Create these decorative antique blocks
recycled crafts, and this is one of
the best. These vintage-look antique blocks are gilded with aged,
cracked varnish (craquelure) and glazed to highlight the cracks.
This traditional technique
has several variations. You can buy the craquelure
finish in a kit, or
make it yourself - and we explain how.
You can download images here for three distinctive antique blocks: An
Cube, comic Louis Wain Dogs, and Stars & Stripes!
Materials for Antique Blocks
- Six vintage images (PDF download)
matte photo paper.
- Half-gallon cardboard milk cartons (two for
- Newspaper, ripped in 1" squares.
- Decoupage medium (like
Mod Podge - Matte).
- Liquid starch (like Sta-Flow).
- Spray paint (we used black, white and dark red
for the Dogs, Ice, and Stars & Stripes, respectively).
- Craquelure varnish kit (see Tips).
- Artist oil paint in a tube (we used burnt umber
white) or gold leaf wax.
- Matte or semi-gloss polyurethane.
- Masking tape.
- Fine sand paper.
- Decorative-edge scissors.
- Craft knife.
Instructions (for one block)
- Measure the width of the milk cartons.
Measure the same distance up from the bottom
and draw a line around the carton (Ours was
3.75" high). Cut both cartons apart along the line.
Save the bottoms and throw away the tops - unless you can
think of another craft idea...
- Push the bottom of one carton into the other,
to form a square cube (see Tips).
Tape them together securely around the cut edges with
- Dip the squares of newspaper in the liquid
starch and cover the cube with a layer of paper mache (see Tips).
Smooth it all down and let it dry for a day.
Lightly sand the block and
add another layer of paper mache. Let it dry.
- Spray paint the cube, two coats. Let
- Trim your images into 3.25" squares,
using decorative scissors. We used a tiny scalloped edge. You
could also tear the image along a straight edge.
- Using the decoupage medium, affix an image to
each side of the cube. First apply the medium with a flat brush to the
face of the cube, then to the back of the image. Press the
images onto the cube with a
slightly damp soft rag and smooth them carefully. Cover all six sides.
Apply a coat of decoupage medium over all. Let it
- Apply the craquelure varnish according to the
manufacturer's instructions (see Tips).
Let it dry thoroughly.
- Using a soft rag (terry cloth is good), rub
a little artist oil paint onto the surface of each side. Use a
contrasting color to your antique block background
color - we used white for the black cube, burnt umber for the white
cube and gold leaf wax for the red cube. Rub it into the
cracks, and wipe it off, especially on the images. If the antiqued
cracks start to obscure an image, gently remove
some paint with a dab of paint thinner on a clean,
soft rag. Continue to rub and
polish until you have the look you want. Let it dry for a
- Apply two coats of polyurethane.
- You can make smaller antique blocks by using
- Before you nest the carton bottoms together,
you may want to add some weight to your block by filling the bottom
with Plaster of Paris. Or, you might add some aural interest by
putting some jingle bells in a Christmas antique block, or
a handful of raw rice.
- Lightly sand the surface of the milk carton
before you apply the paper mache, to help it adhere to the wax.
- Applying wet paper mache and finishes to all
of a cube is tricky. We made a temporary drying rack out of a
Styrofoam and some bamboo skewers. Push three pieces of
skewer into the Styrofoam in a 3" triangle to create a cradle for the
block to rest on, so only the tips of the skewers touch the sides of
the block. By resting the block diagonally on the triangle of
skewers, we could work on three sides at a time, turning it
over when just tacky. While a block is drying, rotate it a
few times to
keep it from sticking to the skewer tips.
- We used a purchased craquelure varnish kit,
which included two coatings. The first was applied and left
to dry overnight. The second varnish was applied, dried
overnight, and magically - tiny cracks appeared over the entire
surface. You can get this effect using our craquelure recipe,
- The possibilities for your antique blocks are
endless: Create alphabet blocks by including a large antique letter as
your images. Make enough to spell out Noel, Joy, Peace,
Antidisestablishmentarianism, or whatever you wish. Use them
as bases for pillar candles. Nestle small cubes in pine
greenery for a centerpiece. String them on garland up your
staircase. Ooo, here's a good one: make small blocks (1-qt cartons) and
insert a twisted loop of wire in one corner to make block