Mineral Stained Poplar

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.
-k
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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/
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Kat Burright wrote:

online except as precut blocks for turning bowls or fishing lures. Any clues? Thanks. 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.
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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.

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EXT wrote:

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 pictures).
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.
-k
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Kat Burright wrote:

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 shades 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 genus.
There are also woods from Burma and Australia called tulipwood.
--

FF


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snipped-for-privacy@spamcop.net wrote:

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.
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snipped-for-privacy@spamcop.net wrote in

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. Hank
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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.
Great pulp.
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Henry St.Pierre wrote:

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...

Sounds like what I'd call 'true' poplar.
--

FF


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