Uses for Yellow Poplar

Yellow Poplar makes excellent paint-grade cabinetry and trim, and can even be stained to resemble Cherry. April 27, 2007

Started building a new home in northern VA. The home site is 12 acres loaded with white oak and yellow (tulip) poplar. I will definitely be claiming the white oak for lumber when the lot is partially cleared for the home. I also have the opportunity to mill several large yellow poplars as well. I have never worked with poplar before. I do hear that the lumber is excellent for paint application. Curious to see if milling the poplars would be worth the time and money.

Forum Responses
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
YP is great for almost all uses.

From contributor J:
When I was in business building and installing custom cabinets and built-ins in Northern Virginia, I would use tulip poplar whenever the client would paint it. It was stable, fairly knot free, and competitive with pine at the time and good to work with. But with the green mineral coloration, it should always be painted. I also used it extensively for drawer sides. But I've moved out of the area where it grows and it isn't the bargain wood around here.

From contributor W:
If you can't find a use for the poplar, I'll take them off your hands... Seriously, here in central KY, yellow poplar is used frequently for external construction such as fence boards and barn siding. I know of one cabinetmaker who likes it for functional components that will not show when a piece is completed. And it is lighter and easier to saw than oak.

From contributor T:
It makes great molding, casing, base, crown, etc. It can be stained or painted. When staining, it needs to have a stain prep sealer applied first.

From contributor S:
I have seen yellow poplar used to look like cherry. It would take an experienced woodworker to know the difference. I know of one very large millwork company that has cherry stained poplar in one of their main offices and it looks immaculate.

From contributor O:
Maybe 99% of the "cherry" crown and moulding that I install is poplar. I would like to see how the finishers at the cabinet shops do such a great job of it. I have heard that it is a colored varnish or poly coat and done in one shot, but I haven't actually seen it done.

I've also got to agree that it is maybe the best there is for paint grade trim. Better than anything finger jointed, because the finger joints can tend to show through if not painted good, or even split open on cheaper stuff. And better than MDF that puckers when shot and expands when wet.

My only complaint about it is trying to put my own stain on it, and that is just because I am not a finisher and don't know the tricks of the trade. I have also heard that a first coat of a yellow dye is a trick, but it is all hearsay to me. Some guys complain that it does not clear the saw blade well when they saw it, but that could mean that they are using the wrong blade or feed rate.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all of the responses. I would be very interested in how one makes poplar look like cherry after stain. Looks like I will be milling some poplar in the next few months.

From contributor A:
I used to buy poplar trim from a shop. They used oxalic acid to turn the green yellow.