Building a changing table to be painted. Poplar or is pine ok?

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Forum topic by Zahnarzt posted 06-20-2012 11:32 PM 9255 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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29 posts in 2593 days

06-20-2012 11:32 PM

Topic tags/keywords: poplar pine paint price espresso cabinet

We are expecting our first baby this fall and I am planning on building a changing table with open shelves and one long drawer. Basically a modified dry sink. At the wife’s request all the furniture will be “espresso” so I plan to paint. I was planning on using poplar but could I save some money just using premium pine from the big box stores instead? What are the advantages of using poplar vs pine if we won’t really see it? Thanks in advance for all the help.

-- That hoopy frood really knows where his towel is.

23 replies so far

View bent's profile


311 posts in 3906 days

#1 posted 06-21-2012 12:17 AM

first off, congratulations.

if you’re painting it, i don’t think poplar vs. pine is a big issue. either wood will be strong enough. just be sure you put a back on it, so that it doesn’t rack. as a far as differences, the pine will dent easier, but will smell better when you’re cutting it. also, i don’t think premium pine from a big box store will be any cheaper than poplar. from what i’ve seen, they tend to charge about 2-3x the normal rate for lumber.

View Zahnarzt's profile


29 posts in 2593 days

#2 posted 06-21-2012 12:45 AM

Thanks, bent. I appreciate the input and the good tidings I was planning on using 1/4” ply for the back in addition to 3 rails on the front and back to connect the side frames. I’m not much of an engineer but do you think this will be enough to prevent the racking?

-- That hoopy frood really knows where his towel is.

View Knothead62's profile


2600 posts in 3198 days

#3 posted 06-21-2012 12:50 AM

We had an unfinished pine dresser that we used for a changing table. We used a waterprooof polyurethane for it. Never know when babies are going to surprise you!

View bent's profile


311 posts in 3906 days

#4 posted 06-21-2012 01:00 AM

yeah, 1/4” ply will be plenty strong. the purpose of the back is to stiffen the piece, and not really to provide structural strength.

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6866 posts in 4216 days

#5 posted 06-21-2012 01:04 AM

Congrats on the new baby.

Personaly, I like to use poplar instead of pine. The reason is the pine is more likely to get dented, and also, knots and sap is far more likely to interfere with the finish.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Zahnarzt's profile


29 posts in 2593 days

#6 posted 06-21-2012 01:45 AM

It is a baby girl so hopefully long distance watering won’t be an issue but waterproof sounds like just what the doctor ordered in terms of finish. This table will hopefully last for one more baby and 2-3 house moves so it sounds like poplar might be a better choice to prevent denting. I’ll get pics up ASAP as I plan to start cutting this weekend.

-- That hoopy frood really knows where his towel is.

View Mike's profile


60 posts in 2446 days

#7 posted 06-21-2012 01:54 AM

I second what Lee said about knots and sap. I like working with pine, but I never paint over it…that sap just bleeds right through no matter what I’ve used as a primer.I even sanded down a big sappy knot, coated it with Kilz, re-primed it, painted it again and it still bled up through the latex paint. Soft maple isn’t too much more expensive than pine around my area, more dent resistant than pine without the bleed through issues. With that said, I bought an unfinished pine dresser for my son, gave it a light stain and a few coats of poly and it still looks great. Does it have to be painted? Congrats on your future daughter…you’re in for the best time of your life!

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 2425 days

#8 posted 06-21-2012 02:19 AM

Shellac is supposed to be the thing to use to seal knots so that you can paint over them. GOOGLE “seal knots with shellac” and you’ll get some hits . . .

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3367 posts in 3346 days

#9 posted 06-21-2012 02:38 AM

First of all, congratulations! Use poplar, it is WAY easier to get smooth and paint than pine. If you are painting, I’d recommend a product like Zinnser’s sealers. They will even seal the knots on pine boards…though I like the look of knotty pine and use nitrocellulose lacquer on them, myself. Plus, it yellows nicely over the years.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View BentheViking's profile


1782 posts in 2801 days

#10 posted 06-21-2012 03:29 AM

skip the big box store and go to a lumber yard or mill or even craigslist…get something better for less usually

-- It's made of wood. Real sturdy.--Chubbs Peterson

View lumberjoe's profile


2899 posts in 2485 days

#11 posted 06-21-2012 12:14 PM

I made some radiator covers. 2 from pine, 2 from poplar. Both primed with Zinnsers (Bulls eye) 123 and then painted some silly named color my wife picked out to match the trim – to me it’s “off white”. After about a year, the pine looks like crap. A lot of the knots are visible – not so much the color, but the outline. The poplar looks great still. Also poplar was so much easier to work with.


View dhazelton's profile


2805 posts in 2533 days

#12 posted 06-21-2012 01:11 PM

I’d go through the #2 pine and find the cleanest stuff you can. You can cut knots out depending on your cutlist (there will be stuff on the shelves and a cushion and blankets on the top, so you may never even see any knots). Take the money you save on lumber and buy diapers or put it in a college fund. If money is no object and you want an heirloom piece, then go poplar. You could substitute MDF for the shelf panels if you want to even out the cost.

View ChuckC's profile


843 posts in 3172 days

#13 posted 06-21-2012 01:24 PM

Definitely poplar. I stay away from pine almost always but when I use it I only use a clear finish.

I’m also not sure how much you will save if you get premium pine compared to the cost of Poplar? No 2 pine is VERY cheap but it would be a nightmare to get a decent paint finish.

Changing tables are usually considered disposable so maybe go with MDF and use poplar for face frames to hide the edges?

Oh yea, congratulations!

View Bluepine38's profile


3380 posts in 3322 days

#14 posted 06-21-2012 02:23 PM

Plywood with an edge facing is another easy way to go. My 3rd giggling daughter surprised me with a minor
deluge that went through the cloth diaper and required a mop. Boys may spray farther, but with babies, the
unexpected always seems to happen. Congratulations on your upcoming addition, and may you have many
happy years.

-- As ever, Gus-the 80 yr young apprentice carpenter

View dhazelton's profile


2805 posts in 2533 days

#15 posted 06-21-2012 02:59 PM

That’s why I would only suggest MDF for the lower shelves. Even painted, if it gets wet it’ll swell up like a balloon.

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