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High-Dollar Look, Low-Cost Material

When building projects, the cost of lumber can really add up, especially if you want to use a "premium" hardwood. But, there's an easy to way to create wood projects that look expensive, and still save money in the process. We invite you to check out poplar.

Reasons to Choose Poplar
Compared to softwoods like pine, poplar may seem pricey, but it sells for close to half the price of other premium hardwoods like maple, oak, or cherry. It's stable and it machines well, making it easy to work with. Plus, this wood species has fine grain with very few knots. Poplar is available in a variety of sizes at most home centers and lumberyards. What really makes poplar so special, though, is that it looks great painted, and it can be stained to look like other, more expensive woods.

Painting Poplar
The smooth texture and fine grain of poplar make it a great choice for any project that will be painted. Poplar takes both oil-based and latex paint extremely well. Paint looks very good on poplar and will easily disguise any imperfections. As with any wood, it's a good idea to prime first, and then apply a couple of light paint coats, instead of just applying one heavy coat.

Staining Poplar

Poplar also looks great stained. In fact, you can stain it to mimic the look of more much expensive woods. For a project that looks like it's built from mahogany, use light brown stain. To mimic cherry, use a red stain. To create the look of walnut, choose a dark brown stain.

Staining poplar can present some challenges. Regular oil stains can leave your project looking blotchy. Applying a "stain conditioner" to your wood before staining will help, but it will leave you with a much lighter finish.

To get the best-looking finish, go for a gel stain. Gel stain has a thick consistency like mayonnaise, so it doesn't soak right in and leave a blotchy look.

Staining Tips
When using gel stain, you'll see intense color right away. It only takes one coat to get a deep, rich color on poplar. When applying gel stain, use a clean cloth with plenty of stain on it. As you apply the stain, streaks may appear. Don't worry; these can be removed with a clean cloth while the stain is still wet.

Apply the stain in a circular motion for maximum coverage. Then, wipe with the grain to remove the excess stain and produce an even color. After the stain dries, apply your favorite topcoat for a great-looking project – and only you may know that you didn't use a more expensive wood.

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From Kreg and Woodsmith Magazine
2014 August Home Publishing

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