New here! Problem with color transfer even after shellac
Hi, this is my first post. I am not a woodworker (yet!) but just a crafty mother who wants to learn how to make wooden toys and blocks. I like the idea of using stuff around the house, so when I saw an article about dyeing children's blocks and toys with food coloring, I got excited and decided to try it. I have a problem, though, and I'm not sure if it's because I used food coloring to tint my wood blocks, or if there was a problem with my methods. I need to fix these blocks! (and btw I probably will never use food coloring again).
That was the short story. Here's the long story: I was trying to salvage some OLD chewed up building blocks for a children's community setting in which there is not money to buy brand new blocks. They were natural, no finish at all, and I assume they are pine based on pictures I've seen on the web of the wood grain. They were filthy, dry, and chewed on the corners. I washed them with soap and water but did not immerse them. I thought they were pretty dry (a couple of days later) when I started working with them. I sanded them to get the dirt stains off a bit better, and also tried to sand the corners to improve them. Since I have no tools, I really couldn't do much more. Because the wood was not really very pretty, I opted not to go with a natural finish and wanted them to be colored instead.
The instructions for food color dyeing said to mix the food coloring with rubbing alcohol before brushing on. I was using powdered dyes from a bake supply shop (because the colors were more brilliant) and the powder dissolved better in water, so I did that first, then added alcohol. The one color that I used liquid food color instead, and therefore did NOT use water, was green and it is the one set of blocks that do not transfer as much color to my hands (they still do a tiny bit), so that may be a clue - I don't know.
After the blocks were dyed and dried for a day or so, I applied a water based lacquer. That made them all nice and shiny, but despite three coats (about three hours between coats), the color continued to transfer to my hands when I rubbed them.
First question, why??
After a little research online, I decided to try some shellac from a spray can. After a couple of coats, a couple of hours between coats, the color transfer problem was lessened, but still a problem. One thing to note is that when I rub them with a cloth, color does not rub off. It only seems to come off onto my HANDS.
Back to Google to figure this out. Old shellac was one problem mentioned so I checked the expiration date on the can and sure enough, it was about 10 months after expiration. However, the shellac DID dry fine - maybe the slightest tackiness but not much. Back to the store for a NON expired can of shellac, and gave the blocks a coat of this. After a few hours, I picked them up and there was still color transfer to my hands, but much less than before. I was rubbing them pretty hard because I want to be sure they don't bleed color onto children's hands.
Second question: are these blocks a lost cause? Was the food coloring as a dye choice the mistake? Am I not giving the shellac enough time to set? (everything I read online says shellac is dry and set by one hour after application). I need the color on these blocks to be set once and for all.
Any suggestions or ideas about what might be going wrong? Like I said, with the one coat of non expired shellac, the problem is less. Is it just a matter of putting a couple of more coats on?