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Poplar vs Basswood: A Detailed Comparison

This article is for informational purposes. Always seek the advice of qualified professionals.

Selecting the right wood determines most of the success of your woodworking. But the problem is that there’s so many to choose from.

So, you need the right knowledge and learn to compare them to choose the right one.

Here we have delivered a comprehensive comparison between poplar vs basswood

Poplar provides a much better finish and workability than basswood. It provides more sustainability and durability as well. The Janka hardness of poplar is much higher, giving it sufficient strength. Whereas, as basswood is too soft, it is vulnerable to breakage. Thus considered as non-durable. 

Not sure yet? Well, do not worry! Because in this guide, we have answered all your questions.

Plus, we provided a comprehensive comparison between them. This way, you would find it is easier to decide.

Just keep scrolling to find out all about it!

A Brief Comparison

In selecting the best tonewood, you need to consider a few factors.

Factors such as workability, finishing, janka hardness, durability, finishing, etc.

You have to get a good idea on which of these one offers better workability. That means, poplar or basswood, which one gives an effortless workflow. 

Also, you need to look for wood that will offer an amazing finish. 

You wouldn’t want your furnishings with a bizarre finish, would you? 

So, look for a finish which looks smoother and elegant to the eyes.

Moreover, another super important thing you would want is better durability. So, get proper knowledge on which one among Poplar and Basswood is the most durable.

You have to be conscious of all the above mentioned facts. For this purpose and also to help you decide better, we’ve provided this snapshot.

Have a quick glimpse and figure out the difference between poplar and basswood.

Here you go!

          FactorsPoplarBasswood
WorkabilityExcellent Good
Durability ExcellentLess Durable 
Janka hardness 540 lbf 410 lbf
DensityHighLow
Lightweight NoYes
FinishingNatural FinishCoarse
Rot- Resistance YesNo

So, that’s it! A brief comparison between Poplar vs basswood for you!

In-depth Comparison

So, you have by now gone through the quick comparison. Now we will discuss it in detail.

In this section, we provide an in-depth assessment of every factor discussed above.

Go through them carefully and figure out in detail. After that, determine which one is the best for you between Poplar vs basswood?

So let us jump right in!

Workability 

Every time you are working with wood, one of the things that matters is the workability. If your chosen wood is easy to work with, it will surely provide a better result.

Now let us see among poplar and basswood which one provides better workability.

Poplar wood is soft yet not too soft. It possesses the exact amount of softness to secure an excellent workability. 

Plus, poplar tend to have higher density that makes them sufficient for every type of wood work. For example, machining, molding, carving and turning. And as it is not too soft, there is no possibility of it being damaged.  So, it makes poplar easy to work with.

On the other hand, in case of basswood, the workability is not as satisfactory. They can not be easily bent as you want. Plus, you can not easily nail it either. 

It is because they are way too soft. Too much softness means a low screw and nail holding property. There is a big possibility that it would break when trying to hold two wooden blocks.

Winner: So, in terms of workability, Poplar is our winner.

Finishing

A great finishing is the key requirement for any wood work. Especially if you are a guitar enthusiast!

Because, there is no way you would want your favorite guitar without a great finish.

In that case, Poplar woods offers better results.

Poplar wood has small pores and a uniform texture. Both are aspects that make this wood highly suitable for finishing. 

Not to mention its fascinating creamy color touch. It also has a slight greenish tint that makes Poplars one of a kind. 

Poplar woods are also very easily stainable. They generally do well with any kind of wood stains out there. Moreover, the color consistency stays adequate because of the non-porous nature.

Wood works do not seem complete without wood sanding, do they? The good news is that Poplar wood is sandable. 

Nonetheless, the outline is not very same as sanding plywood.

All of these aspects make poplar woods very good for finishing.

As for the basswood, the basswood finishing wouldn’t be as good.

It is because the texture is not quite smooth and it is rather porous. Porous surface makes the stains get inside the pores and cause an uneven finishing. So, you are left with an extra job of cleaning unfinished wood.

Therefore, in basswoods, maintaining color consistency is pretty complex.

Also, as they are too soft, you can’t sand easily either.

Winner: So, when finishing is considered, the Poplar gives better results.

Janka Hardness

This is another most important aspect to consider when you are choosing a wood. Be it any kind of project, the optimum hardness of the wood is very necessary. That is why the Janka hardness test is a promising way to compare different woods.

On the other hand, Basswood has a Janka hardness of 410 lbf. It implies that it is less hard than Poplar. 

Winner: So, once again, the Poplar wins the game.

Durability

Durability is another key aspect you have to consider. You would always want your stuff to last longer.

So, let us see which one has better durability.

Poplars normally are very versatile. Also, provide much better durability compared to basswood. 

As mentioned above, poplars can be easily nailed and bent. It is something which makes them fairly satisfactory for interior applications.

Even if you go about gluing pennies to them and it won’t damage them.

Moreover, poplar is actually shock-resistant which basswood is not.

Basswood is a type of soft hardwood. It is categorized as being non-durable. Certainly not acceptable for any sort of exterior applications. 

Moreover, Poplar possess rot- resistance which basswood does not. So, it makes poplar more durable.

Whereas basswood may easily start to rot when exposed to moisture.

Basswood also includes low strength properties. And thus can’t handle any heavyweight and there’s a high chance it will damage.

Winner: So, in terms of durability, poplar again wins the game without a doubt.

Which One Should You Choose?

By now we are sure you have gone through the comprehensive discussion. Now it is time for you to choose.

So, as you’ve seen, for better workability, Poplar wood is preferred.

Whatever you are upto- carving, machining, molding, and turning- you can do it all. And you can do all these without any excess hassle.

It is okay to say, poplar gives much better workability than basswood.

As for finishing as well, the non-porous texture of poplar gives a better finish. Whereas in basswood finishing looks a bit coarse.

So, once again, Poplar wins the game.

Now, Poplar’s Janka hardness is also higher. That means better durability. Poplar contains necessary elements that can withstand anything. Even the electric shocks. 

And basswood is a bit too soft which makes it vulnerable to heavyweight. And it might break if nailed or bent.  Hence, considered as non-durable.

So, we aren’t saying that Basswood is bad in any way. But if you compare it to poplar, poplar wins the game.

Therefore, our recommendation is to go for Poplar. Here are also some product suggestions for Poplar:

Product 1
Product 2

Now let’s move on to the FAQ segment.

FAQs

Which is better, poplar or basswood?

When compared, poplar is the better wood among the two. As poplar has better sustainability, workability, durability etc. than basswood. And on the other hand, basswood is non-durable. Also, poplar provides a smoother finishing as well which basswood can not.

Is poplar a good tonewood?

Yes, poplar is a very good tonewood. It is very dynamic as well. Especially if you are using it for musical instruments. It provides a wide variety and ranges of tone. Plus, it gives a light creamy color and texture to the surface.

Is basswood a good wood?

Yes, basswood is a good wood as well. However, when compared to other woods such as poplar or alder, it sort of lags behind. The other woods have more strength and durability than the poplar wood. 

Is poplar heavy wood for guitars?

Yes, poplar is a bit on the heavier side. It is due to the high density of poplar wood which is actually a good thing. It is not too heavy though. But when you compare it to basswood, which is extremely lightweight, poplar is definitely heavier.

Wrapping Up

Hope we have resolved all your confusion on poplar vs basswood? 

Now you understand the distinction. And also have a good idea about the factors that make them different. You can go through this article again if required. It will help you understand better. Then decide which one matches your requirements the best. And you can choose according to that. 

That is all for now! Have an amazing day!