Poplar for a Dining Table?

      Even for a paint-grade piece, Poplar is not a great choice because of its softness. Maple makes more sense. December 6, 2011

I'm meeting with a client this evening who wants a dining table (for 6) painted to match chairs they already have. It sounds pretty straightforward, no leaves. I have done very little paint grade furniture. My thoughts are to use 8/4 poplar for the legs and 6/4 to build the apron and edging for the top. It seems that 3/4" Baltic birch for the top would be a good choice. Since a typical size is 3' x 6', my plan would be to join two pieces of ply with a tongue and groove joint in the center of the table, made into a piece of the poplar. I'm thinking of a divider in the length of it. Any thoughts or criticism?

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor J:
Poplar isn't the best choice for the top. It will dent too easily. Baltic birch isn't a great idea for the top either as it will require way too much sanding to make it smooth (at least the stuff from my suppliers would). I would use soft maple as it's pretty cheap and holds up much better than poplar. If you want to save a few bucks, use the poplar for the legs and aprons and use a cheap maple for the top.

From contributor O:
Speaking of poplar for legs and aprons... It splits way too easily, especially if over dry (don't ask me how I know). I will never use it for anything again. Soft maple or yellow pine is much stronger for not much more money.

From contributor N:
I like to use hard maple for paint grade, especially on something like a table with the abuse it can take. I get brown maple - the stuff left after they sort out the sap white. It paints great and it's cheap. If you're sold on the Baltic for the top, it comes in 4x8's or 5x10's, so make it in one piece.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I've only used poplar for a secondary wood and what you have all said makes good sense. I'll bid the job using maple ply and hard maple for the legs/apron as well. In this economy any job is a good one. Now if they'll only call back!

From contributor A:
Soft maple or yellow pine is much stronger for not much more money.

From contributor S:
Hard maple all the way. Way stronger and less grain to fill for paint. I don't understand how the pennies that would be saved for soft maple would be considered here. Anytime I tell a customer they're going to get hard maple for paint grade, they are happy as a clam.

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