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Cures for sticker stain

Drying lumber can suffer from sticker stain for a variety of reasons. June 20, 2000

I am having trouble with sticker stain.

My darker species of lumber (cherry, red oak) are ending up with a light-color sticker mark, and hard maple with big hearts is ending up with a darker mark.

The stickers are cottonwood poplar, snow white in color. Should I change my species of stickers, or is something else wrong?

The color you get is dependent on the rate at which you dry the wood.

The cottonwood stickers are very absorptive, so they will dry wood quickly at the surface, producing a lighter color. You must, then, be drying the wood slowly, resulting in darker color between the stickers; but I would need more info to know for sure.

With hard maple, a lot of sticker stain is developed in the log. Are you using old logs? Are your stickers dry? Are they 3/4 thick? What is your air flow? Is the lumber going into the kiln green from the saw, or does it have a few days or longer of air-drying time? Do you achieve a 10-degree F depression within 6 hours?

A better sticker might help with the dark species, but maple requires much more than just a sticker change.
Gene Wengert, forum moderator

Here's a dirty little secret. Use hemlock for your stickers. The same poison that did in Socrates does in bacteria. The bacteria grow, and cause staining in the moist and warm area where the stickers contact lumber; your poplar stickers are virtual petri dishes.

Also channel stickers out into an "H". The shape gives minimum bearing area.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

From contributor A:
A small correction... The hemlock Socrates consumed is an herbacious plant, Conium maculatum, not the woody tree hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, used for making stickers.