Poplar and pine are two of the most popular options used as secondary woods. In this article, we set out their differences along with pros and cons to help you choose the right wood for your furniture.
Poplar and Pine are two distinct wood species that have very similar properties. Pine and Poplar vary in degrees from one property to the next. Pine is a softwood that is extremely soft, and Polar is a hardwood (deciduous) that is also very soft.
Poplar and Pine are highly sought-after woods prized for their affordability, availability, and wide uses. The properties of Poplar and Pine are softness, firmness, and high workability; this makes it a great wood for carpentry and everyday use items like crates, pallets, and paneling.
Both Pine and Poplar are economically viable; Pine is especially commercially important. Besides carpentry, furniture, and basic woodwork, Pine also produces turpentine, rosin, paper, and pulp. Poplar is also used in biomass and biofuel. Both kinds of wood are frequently used as secondary woods.
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Poplar Wood vs Pine
Pine is an evergreen, needle growing, coniferous softwood; coniferous trees belong to the genus Pinus, one of 120 botanic Pinaceae species. Poplar (genus Populus) is a division of about 35 kinds of trees in the Willow family of Salicaceae. Poplar is a deciduous tree (hardwood); this means that its leaves fall off in winter.
Other members of the softwood family include Cedar, Fir, Hemlock, and Spruce, while other members of the hardwood family are Ash, Birch, Cherry, Mahogany, Maple, Oak, and Walnut. Poplar is divided into three loosely defined categories the Cottonwoods, the Aspens, and the Balsam Poplars.
Pine is available in several varieties: Ponderosa, Caribbean, Stone, and Yellow; these all make great furniture. Sugar, Western White Pine, Eastern White Pine are three prime species of soft Pine.
Then there are classes of hard Pine like Southern Yellow Pine; although this is classified as softwood, it is as hard as Oak; this species is great for flooring and other building materials but is expensive. As is Shortleaf Pine, it has strength like Oak.
Pine grows extensively throughout the northern hemisphere and at a rapid pace. Pine’s availability is one of the reasons it is more affordable than other woods. There is a variety of different Pine species, each with its levels of strength and density.
As with Pine, Poplar is indigenous to the Northern hemisphere; they also grow rapidly, advantageous to the lumber industry. Poplar plantations can be harvested and reforested immediately. Poplar is affordable.
Both Pine and Poplar are economically viable in their paper production. Pine is possibly the most commercially relevant tree species, prized for its wood pulp and timber. In the history of lumber Pine was the backbone of timber manufacturing, especially in the 1800s.
Pine and Poplar are widely used in creating carpentry pieces like furniture, window frames, paneling, floors, and roofing. Its affordability allows woodworkers the space to build, create, and experiment with designs.
Poplar’s range of use also includes biomass and biofuel. Poplar has ideal characteristics to assist in its use of biofuel. Coppicing is clipping, cutting, or chopping a tree back periodically to enhance its growth potential.
Poplar has exceptionally high growth and coppicing rates, and it’s naturally resilient to insect infestation. It is readily adaptable to various plantation sites (more so than other species of trees) and needs less water and chemicals; this makes them a strong contender as biofuel.
Poplar is a soft hardwood (deciduous) primarily used in pallets, crates, upholstered furniture, guitars, cardboard boxes, and veneer. Pine is cheap and doesn’t wear well with flooring but is often used for paneling. Poplar doesn’t wear well either and is often used in stair steps.
The Properties of Pine
Pine is described as the training wheels of woodworking. Pine is very flexible and soft, and unfortunately, it scratches and dents easily; you can scrape it and permanently mark it with even your thumbnail.
Pine possesses high workability; it also lends itself to carving; one must always cut alongside the grain; if not, seal the area in tape; this will prevent it from splitting. In one’s woodwork shop, nails and hammers can accidentally mar your piece.
Pine has a slim, fine, even grain pattern and amber hues with thin bands of auburn; it has a warm, rustic feel. Pine acquires a clean, stark coloring with time. Pine has knots or defects, making it challenging to work with; it has a medium texture.
Pine is characteristically weak; however, it is a firm wood and does present durability; not as much as hardwood. It is low to moderate in sturdiness; it does possess a respectable level of natural strength. Pine needs to be waterproofed before it’s worked on, oiled, painted, stained, or finishes applied.
Pine has a sticky, resinous sap called pitch. The resin of some genus of Pine is an ingredient in turpentine. Pine contains a full measure of pitch/sap. Ponderosa Pine is inclined to ooze sap as it has slightly bigger resin canals.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Pine
The affordability of Pine helps to guarantee that your building ambition can be transformed into an actuality. Pine is extremely soft and vulnerable to scratches, dents, and permanent scarring. It is the cheapest timber or plywood available it’s an excellent wood to begin learning to craft and build.
