Choosing a hardwood for painted bookcases

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Forum topic by Markn1975 posted 08-13-2014 09:20 PM 1296 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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16 posts in 1436 days

08-13-2014 09:20 PM

Topic tags/keywords: hardwood wood wood species wood type choosing hardwood ash cedar cherry maple pine alder oak poplar

Hi all,

I’m making a large bookcase for a client and I could use a recommendation for wood species.

Size: 123” tall x 32” wide x 16” deep.

It’ll be heavy so wood strength has to be considered.

It’ll be painted so doesn’t need to be a figured grain.

I do think a close grain pattern might help me to get a better finish.

I want to keep cost down too.

I’m in the valley, north west of LA.

Any takers?

-- Mark Newton. Los Angeles.

13 replies so far

View Gentile's profile


302 posts in 1784 days

#1 posted 08-13-2014 09:21 PM

Poplar is popular.

-- "I cut it twice and it's still too short"

View TheFridge's profile


9249 posts in 1452 days

#2 posted 08-13-2014 09:24 PM

Hardwood ply. Edge banded.

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

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2327 days

#3 posted 08-13-2014 09:27 PM

Yes, edge banded ply.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View jdh122's profile


995 posts in 2783 days

#4 posted 08-13-2014 10:17 PM

I don’t have any species recommendations, but a great resource for figuring out wood strength for shelving is the Sagulator:

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View Markn1975's profile


16 posts in 1436 days

#5 posted 08-13-2014 10:45 PM

problem is guys that it’ll be made as an open truss bookcase (painted x braced). ie web members of 2×2 and 3/4” ply for the shelves so I need a solid wood. I’m thinking poplar or soft maple but I’m open to other suggestions.

-- Mark Newton. Los Angeles.

View Sawdust4Blood's profile


403 posts in 2987 days

#6 posted 08-14-2014 12:04 AM

+1 for poplar if you can’t use ply. It is plenty strong and will paint up fine. No need paying extra for anything else.

-- Greg, Severn MD

View WDHLT15's profile


1732 posts in 2442 days

#7 posted 08-14-2014 12:35 AM

Red maple is also a very good choice.

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

View OldWrangler's profile


731 posts in 1560 days

#8 posted 08-14-2014 02:50 AM

I find the Beetle Kill Pine from Monte to have really good strength and it is great to work with, inexpensive and paints well. Also HD sells Yellow Pine that while a softwood, it very strong and cheap. And Poplar is great for only a little more money.

-- I am going to go stand outside so if anyone asks about me, tell them I'M OUTSTANDING!

View Yonak's profile


986 posts in 1487 days

#9 posted 08-14-2014 12:50 PM

Since it’s going to be painted, you could use whatever wood is the cheapest. In my area, red oak is cheapest and strong to boot.

View Earlextech's profile


1160 posts in 2656 days

#10 posted 08-14-2014 12:54 PM

I like poplar or birch ply, or a combination.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View bannerpond1's profile


397 posts in 1864 days

#11 posted 08-15-2014 02:17 AM

If it’s going to be painted, I’d use poplar. But…........I would put stiffeners on the bottom back of the shelf to keep the weight of the books from bowing the shelves. Or maybe you could incorporate into the design putting the stiffeners on the front edge of the shelves. Whichever, better figure out how to keep the sag out.

-- --Dale Page

View handsawgeek's profile


645 posts in 1361 days

#12 posted 08-15-2014 04:18 PM

I’ll cast my vote for poplar. It takes paint very nicely.

-- Ed

View Joel J's profile

Joel J

45 posts in 1905 days

#13 posted 08-15-2014 06:34 PM

Not understanding the design entirely, for the shelves, I would use MDF (3/4” or thicker) and edge band in poplar (3/4” x 3/4”), sand and fill then prime with a sandable oil based primer. You can fill with something as simple as spackling. I then spray an oil based paint (or one of the new hybrids) in semi gloss. When finished, you can’t see any seams or joints. You might need to add a stiffener to the bottom side… I would typically dado and glue in the stiffener into the bottom using 1/2”-3/4” x 1” running the full length of the shelf. I place this halfway back from the front edge. Then the stiffener is essentially hidden.

-- Joel, Denver, CO

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