Choosing Poplar Wood For Carving | Ultimate Guide

Poplar is an excellent choice for a carving project because it is lightweight and soft. Its straight and fine grain makes it an ideal choice for carving.

If you are a beginner and looking for a wood species to start your woodworking journey then poplar wood is perfect for you. Here is some more information about Poplar Wood. 

What is Poplar Wood?

Poplar wood is soft and lightweight. It is an excellent choice for carving, furniture, flooring, plywood, cabinets, and wooden toys. It’s easy to work with, making it a popular choice for beginner woodworkers.

Poplar is one of the least expensive and affordable hardwoods. But it is a bit more expensive than Pine Wood.

Poplar wood is hardwood but it is not hard. Yellow Poplar has a Janka Hardness rating of 540 lbf (2,400 N) and White Poplar has a Janka Hardness rating of 410 lbf (1,820 N).

They are widely distributed throughout the northern temperate regions, ranging from southern/central Europe to central Asia.

Is Poplar wood good for carving for beginners?

Yes, Poplar wood is a good choice for wood carving for beginners because it is affordable, readily available, and easy to carve. 

But if you are an intermediate or experience-level woodcarver, you can choose basswood, aspen, butternut, oak, and black walnut.

How to Carve Poplar Wood?

Carving is easy but to get started you must do some necessary preparations. Here are some simple solutions which are as follows.

Step 1: Choosing a Right Wood Block

If you’re a beginner, start by working with a medium-sized piece. Do not use a wooden block that is too small or too large. 

First thing, choose a piece of wood that does not have cracks and knots. Secondly, don’t use very dry wood. Too dry wood becomes a bit hard and it is very difficult to carve.

Step 2: Draw a pattern on the Paper or wood block

After wood selection, you should draw a sketch on a paper or wood block with a pen or pencil, so that you can follow the scratch line and carve without any mistakes. 

Step 3: Start Carving

Follow the pencil sketch line and dig a depth of 3 / 16th of an inch of the sketch with the help of a sharp chisel. Make an outline of the whole carving design. 

Use the right tools according to your design pattern. Switch to the V-tool for angular squares, rectangular shapes, and defined lines.

Step 4: Final Shape

In this step, you should give the final touch to your carving project by using a sharp knife. You will need a lot of patience for this work. 

Step 5: Project Finishing

You’ll need to give the final shape with hand sanding and low-speed electrical sanding to give the art the final touch. When sanding, be sure not to erase the edges of the carving model. Often novices ruin wood art at the last minute when sanding.

After the carving project is complete, you need to clean the entire wood piece with the help of a vacuum or brush. So that the carving looks more clear.

How hard is poplar wood to carve?

Popular wood is soft and very easy to carve. Here are the Janka hardness ratings of other popular wood types compared to Poplar wood to get an idea about how hard Poplar Wood is.

Wood SpeciesJanka Hardness
Spanish Cedar 600 lbf (2,670 N)
Red Alder590 lbf (2,620 N)
Poplar Wood540 lbf (2,400 N)
Bald cypress510 lbf (2,270 N)
Butternut 490 lbf (2,180 N)

Wood Carving Tips

Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Start with a rough outline of the piece you want to carve. This will help you to better plan the details of the carving.
  2. Carve the details first, using a sharp knife. This will give the final product a more refined look.
  3. Finish the carving by sanding and finishing the piece. This will give it a beautiful finish.
  4. When you are doing the wood carving, you are around sharp tools so work with caution.


Wood carving is an art that gets better with time. Poplar wood is the best wood for beginners. Use a sealant to protect the wood from moisture and future damage. Then, use a finish such as a linseed oil or shellac to give the wood a finish.

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