Now I will briefly talk about poplar as a material often used in sculptural plein-airs 😉 In the old days of my luminous youth I took part in sculptural plein-airs. Due to the fact that the poplar was a generally available, cheap material and as a young students / learning technicians – we were given this material for processing.
Returning, however, to the point. How is the poplar? Because it is a wind-blowing species, it is available practically everywhere throughout Europe. It is true that in many variations, however, it has a slightly different look and further characteristics.
In addition, poplar grows on every substrate, it does not require almost any nutritional values in the ground and various atmospheric conditions do not disturb it’s growth. It grows very fast, very high, almost like the so-called weed. Although, the Celts looked for magical properties in the poplar. For more practical purposes they were also used on a daily basis, eg. because it grew very high, they were planted close to houses as a kind of lightning rod or simply used as signposts at crossroads.
Well, but to the point. What are the facts:
- Very fast growth. For a sculptor, this means that the wood itself will be soft, with no significant difference in increments, spongy and medium-workable. After it is cut, it releases the water very quickly and, as a result, microcracks appear on the surface of the wood.
- Another problem is that the poplar sucks everything that it finds in the ground, very often you can find various small minerals or even particles of sand, and therefore can damage a chisel because the cutting edge will simply crumble.
- Specific structure. If wet can still be processed easily, after drying it becomes hard and when trying to sculpt, it simply pulls, delaminates and falls apart so chisels must always be well sharpened.
- Unpleasant smell if not dried completely. Wet poplars growing in wetlands or meadows and in general poplar wood simply smells bad, with mud and old swamp.
- A common, not very interesting color. Wet poplar wood usually has a greenish color, after drying it will remind the linden color. After a few days in open air, it grays out.
Of course, how many varieties of poplar – so many descriptions, so I suppose that you could have different experiences 😉 To sum up this short entry: if you have the opportunity to try to carve large forms in poplar it is worth trying for the same experience (better use cheaper chisels – sculpts worse but the heart does not hurt when the tools are damaged) but it is not the wood that looks very spectacular.