Poplar vs. oak for face frames

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Forum topic by tooold posted 11-23-2010 05:08 PM 3231 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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56 posts in 3686 days

11-23-2010 05:08 PM

Hi -

I’m starting work on a large kitchen and bathroom project. My first one is here – the help I got from you guys was invaluable, so thanks again.

One question I have after building and using this kitchen concerns the choice of wood for the face frames. (I live in southwest France, so the variety of wood and tools we take for granted in the US – not to mention my ability to describe what I need – is much more limited.) I used poplar in this first kitchen, which was easy to work with and lightweight. I’ve noticed, though, that it’s very sensitive to dents on the surfaces around doors and drawers and abrasions on the edges of door openings.

I’ve also had problems with the screws for the Blum hingeplates coming loose. This is caused both by the softness of the poplar and by the face frames not being consistently, 100% square, stressing the hinge assemblies – lesson learned! I think I’ve solved the problem in the first kitchen by epoxying the plates in place, as well as using epoxy in the screw holes, but that makes me a little nervous in case something ever goes really wrong – the face frame will be destroyed.

All this has led me to think that using oak for the face frames (as Jim Tolpin does in his traditional kitchen cabinets book, which I used as my main guide) would be a good alternative for the second kitchen. These cabinets will be painted like the first kitchen, so I’m not concerned with the beauty of the wood, just something more solid which would make the finished work more trouble-free as time goes on.

I’d be curious to hear opinions as to whether this would be overkill, and any alternatives Lumberjocks might suggest. Obviously, oak is tougher on my planer/thicknesser and table saw, and tools in general. Any drawbacks beyond that?

Thanks again for all your help. Once I know what I’m doing, I’ll try to contribute!

4 replies so far

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10479 posts in 3428 days

#1 posted 11-23-2010 05:28 PM

If saw blades are carbide tipped and your planer blades are sharp, Oak will not pose a problem.
One thing you should consider is that rift or plain sawn oak will present an open grain which will telegraph through paint. Some like the look, though. I’d want to fill the grain before painting. Just my opinion.

Re: Poplar…I agree that it is dent prone and not the best wood for heavily used kitchen cabinets.
Do you have access to any local hardwoods?

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View tooold's profile


56 posts in 3686 days

#2 posted 11-23-2010 06:16 PM

Thanks, Gene! Should be OK on the blades. And oak is the local hardwood. Maple here is different from the US, it’s much softer, although I might get some to see if it falls between oak and poplar.

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2983 days

#3 posted 11-23-2010 06:48 PM

I agree with Gene on using the oak for face frames. Filling the grain prior to milling to prevent grain telegraphing would be what I would do to make the task quicker and easier for paint.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3068 days

#4 posted 11-23-2010 07:04 PM

Can you get maple in an economy grade? I’ve always used poplar for painted cabinets, but on my last job, economy grade maple was within a few dollars of the poplar. It paints well, and is much harder.

Oak would be my last choice for a painted project – unless I wanted to see the grain pattern.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

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