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I am going to build a table for my kids and wanted to see what others thought or had experience with.  I guess I have it narrowed down to poplar or soft maple.  Most of what I have read seems like both take paint well but less sanding time with soft maple.  Ive read that soft maple doesnt take stain very well, but looks good it you just finish it natural.  But I suppose I will paint it, but just havent decided that yet.  Im still in the designing phase.  Anyone ever built a childs table out of soft maple?  Thanks for any help

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If I'd make a table for kids, and planned to paint it, I'd make it from poplar.

Poplar sands easily and takes paint well.

When sanding, start with a coarse grit (80) if material needs to be rapidly removed,

followed by 100 grit, followed by 150 grit, and followed by 220 grit.

On some surfaces, that didn't need to much sanding, I'd start with 100 grit then go right to 220 grit.

On the end grain pieces, use 320 grit. 

Seal the wood before painting, so as to obtain a smooth even painted finish.

I agree with Ken on the choice of poplar. It's what I use for almost any painted projects. I think that the poplar surface will prove more durable than the soft maple, too. The maple tends to dent pretty easily.


There are some vanities that I built using Maple that I painted, I have painted Poplar too and they both take paint great, so go with the cheaper, Poplar!  Soft Maple is hard to stain unless you spray it using HVLP spray gun and a water based stain.  Woodcraft has a nice gun for $40 and I just set my copmressor to 40lbs when spraying.  It's a process though, don't sand the Maple beyond 150 grit, mix 1 quart of your stain to 1 gallon of denatured alcohol, wear a good respirator.  The big mix is so you can slightly tone the Maple with every coat to get the shade that you want, the alcohol atomizes very fast and almost flash dries to allow recoating within 10 minutes.  There are pictures on my page of maple cabinets that I did using this method.  I'm sure the mix doesn't have to be as dilluted as I made it, but I err on the side of caution with that.

I havent checked on prices but reading others say that the price difference was nominal.  I have never worked with either I dont think anyways, I bought an aspen panel from lowes about two years ago to finish off a toy box for my daughter and is was fuzzy (i guess how you would describe it).  I sanded it a few times and painted it ( I didnt seal it like Ken mentioned), looks decent, but not very good.  So the other day I was reading and someone said that they thought the aspen panels at lowes was poplar, hope they were wrong.  That was the reason I was leaning toward soft maple. 


Thanks for the replies, I am going to go to this local place that will sell to the public and get some wood. 


What price should I expect to pay for poplar or soft maple? 


What type of seal would you recommend?  I have never sealed anything before painting, I have always done more stuff on house contruction and decks, than furniture projects and finishing.

zinsser products are good.

They offer a variety.

Select the one described, that is most suitable for your needs.

I'd chose the Zinsser 00904 B-I-N Shellac Base Primer and Sealer Stain Killer, for your project cited above.

Zinsser 00904 B-I-N Shellac Base Primer and Sealer Stain Killer


  • interior wood sealer
  • Seals knots and sap streaks inside and out
  • Seals pet, smoke, and musty odors
  • Seals water, smoke, graffiti, and grease stains
  • Sticks to all surfaces without sanding
  • Lightning fast dry, re-coat in 45 minutes

Also, peruse this---very informative.


Poplar can range in color from whitish to greenish---

sometimes can be found in a single board piece.

Poplar not a suitable choice for staining.

i used poplar on quite a few projects cheap and easy to work with in my experience. it takes paint well. ive only stained poplar once but i didnt seem to have any issues staining it.


Thanks for the info Ken and I will use that sealer.  I thought i had replied but I guess I forgot to hit the  add reply last time.  Appreciate all the info everyone.


Thanks for your reply.

Have fun doing your project---

don't rush it---

take your time, for a long lasting appealing end result.

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