Avoiding Sticker Stain in Lumber

I received this question in episode 4 of the Ask Brian Boggs Show:

I’m having trouble with sticker stain on all white woods and the sap woods of cherry and walnut. Is there an easy way to prevent this or remedy it after the fact?

Yes to both. The way that we prevent it in white woods is as much as possible, try to buy the logs in the winter time, saw them as soon as possible after they’re cut, or if you have to buy one in the summer time, you want it to be sawn into lumber as soon after the tree is felled as is possible. As soon as it’s cut at the mill, you want to lean the boards up against the building or if you can’t do that, you can sticker them with stickers only at the end with no stickers contacting the surface of the boards until the surface has several days, up to a week, to dry off. Once the surface of the boards has dried off, you can put dry sticks and then sticker the lumber as usual. And that does a lot to prevent any kind of staining.

After the fact, while we try as much as possible to buy all of our wood in log form so that we can control issues like this, there are times when we have to buy wood because our wood’s not ready yet or we don’t have any and we’ll buy maple or ash and it’ll have sticker stain. We have had pretty good luck with all of the white woods, not so much poplar, but ash and maple, we’ve had good luck using a part A and part B stain. This is hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydroxide. They’re really nasty chemicals. I don’t like using things like that, I much prefer to prevent this. But given sticker stain, and this is an enzymatic stain, it’s very often not, it can become actually a fungal infestation, but initially, the stain is an enzymatic stain. It’s a chemical change that can be, aesthetically at least, reversed with the hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydroxide two-part bleach. You’ll want to read the instructions carefully on that and I know our local [inaudible 00:18:21] hardware carries it. I don’t know who will carry it in your area, but just Google it or ask around for a part A part B bleach with those chemicals and read all the precautions. This is nasty stuff and once you read the precautions, you’ll start working on the prevention end of this so you don’t have to deal with these chemicals.

So that takes care of those two things. With cherry and walnut, if you’ve got sticker stain in the sapwood, you can try locally bleaching or bleaching the full line of sapwood on that board, but you can’t really do a spot bleaching of sapwood without having a differential in color right around where you bleached.

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