Coloring Wood

Coloring Wood for Bird Toys
Coloring wood for bird toys can add interest for your bird, being that birds do see in color it does make a difference if your bird is attracted to it. Coloring wood is safe as long as it is with food grade colorants. Color wood only for about 10 minutes, if your coloring solution is mixed up with enough colorant then about 5 to 10 minutes soaking time is good. It can vary depending on the density of the wood. Be sure to wear gloves as the color absorbs into the skin easily and can take a while to wear off even after numerous hand washing. If you want to color larger amounts of wood, it is best to get either 2 or 5 gallon buckets. Do the coloring process outdoors if at all possible, if not then set up an protected area indoors and laydown plastic on the surface as food coloring will stain.  Lay paper towels or newspaper down to absorb some of the dripping color once it is out of the bucket.
You will need a bucket/container for each color that you mix up and also a large spoon for each color. Large stainless steel spoons are good to use, and you should use one spoon per color, if you have only one spoon then rinse it off under water before going to the next color. Large strainer type spoons work well for lifting the wood out of the bucket. 
I have colored wood for years outdoors so I had made up a couple of drying tables.  I made a wooden frame from 2x4's, screwed them together and secured them on wooden saw horses.  I used a small 1/4" wire mesh that is attached to the wooden frame, this mesh is a good size because even the smallest items I color does not fall through the mesh.  This works great as you can see in the above photo image.
Drying time is important and if it is outside on a nice warm or hot day it will not take too long but be sure your wood is dried well before putting it away. I let my newly colored woods to be exposed to the air for a day and I place the wood into cardboard flats until well dried. 
Coloring wood indoors on paper plates This is a very small scale of wood coloring indoors.  It is on some paper plates. This method is good for small amounts you would want to color. I rarely ever color using this method being that I color on a larger scale but every now and then I am in need of coloring a little wood.
Draining the colored wood into another bucket Using 5 gallon buckets, I was draining the colorant into another bucket then I dump the drained wood onto the drying table.  I had made a wire mesh screen to put over the bucket before I dump it as it makes a great strainer!
Drying the colored wood on the drying table
Here is another image of some wooden parts drying on a table. I used 2 gallon buckets.
I generally color using 7 colors.
Three out of the seven colors of wood soaking
Showing 3 of the 5 gallon buckets with the wood submersed under the water.
I had made up some special items to keep the wood under the water.
Taking a look at the colored wood Looking at the wood.
Some finished colored wood, looks great! Here are some wooden drawer pulls ... they are nicely colored!
All natural wood which is great in natural or colored!
Natural Wood Color
before coloring.  Natural wood is good for making toys and some people prefer not to give their birds colored wood.
Some wood parts before it is drilled or colored You should always drill holes in your wood before coloring.  It makes for a nicer finish!

<  I use "Americolor" brand, there are a couple of sized bottles you can purchase. This is a food color grade so it is safe to use.  I buy the Soft Gel Paste.
< Links on where to buy Americolor. 

<  Another product called "VitaCritter"
it is also food grade coloring but they recommend using rubbing alcohol instead of water when coloring wood.
Mixing the Colors:
  • First, wear rubber gloves of some sort so you do not stain your hands and protect your working area! If using 5 gallon buckets, fill bucket 1/2 to 2/3 full of water, this would be about 3 gallons of water. Add in along 6 ounces of colorant. I buy 13 ounce bottles so I just use half of the bottle. So it is along 2 ounces of colorant per gallon of water.  Different woods absorb the colorant differently depending on the density of the wood.  Soft pine is going to absorb quicker than a harder wood. You can also presoak your wood in clear water first for about 5 minutes, this will help the color to absorb into the wood more evenly and quicker. Also, another tip is that wood wants to float up to the top of the water so you will either need to keep stirring it frequently or have something to keep it submersed under the water. 

  • Mixed solutions can start to mold quickly after a day or two especially on hotter days so it is advisable to have all your woods ready to color so you can do it in a timely manner.  It can keep up to 3 and sometimes 4 days if kept in a cooler area.

  • Dry your wood well before putting it in a tub or box as it can mold if it is damp. Let it sit exposed to air circulation before boxing it up to put away.

  • When you are completely finished coloring your wood, dispose of the colorant and wash out your buckets and dry and use for next time!