Author Topic: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.  (Read 2052 times)

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wcfn100

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Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« on: September 24, 2014, 03:09:21 PM »
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I have a kitchen project going on they may allow me to sneak in some cutting for modules.  I've always favored Poplar in the past, but some of the select (clear?) Pine in the local box stores doesn't look too bad.  I wouldn't normally look at the Pine but I feel like I could straighten out any slight bows easier than Poplar.   My concern with Pine is long term warping.  I would look at ripping plywood but my modules are 65" and the Baltic Birch I would want to use only goes to 60" plus the setup and cutting fees for the place that sells it is way too high.  I've tried cutting at home but my table isn't big enough for really straight cuts (and once you start to curve all the rest of the boards will be that way).  And the box stores saw doesn't cut perpendicular well enough and it can tail off.

So, board lumber for long term modules, what do you think?

Jason

peteski

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Re: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2014, 03:18:54 PM »
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Most of the members modules (if not all) in the Northeast NTRAK club I belong to are made from plain pine boards.  I don't think anybody ever considered using anything by pine: because it is cheap and readily available in the hardware stores and lumberyards.  Some modules are over 40 years old (it's true - time flies when you're having fun) and they don't show any signs of warping.  Even if they are slightly warped, NTRAK standard is very forgiving, so we simply don't even notice it.   And these go through humid and hot summers and cold and very dry winters.

BTW, the longest module we have is 6' (most are four footers).
« Last Edit: September 24, 2014, 03:20:38 PM by peteski »
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soo

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Re: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2014, 04:06:23 PM »
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I personally can not stand dimensional lumber. I prefer to cut my own. A good 3/4" or 5/8" plywood ripped into the dimensional sizes required would be just fine. You do not have to worry about the twisting, cupping, warping factor. Always remember glue and screw.

  Some say that you need a table saw to rip the sheets,,,ehhhh. A good skil saw and straight edge is all that is required. Give it a try. You figure a 4'x8' sheet of ply will produce 15 pieces of 3/4"x 3" 8' long material. The extra piece would be narrower because of the saw kerf from the rip cuts.

  Having the 3" dimension,, you could use it for anything,, by screwing two pieces into an "L",, you form a leg. You can rip the ply in width that you require,, so no more culling the herd at the lumberyard/big box stores.

  Adios, Wyatt

wcfn100

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Re: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2014, 04:13:42 PM »
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I personally can not stand dimensional lumber. I prefer to cut my own. A good 3/4" or 5/8" plywood ripped into the dimensional sizes required would be just fine.

I could try but I'm not really setup to cut something that size.  I have a make shift table setup on some saw horses.  That could work I guess. 

I actually did just this many years ago and found a module design I really, really liked. I guess I've just been gun shy after screwing up a whole sheet of Baltic Birch (thankfully I got it dented).

Jason

Chris333

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Re: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2014, 05:01:11 PM »
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I build everything out of that select pine at HD. 1x2s 1x3s 1x4s. I stay in the isle for about 20min. checking each piece to make sure I get straight ones. If I buy straight they stay straight.

drgw0579

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Re: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2014, 05:27:08 PM »
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I like working with poplar; was using it on a D&RG sleeper this past weekend.  It's going to be more stable, but much more expensive and heavier.  But the pine you find at Home Lowes is crap unless you pay top dollar also.  I might consider going the plywood route, that works as long as you brace it well.

Bill Kepner

VonRyan

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Re: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2014, 05:30:38 PM »
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I build everything out of that select pine at HD. 1x2s 1x3s 1x4s. I stay in the isle for about 20min. checking each piece to make sure I get straight ones. If I buy straight they stay straight.

I spent an hour at my local HD once because I needed 1x3s for my N-trak module.
Trying to find 4 straight 1x3's turned out to be almost impossible.

