Poplar is a fine-grained, highly-versatile specie with excellent working properties, and is easily stained to resemble other hardwoods. Poplar is one of the most common utility hardwoods in the United States. Though the wood is commonly referred to simply as “Poplar,” it is technically not in the Populus genus itself, (the genus also includes many species of Cottonwood and Aspen), but is instead in the Liriodendron genus, which is Latin for “lily tree.” The flowers of this tree look similar to tulips, hence the common alternate name: Tulip Poplar.
Other Common Names: Tulip Poplar, Yellow Poplar, Liriodendron tulipifera
Sourcing Region: Eastern United States
Color, Pattern, Texture: Heartwood is light cream to yellowish brown, with occasional streaks of gray or green. Sapwood is pale yellow to white, not always clearly demarcated from the heartwood. Can also be seen in mineral stained colors ranging from dark purple to red, green, or yellow, sometimes referred to as Rainbow Poplar. Colors tend to darken upon exposure to light. Poplar typically has a straight, uniform grain, with a medium texture. Low natural luster.
Common Uses and Applications: Pallets, crates, upholstered furniture frames, paper (pulpwood), plywood, and a variety of applications
Working Properties: Very easy to work in almost all regards, one of Poplar’s only downsides is its softness. Due to its low density, Poplar can sometimes leave fuzzy surfaces and edges: especially during shaping or sanding. Sanding to finer grits of sandpaper may be necessary to obtain a smooth surface.
Poplar FAS, or Select and Better
The FAS grade, which derives from an original grade "First and Seconds", will provide the user with long, clear cuttings - best suited for high quality furniture, interior joinery and solid wood moldings.
Length and Width: Minimum board size is 6" and wider and 8' and longer. The FAS grade includes a range of boards that yield from 831⁄3% (10⁄12ths) to 100% clear-wood cuttings over the entire surface of the board. The clear cuttings must be a minimum size of 3" wide by 7' long or 4" wide by 5' long. The number of these cuttings permitted depends on the size of the board with most boards permitting one to two. The minimum width and length will vary, depending on species and whether the board is green or kiln dried. Both faces of the board must meet the minimum requirement for FAS.
Poplar #1 Com
The Number 1 Common grade is often referred to as the Cabinet grade in the USA because of its adaptability to the standard sizes of kitchen cabinet doors used throughout the United States. Number 1 Common is widely used in the manufacture of furniture parts as well for this same reason.
Grades: #1 Com
Length and Width: The Number 1 Common grades includes boards that are a minimum of 3" wide and 4' long and will yield clear face cuttings from 662⁄3% (8⁄12ths) up to, but not including, the minimum requirement for FAS (831⁄3%). The smallest clear cuttings allowed are 3" by 3' and 4" by 2'. The number of these clear cuttings is determined by the size of the board. Both faces of the board must meet the minimum requirement for Number 1 Common
Poplar #2 Com
The Number 2 Common grade is often referred to as the Economy grade because of its price and suitability for a wide range of furniture parts. It is also the grade of choice for the US hardwood flooring industry.
Grades: #2 Com
Length and Width: The Number 2 Common grade includes boards that are a minimum of 3" wide and 4' long that yield from 50% (6⁄12ths) up to, but not including, the minimum requirement for Number 1 Common (662⁄3%). The smallest clear cutting allowed is 3" by 2' and the number of these cuttings depends on the size of the board. If the poorest face meets the minimum requirements for Number 2 Common, it does not matter what the grade of the better face is.