I have written about Poplar in general in a previous post that happens to focus on the highly colored variant Rainbow Poplar, and while the common names are different for reasons that are explained in the previous post, the wood is the same genus and species.
Tulip Poplar is so named because of the shape of the nectar-filled flowers borne by the tree in Spring.
As noted in the previous post, Tulip Poplar is quite soft so it cut very easily although as is so often the case with softer woods, the cut is fuzzy and slightly rough because of the softness of the wood. It is always critical to use very sharp tools to achieve the best results with any wood, but this is especially true of softer woods such as Tulip Poplar. One side benefit for the wood turner in working with a softer wood such as Tulip Poplar is that even if the initial cuts are somewhat rough or fuzzy, such a soft wood will quite quickly and easily sand down to an extremely smooth surface. This ease in sanding and relative forgiveness can make a softer wood such as this an excellent choice for a beginning wood turner.
In addition to cutting and sanding easily, this piece of Tulip Poplar took a very nice final finish.
This particular piece of Tulip Poplar happened to have several interesting characteristics all in one piece. First, there was some very slight spalt that added some color and pattern to an otherwise fairly pale piece of wood. The spalt was not extensive and it did not compromise the structural integrity of the wood such as I have experienced recently with Sycamore.
In addition, there was some very slight curl figure on very close examination. Figure such as curl is not commonly seen in Tulip Poplar, being more common in woods such as Maple for example, but figure can technically occur in most any wood and when it is present it usually drives up the price of the piece of wood in question, sometimes to a dramatic degree.
Finally, there was very nice contract between the white sapwood and the distinctly yellow heartwood. It is always nice when a turning blank is cut in such as way as to include both sap and heartwoods whenever there is a discernible color difference between the two as it adds a great bit of contrast and visual appeal.
I greatly enjoyed working with this piece of Tulip Poplar and I am highly likely to look forward to working with this type of wood in my shop in the future. To all my readers, regardless of your particular area of wood working interest, but especially to all my fellow wood turning fans, I wish everyone a good turn today.