I did the same thing with 2x4's at a Lowes over the summer with my job.
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C855B

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Re: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2014, 05:42:38 PM »
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I'm a firm believer in high-quality cabinet grade 3/4" plywood for frames, foam-on-lauan for tops. While common dimensional pine (trim quality) is OK and has served well in modules for decades, it's not warping that's the enemy, it's dimensional changes as the wood ages. The N-Trak standard covers a lot of sins, but we are finding that the long-term (30 years) shrinkage in some modules is creating problems as the frames shrink more than the 1/2" plywood top, making the module joins non-perpendicular. We are reaching for the box of nonstandard connector tracks an awful lot these days, and accidental uncouplings are too frequent when long cars negotiate the vertical kinks.

The original N-Trak specs were to make the initial construction quick, easy and cheap to get everyone up to speed as fast as possible, so materials were a compromise.

... Some say that you need a table saw to rip the sheets,,,ehhhh. A good skil saw and straight edge is all that is required. ...

I do it this way on nearly a daily basis, but important here is clamping the straight edge to the work. Then you're good to go.

I spent an hour at my local HD once because I needed 1x3s for my N-trak module.
Trying to find 4 straight 1x3's turned out to be almost impossible.

I did the same thing with 2x4's at a Lowes over the summer with my job.

With the layout building construction I am finding neither Lowe's nor Home Depot interested in selling even medium-quality lumber any more. I.e., more and more their wood is low-grade crap. These days I'm driving an hour to the nearest Menard's, who still sources decent basic building materials.
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altohorn25

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Re: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2014, 06:41:25 PM »
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I believe that we use Baltic birch plywood for the modutrak modules.  Very high quality stuff.  My two modules are 6-7 years old and I've had no warp-age on them.

Nate
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Chris333

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Re: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2014, 06:43:50 PM »
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What's better poplar or pine?  Answer: birch    :P

jpwisc

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Re: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2014, 07:59:28 PM »
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What's better poplar or pine?  Answer: birch    :P

I agree 100%. Dimensional lumber is a horrible thing to use in modules that will be subject to a variety of temperature and humidity variances, unless you are looking for grades and curves where you planned for flat straight track.

I use 3/4" birch plywood for my module frames. It works very well. I don't have a table saw, I set the sheet on my saw horses and clamp a straight edge to it, then I cut it with a plywood blade in my circular saw. It works.
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wcfn100

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Re: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2014, 08:11:44 PM »
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I use 3/4" birch plywood for my module frames. It works very well. I don't have a table saw, I set the sheet on my saw horses and clamp a straight edge to it, then I cut it with a plywood blade in my circular saw. It works.

I would consider that if it was 7 layers.  But it doesn't look like Lowe's carries 4'x8' sheets regardless.  :|

Jason

peteski

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Re: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2014, 09:09:56 PM »
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Sounds like you guys are building some highly critical equipment. Forget wood - use either aluminum or resin impregnated carbon fiber!  :D

Seriously, I seem to recall reading an article (N-Scale magazine maybe?) on constructing a module from Aluminum angles.
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pnolan48

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Re: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2014, 09:23:48 PM »
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If the question is the choice between pine or poplar, my answer, after 45 years of cabinetry, is either rather than neither. Properly jointed and fastened, they are only marginally stable. Crudely hammered together, both are disastrous. The art of cabinetry is to build joints that counteract the natural tendencies of wood species to shrink, cup, bend and warp. It is entirely possible to build long-lasting furniture from cheap pine or less cheap poplar (eliminating finely grown and cured pine, which is marvelous stuff and just as expensive as oak or maple). It should be possible to build layouts with the stuff, given a little care in the jointing.

Scottl

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Re: Poplar vs. Pine for modules.
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2014, 09:42:14 PM »
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I'm a big fan of SPF (spruce-pine-fir, not the Pennsy kind...).  It is made from Canadian trees- yeah! :lol:

Seriously, I've built multiple layouts with the same pieces of SPF 1X4 that I bought in 2006.  They have multiple screw holes, some have cracks from screws, a few are warped, but they hold up that foam and track like #$% brickhouses when assembled with pilot holes and screws. A little care with some simple tools and you are good to go.

I'm all for woodworking and craftsmanship- for cabinetry and furniture.  Especially if you are interesting in woodworking for the sake of it.  But I would say we can all safely consider pine or poplar or even the lowly SPF for framing our layouts if we so choose. Heck, some people even use paperboard doors of all things.  :trollface: