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I have been accumulating equipment for my woodshop over the last year or so either by taking advantage of used equipment available in my area, or taking advantage of sales on new eqpt. Now that I have accumulated and set up my shop I am ready to start some projects. The problem, however, is that I do not have a good source of wood. I would like to build some small bedside tables, book shelves, etc. For these items to fit with our present furniture, they will have to be stained a darker (mahogany) color. I expect to make mistakes as I learn from doing. That's why I hesitate to invest in expensive hardwood stock which might be more appropriate for the end product. So, the question is, can I accomplish what I'm trying to do with big box store stock such as poplar (avoiding the ugly green heart wood). The price is right and it's available in many widths and lengths. Or, what would you more experienced wood workers suggest???

I've lurked on here reading the great advice that you share for quite sometime. I appreciate all your comments and help and say THANKS in advance!!

Mike in TN
 

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Hello Mike in Tennessee and welcome to the forums..

Poplar is the poor man's everything species or just about anyways... and it is a hardwood... so why not..
that green will fade away after a while and turn into earth tones... w/ some help from the sun...

A little more on those green streaks.
Try tanning them. On a bright, sunny day, set your finished project outside for a hours at a time. You’ll find that the pale, creamy color turns darker and the green streaks will darken to nice, earth tones in color.
When it gets to your happiness of color apply a clear finish.
I like to use boiled linseed oil and follow that with a wipe-on varnish. You’ll find that poplar will continue to darken as time goes on. I like the look.

If you’re more into hiding the color variations in poplar use gel stains. Poplar stained with a java gel stain makes poplar look more like walnut.
You can change poplar into cherry quite handsomely... Gel stains again... or dyes for just the right color tone...

You know, there’s one more thing to mention…of all the native hardwoods, poplar is the least expensive.
 

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That is about the only alternative (poplar) in hardwood unless you can get alder. Alder machines beautifully,not as hard as maple, but takes stains good and has a nice mellow tan color with clear finish. I like alder to work with. On the Big Box store subject, I have found beautiful fine grained pine in 12" wide boards in the shelving dept. Also they carry almost 2' wide glued up boards out of misc.shorts that are prefinished sometimes that are wonderful to work with and are all knot free luan/mahogany type hardwood. They can be cut into all kinds of shapes for wood projects.
Remember that all the plywood faces are thinner than mosquito wings and just as fragile. If there are any lumber yards around where you live they have some hardwoods, but they sell at the going rate. Sometimes you can score by picking up material from the Habitat store of cabinets and furniture that has been recycled.
Herb
 

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I always thought Adler was indigenous to the coastal regions of Alaska, BC, Washington, Oregon, and Northern California...
other woods to consider would be Birch and Aspen...
but just the same...

Types of Alder Trees:

Sitka Alder: It has thin leaves and grows to about 25 feet in height at its full maturity. They are sometimes used as shrubs for privacy or wind protection.
Red Alder: This is the largest species that can grow to nearly 80 feet at its peak. They can also be found in the Pacific Northwest.
Black Alder: Mostly found in Europe, this type of alder tree is known for its height.
White Alder: While most alders prefer to be close to a water source such as streams, rivers and marshy wetlands, this type of alder can withstand drier climates.
Green Alder: Small and slow growing with a crown of bright, bushy green leaves, this alder can adapt to soil and weather conditions and is often used as a shrub for landscaping.

https://www.thespruce.com/alder-trees-and-shrubs-3269701

Alder Tree Uses:

This hardy tree is often used when an area is under reforestation. It stabilizes soil in rainy, wet areas. The wide, leafy canopy makes the alder tree a perfect shade tree for home gardeners.
The cones are bitter tasting but have a high protein content. The bark can be boiled into a tea to be used as an anti-inflammatory. The salicin in the bark has been used to treat skin irritations such as those from poison oak or insect bites.
The hardwood of the alder has been used for a wide variety of purposes, from the pilings of the foundation of the floating city of Venice to furniture, cabinets and trim. The Fender Musical Instruments Corporation has built guitar bodies out of alder wood since the 1950s.
 

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I use pallet wood for some projects.

I really like it for sample/display only pieces, practice pieces and shop only projects.

Just have to be careful which pallets you use as some are better left in the trash.

Here are guides I use when deciding if a pallet is worth taking.

I also have a pallet tool to break them down. I used to use a hammer and nail puller which took about a 1/2 or more to tear down a normal sized pallet. With the pallet tool, it takes me about 5 -10 mins to rip one down.
 

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I use pallet wood for some projects.

I really like it for sample/display only pieces, practice pieces and shop only projects.

Just have to be careful which pallets you use as some are better left in the trash.

Here are guides I use when deciding if a pallet is worth taking.

I also have a pallet tool to break them down. I used to use a hammer and nail puller which took about a 1/2 or more to tear down a normal sized pallet. With the pallet tool, it takes me about 5 -10 mins to rip one down.
some things to consider about pallets....

.
 

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David - Machinist in wood
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Welcome to the forum, Mike! We do like photos so show us your shop, tools, projects, etc. whenever you're ready.

Is there a sawmill close to you, even a small one-man operation? Matter of fact, the small one-man operation may be the best choice for getting 'close' to free wood. Our local sawmill has Walnut, Oak, etc. in cutoffs and pieces that may have splits or other 'defects' that won't allow him to sell at full price. But those pieces are great for smaller projects or can be glued up for larger projects.

How about a cabinet shop? I get Maple, Oak, Hickory, and Cherry scraps free from a local cabinet shop and they're glad to get rid of them, otherwise these scraps fill up their trash container.

David
 

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I use pallet wood for some projects.

I really like it for sample/display only pieces, practice pieces and shop only projects.

Just have to be careful which pallets you use as some are better left in the trash.

Here are guides I use when deciding if a pallet is worth taking.

I also have a pallet tool to break them down. I used to use a hammer and nail puller which took about a 1/2 or more to tear down a normal sized pallet. With the pallet tool, it takes me about 5 -10 mins to rip one down.

Your post deserves more than a "Like"...

Good guide and excellent caution on how to select...

Between yours and @Stick486 post, it's "everything you always wanted to know about pallets but were afraid to ask"

Good post...thanks
 

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I have been accumulating equipment for my woodshop over the last year or so either by taking advantage of used equipment available in my area, or taking advantage of sales on new eqpt. Now that I have accumulated and set up my shop I am ready to start some projects. The problem, however, is that I do not have a good source of wood. I would like to build some small bedside tables, book shelves, etc. For these items to fit with our present furniture, they will have to be stained a darker (mahogany) color. I expect to make mistakes as I learn from doing. That's why I hesitate to invest in expensive hardwood stock which might be more appropriate for the end product. So, the question is, can I accomplish what I'm trying to do with big box store stock such as poplar (avoiding the ugly green heart wood). The price is right and it's available in many widths and lengths. Or, what would you more experienced wood workers suggest???

I've lurked on here reading the great advice that you share for quite sometime. I appreciate all your comments and help and say THANKS in advance!!

Mike in TN
I see you are in Mt. Juliet - middle TN. You should find a sawyer selling all sorts of wood on Craigslist. I get my hardwood for a third of the cost retailers and kiln dried wood seller charge. Also, look for a local woodworkers guild to find local resources as well.
 

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Your post deserves more than a "Like"...

Good guide and excellent caution on how to select...

Between yours and @Stick486 post, it's "everything you always wanted to know about pallets but were afraid to ask"

Good post...thanks
Thanks Nick,

It's not for everyone, nor is it for every project. But if you pay attention to how it was made and where it came from they are safe to use.

In fact, you can also purchase new pallets very inexpensively.

Here are more codes to be aware of if you are considering using pallets - Please make sure you see the stamp, if not leave the pallet and find another...

A good place to find used pallets are at a local newspaper site. They typically have DB-HT-KD pallets because the paper can not be contaminated before it goes to the printing process and they usually have dozens available.

Just remember to always ask before taking a pallet. I have several businesses in my area that have given and when see me coming, direct me to their pallet stacks of which I can take.

The reason is, many businesses like the big box stores have a company that picks up and recycles them for a fee.
 

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Re: red alder- I saw a booth at a woodworking show once where they were selling cutting boards made from red alder and it came from the coast. There's lots on Vancouver Island I know. Must be fairly tough wood.

If you have a jointer, at least a 6" you can make short pieces of lumber from green wood. I do it often. I like to debark the wood first as there is grit hiding in the bark sometimes. You flatten 3 sides to 90* of each other and then you can start sawing pieces off on the table saw. By flipping the wood over after the first cut you can cut 6" thick with a 10" saw. Thicker if you get a bandsaw with 12" throat and I sometimes only flatten 1 side if I'm running it through the bandsaw and just freehand the first pass. There are some really interesting non-commercial woods you can obtain this way that are sometimes really interesting for color and grain. Two of my favorites here are hawthorne and Siberian elm.

One thing to remember about making furniture is that you often only need a few long and /or thick pieces and the rest is usually quite short as in less than 2'. You can also laminate lots of short pieces together to make panels like you see at Ikea. As someone mentioned if you can find a small hardwood mill nearby you should be able to pick up trim ends and short pieces cheap. They often have a hard time getting rid of pieces like that.
 

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The biggest problem with big box hardwoods is that they are often warped and are pre finished to the most common size, 3/4 inch. So be very careful when selecting it that there are no serious twists, warps and other defects. I occasionally use narrow pieces of poplar for face frames, but rarely find enough to do something like a glued up table top.

I used a lot of kiln dried pine to learn on, mostly 2x6 with nice grain. It is easy to work with, but doesn't stain all that well. But you can resaw it pretty easily, even with a table saw. Then plane it down to exact sizes.

I haven't had that much luck finding good hardwood furniture where I live, and you have to remove the finish and mill it to size.

I finally found a really good mill and lumber supply after attending a Rockler demonstration, and met a number of other woodworkers there who turned me on to a supplier. I have to drive almost an hour to get there, but it's worth it. They also carry Baltic Birch ply in 5x5 sheets, and I tend to use that for flat surfaces. My favorite project is made of BB ply with poplar face frames. Shelf edging is poplar, and it's painted a slightly off white to fit our color scheme, but it could just as easily have been stained dark.

I make picture frames for my wife, and for that I make the trip down for profiled stock, and I most like the Cherry. Unfortunately with any 10 ft piece only about 7 feet will be straight enough to use for a frame. I do have 4ft piece of 8inch 7/4 hard maple that will be cut and milled for a frame. To make an end table I'd need one more piece like it, and the piece I have was only about $23 bucks.

With HD poplar or their other hardwoods, if you're willing to plane it down to less than 3/4 for a top, then it will do the job. One other thing, for Oak, look for an oak stair step, they're about an inch thick and amazingly straight grain.
 

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Years ago I found a small WoodMizer mill about a 1/2 hr. from home that I used to visit all the time. I took my chainsaw and he let me go through the slab pile and cut out anything I wanted. The slabs usually yield at least one board when recut on the band saw. But the most important part is that I got to know him well and if he had a board or 2 of lumber left over from an order he would give it to me. Or he might request I make him a shelf for his office,or a end table for his deck etc. I would happily make him stuff for free and he was more than generous in the lumber he gave me. He let his logs set for a year in his lot before he sawed them. Most of the lumber went to custom high end builders doing expensive houses. The scrap was usually wet from laying out in the rain, so after I resawed it I had to air dry it. he got so he would give me a heads up the day he was sawing so I could come out and get it fresh off the saw.
There was an old burnt out Hippie with an old beat up Toyota PU that would sit off to the side on a stool and take a bucked off butt from a log and carve whimsical houses while puffing on his weed. He would take them to town and sell them to homeowners for garden ornaments.
The Sawyer still lives there,not sawing anymore, built a brewery and now does custom brewing and home delivery.
 

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Another good place to find lumber is by joining a woodworking club. I know from experience that several times a year one of the members will close up shop and give the club members first crack at the tools and lumber. Also we have numerous offers all year long from heirs calling to see if there is anyone interested in buying lumber from the family members shop. It usually goes for 1/2 the price of new and there is usually some really good material being sold. I have scored well on occasion doing that. I am usually generous with my offers so as not to take advantage of the person left the job of disposing of the shop.
Herb
 
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