Since I was moving the week of this assignment I built five identical shelves for my new apartment using poplar from Home Depot and copper plumbing pipes and 90 degree couplers. Copper pipe brackets for attaching to the wall.
In retrospect I would not have selected poplar - I chose it because it was cheaper than the nicer red oak and because I wanted to try something different from pine. I should have chosen either of the other options as sanding and planing the poplar only seemed to increase the furry stack-of-construction-paper feel. I didn't give the wood a finish because it seemed hard to imagine it ever being nice - seems too pithy for my taste. I plan to paint it with a high gloss before installing the shelves.
I enjoyed the monotony of measuring out the poplar to be even, and discovering the pipe cutter was a delight - so easy. I used the drill press, the mitre saw, the rotary sander, block sander, handheld sander and a nice planer lent to me by a classmate with a furniture design background. I never knew about the joys of planing— very satisfying.