- Reinforcement isn’t needed
- Pine has ample structural strength
- Light to medium in weight- manageable
- Natural elasticity – inherent suppleness
- An appealing variety of grain patterns
- Pine has a distinctive look
- Pine usually stains well (ensuring that the wood is sealed first)
- Pine is a renewable resource and therefore considerate of the environment
- Able to be fashioned in any way desired, high workability
- It has a timeless, clean appeal
- Everyday lumber contains defects like knots
- Hight tendency to dent and scratch
- Pine isn’t as robust as Poplar
- Needs treatment and regular care to prevent damage and rot (adds to the cost)
- Pine has a high moisture content which could potentially lead to blue staining through fungus infection
- Pine is inherently responsive to the elements, therefore susceptible to shrinking and swelling, negatively impacting the paintwork.
- Pine warps and twists easily, and it is one of the weakest woods available
- Pine is challenging to dry
Properties of Poplar
Although Poplar has a more intricate grain pattern than Pine and is, therefore, more appealing, it is not considered a beautiful wood and is hardly ever used in refined furniture- if it’s used, it’s almost always painted.
Poplar grows in swamps and marshes; all the nutrients contribute to various colors, from creamy, light tan, dark brown to black, purplish; there is even a more expensive rainbow poplar. Poplar usually has a natural blanched appearance with green, gray, or brown stripes in the heartwood; it has greenish heartwood.
All Poplar species have small pores that result in moderate, smooth texture, and usually, it has an even, regular grain pattern. Although the pores of Poplar are small, it is still very porous, and it absorbs paint like a sponge.
Poplar is lighter in weight than Pine, allowing it to be more manageable. Sometimes Poplar is softer than Pine. Poplar has a higher than usual moisture content. Poplar shrinks as it dries, making it an unstable wood.
Although very soft (sometimes softer than Pine- depending on the species), Poplar is a little harder and slightly more dent-resistant to Pine; however, it is still susceptible to dents and scratches. As with Pine, Poplar’s softness makes it easier to work with than other hardwoods. Cutting and drilling with Poplar won’t shatter the wood as with Oak.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Poplar
Poplar is more robust than Pine but not compared to other hardwoods of its family. It is, however, the cheapest of all hardwoods. Poplar dents, scratches, and damages easily, but it is still sturdy enough, and with enough care, it can have longevity.
- Poplar has great workability especially cutting dovetails
- Poplar is one of the most affordable hardwoods
- Widely available
- Wide variety of uses, even in biofuels and biomass
- It is lighter than Pine
- Easy to paint
- Easy to stain
- No defects like the knots (in Pine)
- Resilient to bugs, fungi, and other disease-causing pests
- Poplar (although a cheap hardwood) is more expensive than Pine
- Poplar tends to dent, scratch and damage easily
- Poplar doesn’t wear well
- Spongy- Very porous and needs additional primer (add to the cost)
- Labor intensive- Poplar needs to be extensively sanded as it is a very soft wood that easily sheds tiny pieces and marks.
- Poplar isn’t stable
- Poplar is susceptible to warping, twisting, and swelling in humid weather
- It shrinks when it dries
- The constant natural movement of Poplar will crack its paint.
Both Pine and Poplar easily dent; Poplar has a tighter grain than Pine. Poplar has fewer defects like knots; Pine will have fewer defects of itself if you stain it. Poplar and Pine are affordable, have high workability, and are often used as secondary woods.
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Houzz: Pine vs Poplar
Reddit: Poplar vs Pine
The Spruce Crafts: Tips for Using Poplar in Woodworking Projects
dummies: Types of Wood for Woodworking
buildsomething.com: How To Choose Project Materials – Poplar
Mean’s Woodshop: Beginners Guide To Wood Species – Everything to Know About Poplar
Steve Ramsey – Woodworking for Mere Mortals: What Kind of Wood Should You Build With? | WOODWORKING BASICS
Hunker: Uses of Pine Wood
HGTV: Is Poplar a Hardwood?
Lumberjocks: Pine and Poplar
FineWoodworking: Poplar for primary wood for cabinets
Fine Homebuilding: poplar vs pine face frame
Garden Guides: Is Poplar a Hardwood?
DoItYourself.com: Advantages of Using Poplar Lumber
The Wood Database: PINE WOOD: AN OVERALL GUIDE
The Wood Database: POPLAR, COTTONWOOD, AND ASPEN: WHAT’S WHAT?
Van Dyke’s Restorers: Characteristics of Popular Wood Types
Encyclopedia.com: Lumber Industry