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In the Before Pandemic times, my family would often host Easter-egg dyeing parties, where we provide the dyes and tools and guests provide eggs. We emphasize bringing whole raw eggs, but there are always a few know-it-alls who bring either hard-boiled eggs or already-blown egg shells. With the cooked eggs, we thank them kindly and put the eggs in the fridge for later eating, explaining (again) that the dyes are not food-safe, but we've always had trouble with the blown eggs.

Lots of people who make amazing dyed eggs insist that they only work with blown eggs, but they never explain HOW THE HECK. I mean, basic physics, right? A blown eggshell will just float on top of the dye, leading to, uh... interesting patterns, but not a nice even color.

If you try to push an egg shell into the dye, you either end up with a broken shell, or the dye seeps into the inside, and then you end up with dye dripping all over everything. You can try to blow out the dye, same as the innards got blown out in the first place, but that's likely to still result in dye dripping all over creation, plus now your dye is contaminated with whatever was inside the egg before (raw egg, detergent, other dyes). Also, good luck with trying to turn a blue egg green by giving it a quick dunk in the yellow, and other such tricks.

I've heard tales of plugging the hole (or holes, depending on the blowing method) with wax, but 1. that has never worked for me - the wax always falls out at the most inopportune moment, and 2. that doesn't solve the basic physics problem.

Yet, people still insist that they do this all the time. HOW?

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  • Martha, what exactly is your question here? How people are able to plug the holes in eggs, specifically when using wax? Or what a good, controllable way to paint eggs is?
    – Joachim
    Apr 10 at 19:24
  • I really don't know how else to explain it, Joachim: I usually dye whole, raw eggs. As in, draw designs in wax, dunk egg in dye, wait a bit, remove egg from dye, repeat until done, then blow out the innards (and melt off the wax). But occasionally, I get faced with already-blown-out egg shells that I want to decorate, but my usual method fails in that case, because blown-out egg shells float. Yet multiple people have told me that they always work by blowing out the eggs first, decorating after. So there must be a way to do that; I just don't know what that way is.
    – Martha
    Apr 10 at 20:37
  • Do I need to add an overview of "how to make pysanky" or something? If someone asks a question about oil painting, do we expect them to explain all about preparing their canvas in order to ask about how to choose a brush?
    – Martha
    Apr 10 at 20:41
  • No, of course not, it was just unclear to me where the focus was. Your title conveys it very well, but the body of your question threw me off, I guess.
    – Joachim
    Apr 11 at 9:58
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  • I was wondering if skin glue mixed with chalk would be a proper paintable, invisible, and reversible way to plug the holes, but then thought of something even more practical, like tiny plugs made of very soft rubber or plastic, and, lo and behold:

    enter image description here
    source

    Egg plugs.
    You can find many sellers searching for "pysanky egg plugs".

    Naturally, there are a few downsides to this method:

    Plugs can leak if the hole is irregular, and twisting a plug in and out of the hole each time you dye (as is recommended) risks cracking the shell around the hole.

    source. Note that this is mentioned in the context of plugging a refilled egg.

    So the success of this method will depend on how (well) the holes in the egg were made - irregularities induce both the leaking and cracking.

    Making these yourself might even be an option: cutting little wedges out of candles might do the trick, and these could even be heated shortly for an improved fit. I haven't tried this, though.

  • The page I quoted from actually suggests another, even easier and more practical method:

    [They] had solved the problem of floating eggs by weighing them down with disposable plastic cups partially filled with water. [..] They worked like a charm. It was a true eureka moment for me.
    The plastic cups (drinking glasses) should be narrower than the opening of your dye jar, and tall enough that they will protrude from the top of the jar (for easy placement and removal) or at least be even with the top of your jar.

    source

    The water in the cup pushes the hollow egg down, while the water in the jar pushes it back up, effectively trapping the egg and enveloping it in the liquid.

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  • Thank you for that "dyeing emptied eggs" page; it addresses exactly the problem being asked about here.
    – JPmiaou
    Apr 11 at 14:54
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    THANK YOU!!! Your Google-fu is clearly superior to mine. This is exactly what I needed.
    – Martha
    Apr 11 at 18:08
  • Note that the weighing down with filled disposable cups is in addition to some form of plugging the hole. Can't do the one without the other.
    – JPmiaou
    Apr 12 at 0:39
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A couple of years ago, I got some goose eggshells from a friend. The best solution I could come up with for dyeing them was to fill the shell with water and then (try to) plug the hole with wax. It made for a rather unsightly blob around the hole, and as you said, the plug could lose cohesion at odd moments, sometimes with rather, um, disastrous results.

(For an egg blown the old-fashioned way with two holes, I guess you'd have to plug one hole, fill it, plug the other hole, and then deal with the double failure points.)

I've been blithely saying "plug the hole with wax", but my experience is that it's far from that easy. I wonder if there's a technique to it that we're missing. (Duct tape? Medical tape? Candle wax instead of beeswax? Haven't tried any of these.)

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Caveat: I have not actually tried this, but it ought to work.

There is a DIY gelatin/glycerin material that is inexpensive and easy to make, and reusable. It turns into a watery liquid when heated and gels into a rubbery material at room temperature. Variations of it are used for making molds for casting, making gelatin plates, creating make-up prosthetics, etc.

If you do a search on "gelatin glycerin" or "diy gelatin mold", you'll find lots of recipes that vary a little for different purposes. Here's a tutorial to get you started: Gelatin and Glycerine Mold-Making Recipe, Cheap and Reusable – Ultimate Paper Mache. The primary ingredients are gelatin powder, glycerin, and water. Recipes vary as to the amount of water and sometimes add other ingredients to fine tune the material's characteristics for a particular purpose. A simple recipe like in the above link should work fine for this purpose.

This is how I would use it:

  • Make up a batch in advance. It keeps for several weeks at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator. Some people even pour it into ice cube trays and freeze the cubes so they can take whatever amount they need for a particular project.
  • Warm it in a microwave to liquefy it.
  • If two holes were used to empty the shells, temporarily plug one of them (the plug can be removed for painting after the filler hardens). Use a syringe to fill the shell with the material. Use an old egg carton as a tray to keep the eggs upright. I would insert something like a toothpick part way into the hole. When the material solidifies, this will provide a handle.
  • Stick the tray into the refrigerator to speed up cooling so the project can get underway sooner.
  • This should make the egg shells strong and easy to handle for painting. The toothpick can be pushed into some Styrofoam to let the paint dry.
  • When the paint is dry, you can leave the material inside. The toothpick can be pulled out or used to mount the egg on a base. Or, stick the eggs back in the tray, microwave them to remelt the filler, and empty the shells (capture the filler to reuse it). A thin film of the material remaining inside the shell will give it a little more strength.
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  • 1. The usual wax-resist egg decorating method involves heat: you write the design with melted beeswax, then melt the wax off at the end. 2. Empty eggshells are incredibly strong. Filled eggs are heavier and therefore much, much, much more likely to crack.
    – JPmiaou
    Apr 11 at 14:51
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This is one answer that popped up from my search and it meets my understanding of the process as well. There may be other similar methods and almost certainly other names for it, but the Instructable provides relatively detailed instructions.

coloring eggs with wax method

Quoted verbatim from the linked site:

Pysanky is a traditional craft in Ukraine and Poland. The method is similar to batik - patterns are drawn on the egg with wax, which then protects the covered areas from the dye that is applied. By repeating this process with different colors of dye, a multi-colored pattern is built up. Finally, the wax is removed to reveal the colors that were covered up at each stage. A layer of polyurethane can be added over the finished egg to protect the dyed design and to give a gloss finish.

Traditionally, the eggs were left whole. They would eventually dry out and become light. Some of my eggs are left whole, in keeping with tradition. Some of my eggs are blown to allow them to be hung as ornaments.

Various aspects of the process are provided in the Instructable. Batik is "relatively common" as a craft and research on that topic may provide additional insight.

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    I'm sorry, maybe I'm just not understanding, but how does this answer the question? To review, the problem is [have undyed egg shells] -> [liquid dyes plus physics] -> [ANSWER GOES HERE] -> [miraculous dyed egg shells]. Or, to put it another way, the problem is that I have egg shells with no innards. Telling me that the traditional way is to just let the innards rot and dry out doesn't help, because THERE ARE NO INNARDS.
    – Martha
    Apr 9 at 20:56
  • Also, just FYI, I've been making pysanky (well, not called that, because different language, but same difference) for many decades now. Trust me, I know way more about it than you can glean from a 5 minute web search.
    – Martha
    Apr 9 at 21:03
  • It's pretty clear that I misunderstood your question. The "five minute web search" was to provide documentation for a process with which I was familiar, and to provide links to that process. My misunderstanding of your question is not a reason for a snarky comment. Good luck with your problem.
    – fred_dot_u
    Apr 9 at 21:25

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