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Staining Poplar?

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  • Staining Poplar?

    I have always been under the impression staining poplar won't work well, that you need to paint. Seems to me I read not long ago of people staining it with good results, but I can't recall where. I'm thinking of making a large bookcase and was trying to decide between poplar and birch plywood. I would like to use poplar but not if I have to paint it. The downside of plywood as I see it is having to cover the edge of the plywood. Not sure of the direction to head. Opinions
    Never outsmart your common sense

  • #2
    Re: Staining Poplar?

    A recent issue of Woodsmith Magazine demonstrated a project made entirely of Poplar, they used a Gel Stain to make it look more like Walnut.

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    • #3
      Re: Staining Poplar?

      Originally posted by Craig Moore View Post
      I have always been under the impression staining poplar won't work well, that you need to paint. Seems to me I read not long ago of people staining it with good results, but I can't recall where. I'm thinking of making a large bookcase and was trying to decide between poplar and birch plywood. I would like to use poplar but not if I have to paint it. The downside of plywood as I see it is having to cover the edge of the plywood. Not sure of the direction to head. Opinions
      If it is a large bookcase, you will have to edge joint the poplar and make panels. It would be much easier to use the ply and make a face frame of poplar. The face frame will hide all the edges. If the bookcase is large, adding a front edge piece to the shelves will strengthen them for any wide runs, which will be necessary for either 3/4 poplar or ply. Or, you can edge joint poplar shelves for shorter runs. If you use ply, you can always go with another wood for the face frame or shelf edging that will be easier to stain. Another option would be to use birch veneer on the edge: Not difficult.

      Poplar, like pine, is hard to stain without blotching. Gel stains work better than straight oil stains on raw wood. Sealing the wood with a mixture of 2 parts MS to 1 part varnish (or poly) or a commercial sealer will work best, but, despite the directions on the can, let it dry overnight. If you do this, also seal the birch ply, because the sealer will cause you to end up with a lighter color than raw wood. (another option to not sealing the birch is to finish sand it with a finer grit of sandpaper: I.e. if you use 180 on the poplar, seal it and scuff with 220, use 320 on the ply, but test a couple scrap pieces first, may take a couple tries to get the ratio right).

      Using ply, you also do not have to consider wood movement due to humidity changes, although this may not be a major issue in a book case if you align the grain correctly.

      For economy, ease of construction, price, and ease of finishing, I would go with birch ply. (This is with me posting in NC, where the birch ply at Lowe's has dropped from $45 per sheet to $35 and is of better quality than past $45/sheet )

      Go
      Last edited by Gofor; 01-29-2010, 06:45 PM.
      Practicing at practical wood working

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      • #4
        Re: Staining Poplar?

        Thanks for the good feedback. Sounds like the ply is the best bet.

        Craig
        Never outsmart your common sense

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        • #5
          Re: Staining Poplar?

          Gofor,

          If you see this I was going to ask you if I use 3/4 ply are you saying I could use for example red oak as a face frame and edge banding to cover the edges of the ply AND this will also stiffen the shelves to prevent sagging? The birch veneer would only cover the edge of the ply but would not add any strength to prevent the shelves from sagging, right?

          I have not yet figured out how to insert a quote like you did, sorry.

          Thanks,
          Craig
          Never outsmart your common sense

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          • #6
            Re: Staining Poplar?

            Of course staining is Poplar.

            People been doing it for years.

            J.C.

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            • #7
              Re: Staining Poplar?

              Originally posted by Craig Moore View Post
              Gofor,

              If you see this I was going to ask you if I use 3/4 ply are you saying I could use for example red oak as a face frame and edge banding to cover the edges of the ply AND this will also stiffen the shelves to prevent sagging? The birch veneer would only cover the edge of the ply but would not add any strength to prevent the shelves from sagging, right?

              I have not yet figured out how to insert a quote like you did, sorry.

              Thanks,
              Craig
              You are correct. The veneer adds no strength, but may be a player if you are just making a basic bookcase (not wanting a face frame) and the shelves are not too long. If the shelves are not more than 24" long, and are only wide enough for 1 row of books, the shelves probably do not need stiffening on the edge. In that case, you could use veneer.

              If you are running the shelves 32" or more, or if the shelves are deep enough for a double row of books, you want to stiffen the front edge (and also add some support for the back edge) to prevent sagging. To stiffen a 3/4 thick shelf, I will usually make the stiffener of 3/4 x 1 1/2" wide stock. I will rabbet half way through the thickness (3/8 deep x 3/4 wide rabbet) and glue this to the edge of the shelf, with the shelf flush with the stiffener on the top edge, and the remainder of the stiffener hanging below the shelf, covering the edge and also doubling the shelf strength.

              To stiffen the back edge you have several options. One is to duplicate what you did on the front. If the shelves are adjustable, and the back is at least 1/2" thick, you can run another row(s) of pin holes up the back and insert another pin. If the shelves are dadoed into the sides, you can run a screw into the shelf through the back (even 1/4" back board will help support it as long as it is not pressboard) or glue a cleat to the back. You could also just glue a 3/4" thick cleat to the lower back edge of the shelf if it is not visible from the front. (I would not do this if the highest shelf is over 4' off the ground unless the cleat is solid wood.)

              If I am just confusing you (giving to much info, which is my fault) please say so.

              HTH

              Go

              PS To insert a quote, just hit the "Quote" button at the bottom of the post you want to quote. This will automatically put the quote in a new reply box. Then type in your message. If you only want to use a part of it, just delete the part you do not want. Leave the [Quote] statement including the brackets, included at the beginning and end of the original quote and it will show like you want.
              Last edited by Gofor; 01-31-2010, 06:57 PM.
              Practicing at practical wood working

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