I was hoping someone could help me fill in some gaps on mineral stained
poplar. I've always thought of poplar as a pretty dull wood and would
only use it if I ran out of pine. Recently, I've been digging through
poplar at home improvement store and lumbar yards and discovered a
bizarre array of varieties. I've seen some that mimic curly maple, oak,
have bizarre grain patterns, and tonight I found some pinstripe grain
pattern. The one variant that has gotten my attention (and my
obsessive-compulsive desire to get enough pieces to make a chest out
of) is the mineral stained poplar that comes "rainbowed" in all sorts
of shades of lavender, purple, indigo, burgundy, black, and dark green.
I thought it was a weird fluke at first when I found it (nothing more
than an oddity to play with), but every time I hit the home improvement
stores, I find five to ten pieces of it in varying lengths and
thicknesses (mostly the Weyerhauser "hobby boards" that are precut at
1/4, 1/2, and 1 inch thicknesses).
I originally thought the coloring was caused by a fungus after an
insect infestation (we have a ton of blue-stain pine around here that's
being caused by a cyclic beetle infestation), but I've been scouring
all info I can find and it seems that it's caused by mineral stains.
However, I've still yet to track down any solid info other than that.
Some places say it's Liriodendron rather than poplar, others show
Liriodendron examples but it's not the same as what I'm looking at
(different grain pattern and consistency), so I'm having a hard time
separating what's actually fact from the crap.
Also, I'm wondering just how common it is. I always find some at Home
Depot, Lowe's, and any place that carries the Weyerhauser boards (never
any in the large lumber stacks there that I've found), but it takes up
to an hour to dig through everything. Considering how little I find
compared to how much is there, it makes me wonder if it's scarce. Also,
I can't find hardly any listed for sale online except as precut blocks
for turning bowls or fishing lures. Any clues? Thanks.
It's a puzzlement. true poplar is starting to make an appearance in some
places under its own names, and a handsome but strange wood it is. Real
soft though, and rather stringy.
As to mineral stains, they're the plaque in the arteries of the aging tree.
As the circulation slows, they get stronger. Hard maple has some dandy
pockets in it of Calcium Oxalate, the stuff of kidney stones.
Won't help you find the figure you want, but will help you figure things out
by searching and reading at http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/
online except as precut blocks for turning bowls or fishing lures. Any clues?
George gave good response, I'll simply note it is relatively common in
the sense that it isn't _that_ rare, but certainly only a small
fraction of the actual timber has really distinctive, attractive
coloration. It is not, however, considered either a defect or a
feature that is graded either for or against in sawn lumber, so you
will not find it listed as such except for specialty items as you have
already discovered. George also noted that as a wood, poplar is quite
soft and "stringy" so it is rarely used as the dominant wood for
furniture, but rather since it is quite stable and also comparatively
inexpensive, is normally a structural component. It has also become
quite prevelant as an interior trim material owing to its white color
and lack of grain (combined w/ the relative high cost and difficulty in
obtaining clear white pine) for woodwork to be painted . There, of
course, the color is a detriment and will be culled.
Also, much of the really striking color will, as is so often the case,
fade over time, particularly from UV exposure.
Which species are you looking at. Poplar, such as grey poplar, aspen poplar
and other types of poplar are usually very white, stringy and soft.
Tulip-Poplar a different tree often sold as whitewood, poplar, paintgrade
and other names is a little browner often with green streaks along with
other colors. The wood is harder than the other Poplars, is relatively
stable, and readily accepts paint. Frequently the colors in the wood will
age in the sun down to a dark brown.
I've been wondering about the species myself. Since tulip is supposed
to actually be in the magnolia family and not poplar, it makes me
wonder just what else I have.
Like I said before, I always thought poplar was boring, being plain
white. But recently I've found all sorts of interesting grain patterns
and colors, in such a variety that it makes me wonder if there's
something else mixed in. The local lumber store has some pretty lousy
poplar boards that are vomit green, white, and white with vomit green.
Home Depot and Lowe's seem to have the best variety and quality, with
everything from plain old white to weird LSD patterns (I should take
I discovered while staining some drawers that poplar took the stain
really well. I had to substitute a couple pieces of poplar since I was
out of pine and couldn't find any more that matched. The stain wasn't
quite as warm as it was on the pine, but the poplar was much nicer
staining. It soaked it up readily and didn't run all over the place.
Is there a transparent/translucent UV finish/sealer that I could use to
keep the colors from fading? I'm sure putting it in a dark room would
be best, but I'm hoping to keep the colors as long as possible.
The wood of the North American tuliptree is called 'poplar'
or sometimes 'yellow poplar' it is a different tree from the
trees called 'poplar'. I _think_ some hardwood lumber association
or other allows wood from both (true) poplar and aspen to be
sold as 'aspen'
Those mineral stains you describe are commonly found in the wood
of the tuliptree--that wood being called 'poplar'. My understanding
is that all of the colors purple, green etc) will fade to various
of tan. But there may be chemicals that will reat with the mineral
stains to produce 'intersting' effects--just a guess.
Want more confusion? Tulipwood is the wood from the South American
Tuliptree which is nothing like the North American, not even the same
There are also woods from Burma and Australia called tulipwood.
One of these days I'm going to make something out of completely the
wrong wood just to spite the tree-naming industry.
I'm actually thinking of posting pictures of the different types grain
I found so far. My next plan is to sacrifice one of the rainbow boards
for testing with various types of finishes and see how it all turns out.
I'm not sure what true poplar is. I buy poplar at mills that is quite
different than the wood we call 'poplar' here in the catskills. Poplar
(here in the catskills) is probably best used for pulp. It burns for crap
and doesn't have any stuctural integrity that I can determine. It reminds
me of Lombardy Poplar (doesn't look like one) in the way the thing grows
and the shitty lumber it produces (if anyone would slice it). Its only
saving grace is that it rots quickly.
Generally assumed to be members of the genus Populus. Pretty easy.
Ranges from crappy, stinking P balsamifera which is an abomination through
soaring P tremuloides which has some shimmering glorious figure hereabout.
Locals call it "popple" rather than poplar, though I have to think the
Greeks and French, who called it the "tree of women's tongues" for the
endless motion of the leaves had it right.
By 'true' poplar I mean species in the genus Populus which
also have 'poplar' as part of their common name. Aspens and
cottonwoods are in the same genus.
The tuliptree (I never heard it called a tulip poplar until I moved
out east) is in the genus Liriodendron, along with magnolia.
The magnolia wood I have seen did look a lot like poplar
( the wood from teh tuliptree) but boy did it stink! It smelled
like sewage. Maybe that particular tree was growing over a
septic system leach bed. Not a good wood for salad bowls...
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