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Yellow Poplar

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Machining methods

Machining methods

Yellow poplar means good news if you like to work wood with hand tools (or would like to learn). It's kind to cutting edges, bits, and abrasives, so you can have some real fun project-building. But if power tools are your approach, keep the techniques in the box below in mind, and the following tips:

  • Although yellow poplar isn't as hard as many other woods, it does have a tendency to burn. Use only sharp cutting edges.
  • You also can avoid burning by keeping the stock (or the tool) moving at a constant rate. To hesitate allows the cutter to heat up enough to burn.
  • Drilling hardwoods usually requires a slower rpm than drilling softwoods. With yellow poplar's tendency to burn, however, you'll want to speed up the process. And in thick wood, or with large-diameter bits, raise the bit occasionally to clear chips from the hole.
  • Yellow poplar is a good wood on which to practice your hand-planing skills. With a finely honed cutter, it planes nearly as smooth as glass. Sanding produces equally fine results.
  • In joining, the wood holds nails and screws quite well, and it takes all types of glues.
  • Staining poses about the only finishing problem you'll have with yellow poplar. As its name implies, the wood does have a yellow (and sometimes green) cast. And the possible color variations in heartwood make results unpredictable unless you first test the stain on scrapwood of the same tone. Clear finishes may require a toner to balance the differing colors of the wood surfaces.
  • Yellow poplar rates as about the most paintable wood around, especially with enamels. Water-based paints and clear finishes tend to raise a slight fuzz. A primer, followed by light sanding before the finish coat, will still produce a great look.

Continued on page 6:  Carving comments


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