I actually like staining dyeing poplar. IMHO it take stain/dye too well, to the point that you might think the stain was a solid color. At least that's been my experience with browns blacks and blues. I didn't have any issues with blotchiness although I think if I had bleached the wood first the color would have been more intense and deep. I haven't had much luck with using the sun for something like bleaching, I have used it to darken some lacquer for vintage build, that took 2 whole summers. You are off to a great start. Looking really good! Here's some inspiration I hope . . . Top made from poplar deck boards off of a pallet. I then used 14 more piece of that pallet and another pallet for the body. The stain is from HD I think Varathane brand. The little girl this went to said Aqua was her favorite color. (I sanded the front back after staining to bring out those grain lines) The pallets came from her grandpa's business where he sells and restores pallets for shipping companies in the local area. He's been super good to my Dad who works for him so I thought this would be a good thank you. As you can see it's also a hollow or thinline. Nothing like 3 to40 different kinds of wood and 5 lbs of glue to ruin a router bit . . .