I used a straight poplar 2X1 for the neck (through neck) on my first build... it's straight until I put the strings under tension, then the neck bows slightly, but enough so the action is way too high.  Is poplar just a bad wood to use, or is there something I can do make sure the neck stays straight? 

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In my work I've found that poplar is a good wood to use for paint grade cabinet framework and columns and so on. I have never attempted to stain poplar because it doesn't take stain well, very blotchy like beech and birch. Mahogany is a good wood to use, also ash is good (very hard like oak, only better) and maple is good for a neck but its extremely squirly when you cut it on the table saw and if you don't have a brand new router bit it will leave a lot of burn marks which are a pain to sand out, cause it's so hard.
My favorites so far, 1. Mahogany for three strings, but for a six string I would use a truss rod.
2. Ash
3. Oak, if you can stand the smell, I can't.
I hope this helps Brian.
I have an cbg thats about 5 years old hasn't bowed yet. But I only tune it DAd or GDg not that much tension on the strings or neck. Could be you just got a bad piece. There are way to many here that have built with poplar necks with no bowing. Look at Shane Speals old mac 13 years old yes it has bowed a little but look at how old it is and how much abuse he has put it through.
Buying a finished 1x2 gives you a 3/4x 1 3/4 neck.
IMHO, I think poplar is to soft for that. Yes ... there have been many built, but still ... IMHO....
That said, I only use red oak 1x2's but I will use poplar when I do a fully carved neck. I start out with a 2x2 and end up with a hoss of a neck.
Even with red oak 1x2's I still pay close attention to the wood when I get it. I get the straightest piece they have .... I have left and gone to other places just to get one 1x2.
I also look at the grain. I only get sticks that have the grain running from end to end. The straighter the grain, the better. I have seen a 19" scale dulcibox with a 26" total neck-thru length bow with bad grain.
Paying close attention to the grain in poplar could help avoid the bow.

Matt
did you add a fretboard, or is the does the neck serve as the fretboard as well?
Poplar is not really a hardwood. Doesn't have enough rigidity for steel strings - might work with nylon, though. Best to stick with maple, walnut, oak, cherry, or hickory for necks - sometimes even mahogany 1 x 2 won't hold up under steel strings, but usually would work.
Thanks for the info guys... I should have added a pic, it's a 3 string (steel strings), no added fretboard although for my next build I'll be adding one. Godzilla, you're right about the stain part - it came out pretty blotchy, but what the heck, I see it looking a bit "different" as a plus.
Given the number of people who have used poplar with success, I prob just have a loser piece... Does anyone have ideas to brace or otherwise reinforce it to take the string tension? I attached a steel connector plate under the notched part to try to strengthen it but that obviously didn't help much.
what is it tuned to?
GDg

THENUGE said:
what is it tuned to?
hmmm...it must be a bunk piece i guess, i have only used poplar once, and i had it tuned to AEa for a while with no problems, though i added a maple fretboard. hope your next one is trouble free
Guess I should stop worrying so much about a problem with build#1 when I'm already gathering materials for build#2... and thinking about plans for #3... thanks for the input
Hmmm, I do use poplar and have had good luck. I make a laminated neck which greatly increases the strength. Else, I might put in a 1/8"x1/2" iron bar (lowes/HD) and that makes it solid.

I will agree tho that it does dent mar easy.

-WY

Duke T. said:
Poplar is not really a hardwood. Doesn't have enough rigidity for steel strings - might work with nylon, though. Best to stick with maple, walnut, oak, cherry, or hickory for necks - sometimes even mahogany 1 x 2 won't hold up under steel strings, but usually would work.
Absolutely! Your second (and third. and fourth. and fifth. and sixth....) will go MUCH smoother.

Oh and if its not fretted, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

-WY

Brian H said:
Guess I should stop worrying so much about a problem with build#1 when I'm already gathering materials for build#2... and thinking about plans for #3... thanks for the input

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