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Species for table legs and apron

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Forum topic by oliussw posted 08-23-2015 03:47 PM 712 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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oliussw

6 posts in 603 days


08-23-2015 03:47 PM

I am a newer woodworker and lurker on this site for several months. I am currently working on a live edge dining table for my family. I have the table top glued up and at the sanding stage. It is made of wormy butternut and has a lot of character. The design my wife picked out calls for a apron and legs painted white. She thinks it will go well with our wainscoting and I defer to her on all matters of style. I had planned to use poplar for the legs and apron but recently read several threads where people talked about the poplar not being durable enough for such a task. We do still have small children in the home and I’m sure the table will see its fair share of abuse over the years.

Do you think I would be better served to go with a harder hardwood or will poplar do what I need it to?


8 replies so far

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bearkatwood

1214 posts in 479 days


#1 posted 08-23-2015 04:00 PM

Maple would be my first choice.

-- Brian Noel

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bondogaposis

4037 posts in 1818 days


#2 posted 08-23-2015 04:13 PM

Soft maple would a good choice as well, but more expensive. I think that poplar would be fine also. It is plenty strong, it is a bit soft so, subject to getting dings. Using proper joinery and allowing for wood movement in the top you should be able to construct a table that will last more than one lifetime.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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pmayer

864 posts in 2532 days


#3 posted 08-23-2015 04:36 PM

Poplar will work fine for the legs an apron. It is somewhat soft, but it is harder than butternut. I would be MUCH more concerned about using butternut for the top. Butternut is beautiful, but from a durability perspective you would be better off using nearly anything else.

-- PaulMayer, http://www.vernswoodgoods.com

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

5765 posts in 953 days


#4 posted 08-23-2015 04:51 PM

I wouldn’t use poplar. Way too soft.

Maple would be my next choice.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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pmayer

864 posts in 2532 days


#5 posted 08-23-2015 08:59 PM

Perhaps you should clarify what you mean by “not being durable enough for such a task” and “will poplar do what I need it to?”

If your question is “will poplar hold up structurally as a table base, providing sufficient strength without failing under the typical load placed on it for this application”, then the answer is absolutely yes. Poplar is used all the time in paint grade furniture applications and will provide plenty of strength for this project assuming that you use it in appropriate dimensions.

If your question is “will poplar still look perfect if a kid drives a toy car into it or hits it with a golf club?”. Then the answer is ‘no’. Poplar has a janka rating of 540 which makes it one of the softest commercially available hardwoods. You can press your fingernail into it fairly easily, so it is definitely prone to dings. That said, it is used commonly for paint grade furniture and as a secondary wood because it machines and sands nicely and it takes paint extremely well.

Butternut, on the other hand, has a janka rating of only 490, which puts it in the same hardness class as white fir. That’s where you wear and tear will really show. A painted base is easy to repair, but a live edge butternut top is much trickier. If I were building a dining table with a butternut top I would consider distressing it so that the inevitable new dings look like part of the design.

-- PaulMayer, http://www.vernswoodgoods.com

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bruc101

1077 posts in 3009 days


#6 posted 08-23-2015 10:12 PM

I’ve turned 100’s of table and island legs and made table frames using popular and never had any problems. The image is a farm house island I finished and was picked up last Thursday.

The only thing not popular was the Cherry top and drawer fronts. The drawers are dovetailed oak. I left the tool marks in the table at the owners request.

I start a farm house table tomorrow and will use a different leg, 4 1/2” popular, and popular frame also.

-- Bruce Free Plans http://plans.sawmillvalley.org

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WDHLT15

1572 posts in 1943 days


#7 posted 08-24-2015 12:37 AM

Yellow poplar will make a fine base for your table.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln. hamsleyhardwood.com

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oliussw

6 posts in 603 days


#8 posted 08-24-2015 02:38 AM

Thank you for all the replies. The butternut top is wormy and has sever knot holes that will all be epoxy filled. It has a lot of natural “distressing”. My wife likes that look, which is how I ended up with hand scraped wood floors. We don’t get lot of butternut here on Oklahoma but the pieces I’ve worked with feel slightly harder than poplar. I know there’s some variance within the species but I can’t make a fingernail mark on the butternut where it’s no problem with poplar.

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