How do I finish poplar

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Forum topic by RonGoldberg posted 12-15-2011 04:45 AM 9898 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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44 posts in 2356 days

12-15-2011 04:45 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Hey Guys,
I just recently gotten back into woodworking (now that my kids are older and it is not cool to hang out with dad) and have make several greate pojects out of maple, red oak and plywood. My next project is going to be a blanket chest and I want to use a cheaper wood (still releatively hard so it machines well and doesn’t dent like pine when you “look” at it). I have chosen poplar. Besides painting it, what are some other finishing alternatives. I know it blotches so my traditional method of sanding (80, 100, 150, 200 then minwax prestain + gel strain than 2-3 coats of wipe on poly with steel wool in between) probably is not the best. Can someone give me a couple of alternatives? Thanks.

Ron G

7 replies so far

View ajosephg's profile


1880 posts in 3559 days

#1 posted 12-15-2011 05:07 AM

I’ve used Transfast water soluble dye powder on poplar, and it works well. It hides the green color and doesn’t look blotchy. Here is a set of stacking shelves I made using this process.

The process was to dye, sand to cut off raised grain, touch up with more dye, 5 coats of polyurethane, sanding between coats.

(Note that only the ends and the shelf edging are poplar. The shelf is birch plywood as the back panel.)

Stacking Shelves

Stacking Shelves

-- Joe

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3576 days

#2 posted 12-15-2011 05:56 AM

This is one way

Joe’s looks great

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View BilltheDiver's profile


253 posts in 2884 days

#3 posted 12-15-2011 07:30 AM

I’ve just completed a couple of pieces made of poplar. I used minwax wood conditioner, then a cherrywood gel stain (to limit absorption) followed by spraying with shellac. After the 3rd coat of shellac I rubbed it all down with 0000 steel wool dipped in furniture paste wax. Gives it a uniform sheen and silky touch.

-- "Measure twice, cut once, count fingers"

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2353 days

#4 posted 12-15-2011 07:54 AM

Your typical minwax stain is a dye stain, that you need to stay away from. I used to love minwax products, but now I find myself going for the cabot dye stains more. I have not used many gel stains, usually if I do it’s for glazing, but I digress.

The inherant problem with poplar other than it’s blotching is that over time it’s grain tends to not show up as well, I’ve only ever really done one stain grade job with poplar, and to be honest that was about 7 years ago, what I remember that we did use on it was the regular minwax dye stain with no pre-stain, but poplar bought the way I buy it is not a wood I consider expensive wood, so I mainly only really use it for drawers.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2921 days

#5 posted 12-15-2011 02:08 PM

I use poplar quite a bit(see my projects) I also use your method of sanding,prestain,stain and poly. I also dye it and then finish with poly.
Michael1 on here uses poplar a lot in his business. Check him out,he has been a great help to me.
Charles Neal has some very good videos on dealing with poplar.

-- Life is good.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2689 days

#6 posted 12-16-2011 04:45 AM

Joe, I’ve never seen birch ply look that good!

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2353 days

#7 posted 12-16-2011 07:36 AM

If you are going to use birch plywood, what you need to know is that it will absorb stain alot more than solid wood will, sand it to a higher grade, and umm I’m not sure I can say this, but thin your stains. :X

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

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