Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Elizabethtown, PA
If you are going to stain the project I'd recommend going with oak out of the choices you have listed. Even at a big box store you can get some pretty decent looking red oak - I used this for most of the first projects I built and didn't have many problems with defects. If possible I'd suggest looking for a local lumber yard instead of buying the S4S stuff at a big box store - I've found it is much cheaper at my local lumber yard and they will even surface the rough lumber for next to nothing. For large panels you may want to look into using oak plywood instead of solid wood. Secondary wood I would definitely go with poplar - the only possible exceptions would be drawer sides - I would go with maple if it was available. I'd stay away from pine for a desk unless you really like the look or it is much cheaper, I'm working at a pine desk now and it gets beat up very easy since it is soft.
If you wanted to paint the piece or you were going with a very dark stain I wouldn't hesitate to use poplar. Its cheap, works pretty well, and paints up very nice.