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Q & A: Why Does My Wood Have Stripes?


Why Does My Wood Have Stripes?



I put a clear finish on a beautiful ash table I made and found faint stripes an inch or two wide going across each board. Any ideas on what caused them and how to get rid of them?


Those stripes probably won’t come out with sanding, because there’s a good chance they run quite deep into the wood.You didn’t accidentally put them there,nor did the tree produce them.These stripes were created when your wood was dried under imperfect conditions.

The stripes are, in effect, a chemical shadow from the stickers that separated the boards in a kiln or a stack of airdried lumber. “Sticker stain” or “sticker shadow” can run anywhere from 1/32-in. deep to half the board’s thickness.

This permanent discoloration is more of a problem in light-colored sapwood than dark heartwood. Your lightcolored ash, like most maple and birch, is actually the tree’s sapwood. Look carefully at this kind of wood for sticker stain before you buy.

Sticker stain can be hard to spot on the surface of rough lumber,however. Be on the lookout for faint stripes across the width of the boards when you run light-colored woods through a planer. If the stripes persist after a few passes, stop and see if your lumber dealer will replace the boards. If not, your only option may be to hide the stripes with a dark stain.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker June 2002, issue #94.

June 2002, issue #94

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