used regular #2 pine I bought at Lowes for the face frames of our kitchen cabinets. I bought 1x6 or 1x8 boards, and ripped them into 2" wide strips. Then I used my power miter saw to cut out any knots or other blemishes in the strips. The result was mostly clear lumber that worked well for the face frames.

    I assembled the face frames using two pocket screws at each joint.

    After sanding, I applied a coat of Minwax wood preconditioner, then a coat of Minwax "Windsor Oak" gel stain, and three coats of satin polyurethane (sanding lightly with 400grit between coats). They turned out great, with no blotchy spots, and the pine looks great in our kitchen.

    I wanted a slightly more formal look in my home office, so I used poplar for the face frames (again, standard Lowes/Home Depot lumber). Same wood preconditioner, a traditional varethane stain, and three coats of gloss poly.

    Both woods worked and finished fine. I noticed some minor warpage in the cabinet doors with both woods, but that's likely due to moisture, clamping issues, or my own poor craftsmanship... No issues at all with the face frames that are glued to the birch plywood cabinet carcasses.

    Anthony

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Omaha, Nebraska
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    191
    "once dry".......................



    That's the optimal phrase here. Experience and a nice expensive moisture meter tells me that BORG bought lumber is rarely dry enough for fine woodworking.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
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    SE PA - Central Bucks County
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    Two things...poplar and pine will color just fine if you use the right technique and products. "Stains" are a no-no without a preconditioner, but dyes work just fine without "blotching". Both will also paint well, but require the proper primer for best results. Pine is harder to paint in that your primer must also be able to seal in the pitch, especially if the pine isn't clear. I generally use a water soluble dye on poplar, seal the dye with dewaxed shellac and then top coat as appropriate. With coloration, you can make poplar mimic a variety of close grained woods including cherry with very nice results.

    And "poly" isn't nirvana. It provides no more "protection" to the wood, both for wear (outside of a little more abrasion resistance since it was designed for floors) than other forms of varnish and less moisture (not water) resistance than shellac. Polyurethane is pretty much over marketed. Of course, that means it's easily available...often the only thing on the shelf. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with using it. It just unfair of the industry and consequently the public to equate poly with amazing properties it just doesn't have...

    As to the choice of wood, I'd go with poplar for this project because it's going to stand up a little better in a public environment than the softer pine will. Poplar (tulip poplar) is a relative soft hardwood, but still quite durable. I build a good percentage of my furniture with it and like it's workability.
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 09-12-2008 at 10:01 PM.
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  13. #13
    I noticed a lot of talk about home depot poplar. Although it is FAS, it is extremely overpriced when compared to the local lumber dealers. The last time I looked, HD was getting almost $5bf.

  14. #14
    I was getting poplar in michigan for under a buck a bdft

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    Northwestern Connecticut
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    Forget the stability issue, either poplar or pine is stable enough if the moisture is correct, which is a crap shoot when purchased from the big box stores. The bigger issues in my mind are durability and cost. You can use a lot of #2 pine for short pieces, cutting around the knots to yield clear material, and buy clear grade or finger joint if its for paint grade. In any event I don't see pine being durable enough to with stand the inevitable abuse doled out by school children over years, poplar is much more impact resistant.

    The other issue is cost. The 1X material I have seen and been forced to use by a client once in the past from the orange borg was poorly surfaced and all required machine sanding to yield one smooth face. It varied in thickness by as much as 1/16" in the same lot (yes 3/4" actual measured from 11/16"-13/16"...very inconvienent for face frames). And the cost of said processed material was 3X what I pay for skim planed 4/4 (15/16" actual) from my lumber supplier.

    At the prices the big boxes charge for marginal material, you could buy soft maple from a real lumber yard, which IMHO and experience will out perform both poplar and pine for your project, and still be ahead on cost. This assumes you have the machines and time to process it. You might still break even ordering material planned and cut into 1X material by the yard selling it. I encourage you to look for a good hardwood supplier, the big boxes are the bottom of the barrel.

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