Finish for Poplar Music Box

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by leonmcd posted 12-17-2007 03:54 PM 4113 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View leonmcd's profile


204 posts in 4209 days

12-17-2007 03:54 PM

Topic tags/keywords: poplar stain finish mahogany finishing question

I’m trying to finish a poplar music box with Minwax red mahogany stain. Not happy with what I’m getting. Without a sealer it is uneven. With either wood conditioner or shellac I can’t seem to get it as dark as I want. I checked out some of the earlier post that mentioned using glaze. I’ve never done this. Is this the way to go to get a dark even red manhogany stain on poplar. If so, what is the process?

-- Leon -- Houston, TX - " I create all my own designs and it looks like it "

9 replies so far

View Dadoo's profile


1789 posts in 4228 days

#1 posted 12-17-2007 05:29 PM

Poplar is a hardwood used mostly for framework in couches and chairs. You’ll also see it used for furniture that is painted…because poplar runs green and doesn’t take stain well. That’s why it’s used as framework. There are sealers and other stuff you can try (and I’m sure someone will suggest it later) but paint is probably the best choice. My neighbor rebuilt her kitchen cabinets and was going to go with maple, painted white. I told her that if she’s gonna paint, to use poplar instead. She turned out some beautiful cabinets and painted them a brick red instead, and saved boo-koo dollars in the difference between the cost of maple vs. poplar. Saved enough to buy a Viking range instead of Kenmore!

-- Bob Vila would be so proud of you!

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 4176 days

#2 posted 12-17-2007 09:53 PM

I’ve been told quite a few times that you cannot stain poplar successfully. Maybe my standards are just low, but I had a poplar board with nothing to do, so I thought I’d try a small box (12w x 7d x 5h) and stained with with Minwax Red Mahogany then a few coats of wipe-on poly and I’m pretty pleased with how the experiment turned out. Do you pictures of what you’re getting?

-- Working at Woodworking

View leonmcd's profile


204 posts in 4209 days

#3 posted 12-17-2007 10:18 PM

Russel, thanks for the photo. I’m getting about the same color you did but yours looks a lot better with the poly ( I haven’t top coated mine yet ) . I was hoping for just one shade ( the darkest ) but yours looks very nice so I might just try to duplicate your effort.

I’m still interested if someone knows how to get a consistent dark shade red mahogany on poplar.

-- Leon -- Houston, TX - " I create all my own designs and it looks like it "

View MsDebbieP's profile


18618 posts in 4398 days

#4 posted 12-17-2007 11:16 PM

I found a piece of poplar at the Rona store and my first thought was “hmm this looks a little like my willow wood”. I made the stars out of it (the poplar). I love the colour of the wood. Poplar is probably a lot easier to find than willow (except for in my wood pile).. I’m pretty excited!

(and I have nothing to contribute to help you with your question).. just wanted to say how much I love the natural colour.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Monkeyboy1's profile


36 posts in 3470 days

#5 posted 07-23-2009 07:48 AM

I’m in the process of building a large DVD cabinet for the wife and she wants a dark color on the thing so I’m about half way done and decide to get some ideas about the finish and have read nothing but horror stories
has anyone had a good experince with poplar. First project that have used poplar…............HELP!!!!

-- MonkeyBoy1 Lex Ky

View doyoulikegumwood's profile


384 posts in 4230 days

#6 posted 07-23-2009 08:58 AM

monkey boy you probably should have started your own thread on this but here’s my approach to staining poplar first thing first pick a color your aiming for you need to no that poplar doesn’t take stain well so you have to build up to the color your looking for. but once you pick a color you like in a stain get the gel version of it. and get a die in a similar shade. so here’s how it goes. once your ready for finish you will apply the die let that dry and sand the surface with like220. now seal it with shellac let that dry and lightly sand that now apply your gel stain let that dry you may have to do this in a few coats tell your happy with the color. now use your choice of top coat. this has been the best way i have found to get a good result staining poplar

-- I buy tools so i can make more money,so ican buy more tools so I can work more, to make more money, so I can buy more tool, so I can work more

View Monkeyboy1's profile


36 posts in 3470 days

#7 posted 07-23-2009 10:34 PM

Sounds like a good plan will try that thanks for the help ,when I get finished with it I will post some pics

-- MonkeyBoy1 Lex Ky

View CanadaJeff's profile


207 posts in 3847 days

#8 posted 07-24-2009 03:34 AM

I have no idea why people seem to automatically consider poplar only suitable to use if your going to paint it. It has to be one of the nicest looking wood out there. I have had pretty good luck with staining poplar and have used Minwax Red Mahogany on it too!

I found three tricks work well for me

1) Choose your wood carefully if your aiming for an even stain across. Try and get boards that are pretty uniform in colour,
2) Sand it down more fine than you normally would. In my experience sanding to 120 causes more blotches than if I take it to 220 or even a little further.
3) Don’t leave the stain on very long. I wipe the stain on and off almost simultaneously.

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3982 days

#9 posted 07-24-2009 04:29 AM

I’ve seen some poplar stained to look like cherry and was a very good copy. Don’t know how it was done.
When I lived in New England, the old Mainers used to say the only thing poplar was good for is a casket. I guess because the bugs aren’t to keen on eating it. I only use it for drawer sides and other out of sight/or painted parts.

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics