Is Poplar Good For Cutting Boards? All You Need To Know

is poplar good for cutting boards

Poplar wood is known as one of the lightest and easiest wood to work with. Therefore, poplar wood is commonly used for many woodworking applications like cabinetry and other interior furniture making. When it comes to kitchen woodworking applications, I was always wondered, Is poplar good for cutting boards?

Here’s what I know from years of working with poplar wood:

Poplar isn’t good for cutting boards. Poplar is too soft and porous for heavy cutting uses. Because of being highly porous, poplar wood easily sucks up bacteria and is not good for cutting boards that contact with foods regularly. Cutting marks from the knife will be very deep and hard to clean. Therefore, it’s not a good idea to use poplar for cutting boards.

But there’s more to know about it.

So, we’ll explore why poplar isn’t good for cutting boards, is poplar wood safe for food, what are the advantages and disadvantages of using poplar for cutting boards, and what are the better woods you can use to make cutting boards than poplar as well.

So, let’s get going!

Pros and Cons of Poplar for Cutting Boards

I have made and used poplar cutting boards over years and hereby I have listed some of the advantages and disadvantages of making and using poplar wood cutting boards.

Advantages of Poplar Cutting BoardsDisadvantages of Poplar Cutting Boards
LightweightToo soft for cutting board
Paint and glue take easilyPorous structure sucks up bacteria easily
Easy to work withRots easily
CheapTear up easily
Uniform textureDent and Scratch easily

As you can see in terms of appearance poplar wood cutting boards are exceptional and have great qualities. But when it comes to strength poplar wood is not good for heavy cutting uses. Therefore, in cutting board making, poplar wood is not the first choice for a fine outcome.

Even though poplar has several disadvantages than advantages, some people still go for poplar wood in making cutting boards because of its smooth and very clear surface. Poplar wood is so easy to finish with great workability and an excellent choice for beginners as well. But it smells odd when cutting.

I have discussed why poplar wood is not good for cutting boards in terms of strength, but let’s talk about the food safety of poplar wood.

Is Poplar Wood Safe for Food?

Unfortunately, poplar wood doesn’t consider food safe unless it has proper finishing. Poplar wood is too soft and has a highly porous structure. Therefore, poplar sucks up bacteria like a sponge. If your cutting board is made of poplar wood, always apply food-safe mineral oil whole over the surface when finishing the cutting board.

Here are some food-safe finishes you can apply on your poplar cutting board to make it food-safe. They are,

  • Shellac
  • Mineral oil
  • Carnauba wax
  • Pure tung oil
  • Raw linseed oil
  • Walnut oil

 By applying a food-safe quality finisher, it will prevent bacteria and food particles to go inside of the poplar wood. After a proper finishing, you’ll end up with a nice and beautiful poplar cutting board which is totally safe for food.

As you can see even though poplar wood isn’t considered food safe, you can easily solve that using a food-safe finisher. But for being too soft and fuzzy and not suitable for heavy cutting, still poplar wood is not the best option we can go for making a cutting board.

Why Poplar Too Soft for Cutting Board?

Poplar is not stronger than most hardwoods. Because of being too soft poplar wood isn’t good for heavy cuttings.

So, let’s look deeper into why is considered too soft for cutting board in terms of the following factors.

  • Density
  • Bending strength
  • Compressive strength
  • Hardness
Density0.42
Bending strength10100psi
Compressive strength5540psi
Stiffness1.58Mpsi
Hardness540lb

As you can see in terms of density poplar wood shows a 0.42 value and it is relatively higher than any softwood but lower than most hardwoods.

To make a cutting board, we should always go with hardwoods. But even though poplar wood is considered hardwood, it lacks strength due to low density.

Let’s see how much poplar wood is softer than most other popular wood types in terms of the Janka hardness scale.

Wood TypeJanka Hardness Value (N)Grades
Ebony (Brazilian)16420Exceedingly Hard
Cumaru15470Exceedingly Hard
Ebony14300Extremely Hard
Golden Teak10400Extremely Hard
Rosewood7900Hard
White Oak6000Hard
Ash5900Somewhat Hard
Birch5600Somewhat Hard
Walnut4500Firm
Cherry4200Firm
Mahogany3600Firm
Douglas Fir2900Soft
Chestnut2400Soft
Poplar2400 N (540 lbf)Soft
White Pine1900Very Soft
Balsa310Very Soft

As you can see poplar wood is too soft with only a 540 rating for the Janka hardness test value.

Because of having porous structure and fiber vessels with large diameters, the density of poplar wood is less, and it is the main reason for poplar wood being too soft. This is a huge thing when it comes to kitchen applications like cutting boards because the surfaces are regularly hit by knives and sharp tools.

This will cause dents and scratch easily and ruin the cutting board and waste to energy you put on that thing to make.

Read: Is Cedar Good for Cutting Boards?

Is Poplar Good for Butcher Block?

Poplar wood is too soft and not a good choice for making a butcher block. Poplar will easily tear up when working with heavy cutting tools. It dents and scratches easily. Eventually, you’ll regret using poplar wood to make a beautiful butcher block but very little in strength.

Here’s some of the best wood you can use to make butcher block rather than going with poplar. They are,

  • Maple (Hard or Soft)
  • Oak
  • Beech
  • Teak
  • Walnut

So, let’s talk about what alternatives you have to make the cutting board better than poplar wood.

Better Woods for Cutting Boards than Poplar

There are lots of wood perfectly suitable for making cutting boards than poplar. Those woods have great strength and hardness which can bear heavy cuttings easily without making any scratches or dents. They don’t tear up easily as poplar wood.

Most importantly, they are food-safe as well. 

Hereby I have deeply discussed the top 3 wood types for cutting boards with all the qualities rather than going after poplar wood. they are,

  • Maple
  • Walnut
  • Beech

So, let’s discuss each of the wood one by one and how they’re important in making cutting boards.

  • Maple – Maple wood is considered the best wood for cutting boards. Maple wood is so much harder than poplar wood. Therefore, it can easily bear against heavy cuttings. Light color wood grain gives a unique appearance to your cutting board.  Maple wood does not suck up bacteria like poplar wood does, because of has a very less amount of porous structure and fiber vessels are also so small in diameter. Therefore, food particles don’t go inside of the wood. because of having great finishing properties, maple will stain easily. At the end of the process, I can guarantee you’ll get a higher durable, higher strength, cutting board than you get from a maple wood cutting board.
  • Beech – Beechwood has high hardness than poplar wood and is great for heavy cutting applications. It doesn’t suck up water, bacteria, or food particles easily because of has a tight grain structure. Water absorbance of beech wood is very low and that is an added advantage of making cutting boards because they are regularly hit by water. Therefore, beechwood is so much food-safe than poplar wood and it’ll eventually get a beautiful reddish tint over time. the main disadvantage of using beech wood for cutting boards than poplar is, beechwood tends to shrink over time because of environmental elements. But we can easily prevent it with proper conditioning of the wood.
  •  Walnut – Walnut wood doesn’t have any shrinking issues and has excellent qualities which makes it perfect for cutting boards. Walnut wood is durable and great in appearance than poplar wood.But remember to give proper maintenance regularly to keep the walnut cutting board as fresh as new.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Is Poplar Good for Cutting Boards?

In this article, I have mainly discussed is poplar good for cutting boards with its qualities. By looking at discussed advantages and disadvantages of poplar cutting boards you can get a clear idea about whether poplar is a great choice or not to make cutting boards.

As an experienced woodworker, my opinion is poplar wood is not the best choice you can go to make a cutting board, because of is too soft and is very low in strength as well. In terms of food-safe, even though you apply a good finisher, the finishing coat can easily remove when hitting knives continuously. So, better to go for other alternatives than sticking on poplar wood for cutting boards.

Furthermore, we have discussed is poplar good for butcher blocks and what is the best wood for cutting boards than poplar.

Hope you’ve learned a lot of things about poplar wood. So, let’s give it a try and make beautiful strong cutting boards with your preferred wood type. Hope you’ll get the best outcome!

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