Poplar Plywood?

I was looking at some Baltic Birch plywood yesterday at a local, (Redding, Ca.) hardwood supplier. The owner showed me some poplar plywood that they're now carrying and it really looked impressive. The color was a little different but it looked every bit as good as the Baltic Birch and it cost approx. $15 per sheet less. The owner raved about it and said the only drawback was that it's a little softer than the birch. The 5/8" is about $25 a sheet, which is less than I'd pay for really crappy ACX at the Home Depot. Most of their wood is garbage anyway. So, what's the downside to this plywood? I'm building a cabinet for my new GI 50-185 LM1 and a couple of other things as well as a couple of jigs for the saw. I'm aware that if something seems to be too good to be true it usually is but I don't see a downside of the poplar plywood compared to the very expensive Baltic birch or the really crappy CDX from HD.
Bruce Redding, CA.
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snipped-for-privacy@charter.net (Bruce) wrote:

Poplar is not only quite a bit softer than birch, it's also significantly less strong. It cannot be sanded as smooth as birch, and it does not take any kind of finish -- including paint -- as well as birch does. Poplar is particularly notorious for blotching when stained. It fuzzes up badly when it gets wet (as it would if a water-based varnish, or latex paint, were applied to it). And it's also not as dimensionally stable as birch.
Other than that, I don't see a downside either. :-)
One more thing -- more plies = more strength and stability. Have you counted the number of plies in the poplar plywood? It's almost certainly several fewer than in Baltic birch plywood of the same thickness. Are you sure you were looking at Baltic birch, and not just birch plywood? If the poplar and the birch plywoods have the same number of plies, you're probably not looking at Baltic birch, which comes only in sheets approximately 5' square (I think the exact size is 150 cm). If it's a 4x8 sheet, it may be birch, but it isn't Baltic birch.
-- Regards, Doug Miller (alphageek-at-milmac-dot-com)
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On Wed, 18 Feb 2004 20:29:28 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote:

Just yesterday, I used some high quality solid poplar as a solid birch substitute.
The poplar routed, sanded, and finished so close to the birch, it's really tough to tell which is which once the built-in was done. The poplar is softer, so it makes a slightly different sound when tapped.
Birch is one of the toughest woods to stain I've ever seen, so I wouldn't complain about poplar's staining characteristics. Both woods would require wash coats and careful stain control.
Barry
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Doug Miller wrote:

I was under the impression that most hardwood-veneer plywood (oak, maple, birch, etc) had a poplar core. I've had several pieces that definitely had the same smell as poplar - so I assumed that was the core.
If that is true - then there is no strength differences between the poplar plywood and many other furniture grade plywoods (baltic birch is a different story).
C
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Chris Merrill
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wrote:

a lot of what I get seems to have hemlock core plies
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Wow! What a great group this is. Ask a question and get loads of replies right quick. Thanks to all...
snipped-for-privacy@milmac.com (Doug Miller) wrote in message news>

I'm not sure about the strength factor. Define, "Significantly" as used in this context. I'm not planning on building a bridge out of this stuff. Just a cabinet. Granted, it is going to hold a table saw and heavy router table combination but with the proper construction I'm thinking that 3/4" will be up to the task.

The sanded surface of the sheets of poplar that I saw/felt were already very smooth. Smoother than the Baltic birch that was in the next isle. Not smooth enough for a finish but not too far away. Actually, it was the smoothest plywood I've ever seen. While I understand that poplar can be a little tricky to stain, according to the very long thread on staining poplar, it can be done with some success. And as far as paint goes, it sounds like it will paint as well as birch, if not better.

How do you think it will do as firewood? ;~}

"Almost certainly fewer"? Same number, 13 plys each.

Hmmmm...Weeelllll...Them little squigley cypherin' thingy's on the sign said B-A-L-T-I-C B-I-R-C-H I think that's what theys was a tryin' t' tell me. ;~} That and it was a 5'x5' sheet, the owner told me it was Baltic Birch and I've seen Baltic birch enough to know what it looks like. While I do greatly appreciate your reply and I'm definitely not an expert woodworker, I am pretty darn good at reading signs and I am familiar with many types of wood. Poplar plywood was just something with which I've had no experience Hence the question. Looking at the two side by side, about the only difference I could see at all between the two was a difference in color and a difference in figure. Not a huge difference in either. I saw no visible voids in the Poplar or the Baltic Birch. The Birch was heavier. The Poplar was completely flat. Now if I can perfect the finishing techniques I'll be all set! Thanks to all who replied. This group is a great source of info and varying opinions.
Bruce Redding, Ca.
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Poplar is a nice close grained wood that paints extremely well so, depending on what you are going to do with it, I can't see much of a down side.
Bang any wood and it is going to dent to some extent and it has to be addressed. An easy enough problem to fix. Soft can equate to a deficit in the strength department but, since I'm assuming you are talking poplar veneered, wood veneer cored ply, it's a non issue.
All in all I wouldn't mind seeing it appear at my suppliers for projects destined to be painted.
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Mike G.
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"Bruce" writes:

Depends, maybe nothing at all.
Typically, poplar is known as "paint wood" by some cabinet makers in this area. Something you might want to consider if you want a natural finish.
Does the poplar ply have the same number of plys as the birch ply?
If so, it's probably a winner, if not, then it's not such a deal.
High ply count provides dimensional stability. Very desirable for jigs and fixtures.
Is the glue interior or exterior?
To the best of my knowledge, Finnish Birch is the only one that uses exterior glue. Russian Birch is definitely interior glue.
Again, interior vs exterior glue may be of no concern to you.
HTH
--
Lew

S/A: Challenge, The Bullet Proof Boat, (Under Construction in the Southland)
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The down side is that is is not as hard a Baltic Birch plywood. Also good quality Baltic Birch plywood is ALL Birch in each layer and with out Voids in any of those layers.
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I think we need some more research here...I have seen poplar in various forms and I was amazed at the grain and finish (hate to say it but the most impressive was on coffins). That part aside, there are techniques to make this stuff work, just not sure how. Heavy lacquer seems to be must.

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"Leon" writes:

I have no idea where you get you stuff, but trust me, the 9 ply, 11 ply and 13 ply Birch I get from an industrial supplier all has internal voids from time to time to time.
It will never be mistaken for true marine grade ply.
--
Lew

S/A: Challenge, The Bullet Proof Boat, (Under Construction in the Southland)
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I get mine from Stallman lumber in Stafford outside of Houston and at Hardwood Products in Houston.
I did mention in my post that Good quality Baltic birch would be with out voids. I can honestly say that I have never found a void in any ply when I have bought from these places. There are places that sell inferior 9 and 12 ply as Baltic Birch.

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