Poplar Is a Hardwood, but Is It Hard?

As a deciduous tree, Poplar is classified as a hardwood. Here's some hard info about just how hard it is (or isn't).November 15, 2011

Is poplar considered a hardwood? I have a paint grade job coming up that specs 1/2" thick hardwood edging on the shelves. I'm wondering if poplar fits that description.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor P:
Yes it's deciduous.

From contributor D:
On a paint grade job I would use the same wood as the cabinets on the shelf edge unless there is a more industrial usage. Maple would ding much less than poplar. Poplar ranges in hardness but is usually softer than alder or close to it.

From contributor F:
As mentioned, poplar is a hardwood, even though it is not a particularly hard wood. I'd only use it in low budget applications because it's so soft. A lower grade of maple will yield much better results for both durability and quality of finish.

From contributor T:
I quit using poplar years ago, because:

1. The dark streaks can bleed through a white or light-colored finish.

2. It can be unstable. I've had boards that were nice and straight when I bought them warp and twist comically in my lumber rack.

3. The surface sometimes has a fuzziness that no amount of sanding will remove.

4. Soft maple only costs a little more, and the end result is always nicer.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:
To northern people, poplar means aspen poplar while to other regions poplar means yellow poplar (sometimes called tulip poplar). The two are not related. Instability of poplar or any wood is caused because of improper drying. If the MC does not change, the wood will be perfectly stable. Control MC with either poplar. Fuzzing is caused by tension wood which is found in many or most hardwoods, but is indeed an issue with yellow pine and aspen. Hardness of alder is 590 pounds, aspen 350, hard maple 1450, soft maple red 950, soft maple silver 700, and yp 540.