Choosing Wood for a Project Build

Building an entertainment center from a downloaded plan. Not too complicated, but I want it to turn out 1/2 way decent. Plan calls for oak, but I'm going for a more traditional cherry feel. Something that I can stain a dark, rich color. Plan calls for cabinet grade plywood and I figured I'd substitute birch for the oak plywood and poplar for the oak trim. What I hear is that's a bad idea and that both birch and poplar don't stain very well. Any suggestions on better wood choices that won't be extreemly expensive? And would I be better off at a lumber mill vs. finding quality lumber that the neighborhood Lowes or HomeDepot?
Be gentle with your responses... I'm new at this!!!!
-R
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Birch and Poplar stain fine but might give you two different appearances. Both are on the soft side of hardwood and can give you a blotchy appearance if stained untreated. You can buy a pre-stain wood conditioner that is brushed or wiped on prior to staining and will provide an even staining start (probably get similar effect with mineral spirits). Birch certainly won't duplicate the Cherry appearance but will come closer than Poplar might. I would recommend using cherry for all of your facings, doors, drawer fronts, etc and confine the Birch to case sides, etc.

You can usually do a lot better with a mill or hardwood dealer. In fact, if you decide to go with cherry that will likely be your only choice. In our area the Borg only offers oak and poplar. Might be different with regions. Example In southcentral Kansas FAS1F red oak runs around $3. At the borg, similar might run twice that.
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I have never had any problems with birch plywood, but poplar looks like crap when stained.
Around here I would use ash or beech if I wanted to save a few cents. Can't say what is good for you; go to a lumber yard and tell them what you are trying to do.
Home Depot is fine if you happen to need S4S in the width they stock and don't have a planner or jointer. Otherwise it is horribly overpriced.
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I would have agreed with you until a couple of weeks ago. My son's company built a building in Bentonville, Arkansas and the specs had him trimming the main office and conference rooms with stained poplar. He balked but the architect told him to go ahead and do it to finish spec. My son (the superintendent) ended up trimming it himself and his painter did a gorgeous job of treating, staining and finishing the poplar. Don't know specifics but they ended up with a dark chocolate/red and very nice.
Guess I'll try it myself sometime.
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Maybe I just got lucky, but a recent project was a cabinet and drawers for my router stand, using 1/4" popular for faces and trim and I love the way it came out..
The poplar that I found, (lowes, unfortunately), had an interesting grain... almost a green tint that was pretty cool if I picked the boards that had a 50/50 green & normal grain.. Stained them a very light "suntan" with 3 coats of minwax rubbing poly and got a really nice look.. (at least the neighbors and my wife think so, but they're my cheering section *g*)
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There is always cherry, but that is more expensive than your other choices. Cherry plywood is about $100 a sheet.
Plan calls for cabinet grade plywood and I

I'm not the expert on that, but I have read that using dyes rather than stain gives better results on mis-matched woods. Perhaps you should check this out ore.
Any suggestions on better wood choices that won't be

Avoid the above two choices for most woods as they are expensive. Look for a supplier of hardwoods. Some offer services like jointing and planing at reasonable cost. There are many other woods that may give better appearance for your needs. Perhaps butternut if you want dark.
Don't cheap out and have a mess because of mis-matched woods or finishes not compatible, etc. The labor is the same for cheap wood as it is for expensive. I'd sure hate to put in 40 or 80 hours on a projects only to find it looks like crap when stained or dyed. Get a couple of scraps first to find out if it will work. If you are bent on the birch/poplar combo, buy a small pieces of each, cut it up and get to work with different finishes. A 1/4" 24 x 24 birch is going to be about $7. Far better to ruin that than your big project.
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Mon, Nov 1, 2004, 6:48pm (EST+5) snipped-for-privacy@nc.rr.com (RussellH.Martin,Jr) says: Building an entertainment center <snip>
OK. If it was my project, my money, I'd make it out of anything I wanted to, and probably wouldn't ask anybody anything.
However - there is usually a "however" somewhere - if it was me, I'd get some small pieces of whatever wood I thought I wanted to use, and experiment with the stain, dyie, paint, or whatever, first. If need be, I'd change the stain/dye/paint, procedure, or material, until I got results I either liked, or could live with.
If you experiment with it yourself, then you get to see what it looks likel, and not just go by what someone else tells you it looks like.
JOAT When you choose an action, you choose the consequences. - Unknown
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Russell, if you're new at this, please consider starting with something less complex, and less visible in the home, than an entertainment center. They have a way of becoming the center of attention, for years.
If you like the look of cherry, then you ought to use cherry. But start with something smaller, like an end table, or a bookcase, or even smaller, a small box. That way, you can afford the wood you want, and some scrap to practice the finishing.
And when you get better at this, and understand how to make the wood give you what you want, then spend the dollars on the good stuff for the big entertainment center.
That said, I did what was to be a prototype in birch ply, with paint, three years ago. My wife liked it so well, we're using it in the bedroom, and I'm working on other projects.
Patriarch
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"patriarch snipped-for-privacy@nospam.comcastDOTnet>" <<patriarch> wrote in message

Unless it comes out just plain horrible, I respectfuly disagree. About 6-7 years ago I got back in to woodworking after many years (since high school, I'm now 37) and my first project after gearing up and tinkering with little stuff was a 40" wide x 70" high book case that's been used in and around our houses since. It's certainly not "professional grade" work, but it's got character and that handmade charm that warms a home. Likewise the bunk beds that my sons still use. They're hand made from 2x material, yellow pine. All the "real" work on the beds went into engineering a good fastening system and good matress-support model. The overall design is dog simple and quite attractive for a boy's room. The beds have a nice, mission-esque look to them and I've since been asked to build some for friends and other people I've met. That handmade and home charm I count as a huge success. Other projects include various work benches, a complete basement remodeling with in-wall cabinetry, handmade railings and wall caps, wood panelled walls, etc., other cabinets and small tables, and a loading ramp for getting my motorcycle up over a raised door entry way in my old workshop.
In short, unless you're putting it on a showroom floor, that homemade charm will no doubt be a signature feature for years and years to come.
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