Home> Tier2 current page

Create these decorative antique blocks from recycled milk cartons!

Accent block final photoWe love 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 "Ice" Cube, comic Louis Wain Dogs, and Stars & Stripes!

Materials for Antique Blocks

Crafts & Supplies at joann.com!
  1. Six vintage images (PDF download) printed on lightweight, matte photo paper.
  2. Half-gallon cardboard milk cartons (two for each block).
  3. Newspaper, ripped in 1" squares.
  4. Decoupage medium (like Mod Podge - Matte).
  5. Liquid starch (like Sta-Flow).
  6. Spray paint (we used black, white and dark red for the Dogs, Ice, and Stars & Stripes, respectively).
  7. Craquelure varnish kit (see Tips).
  8. Artist oil paint in a tube (we used burnt umber and white) or gold leaf wax.
  9. Matte or semi-gloss polyurethane.
  10. Masking tape.
  11. Fine sand paper.
  12. Decorative-edge scissors.
  13. Craft knife.

Instructions (for one block)

  1. Accent block step 1Measure 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...

  2. Accent block step 2Push the bottom of one carton into the other, to form a square cube (see Tips). Tape them together securely around the cut edges with masking tape.

  3. Accent block step 3Dip 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.
  4. Spray paint the cube, two coats. Let it dry.

  5. Accent block step 4Trim 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.

  6. Accent block step 5Using 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 dry.

  7. Accent block step 6Apply the craquelure varnish according to the manufacturer's instructions (see Tips). Let it dry thoroughly.

  8. Accent block step 7Using 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 day.  
  9. Accent block step 8Apply two coats of polyurethane.



  • You can make smaller antique blocks by using 1-quart milk cartons.
  • 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 sides of a cube is tricky. We made a temporary drying rack out of a block of 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, too.
  • The possibilities for your antique blocks are endless: Create alphabet blocks by including a large antique letter as one of 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 ornaments. 

Vintage image download gallery button

Subscribe to
FREE crafting newsletter right here!




Don't worry -- your e-mail address is totally secure. I promise to use it only to send you THE VIC.
Vic Store

Christmas collage sheet

Browse our collection of exclusive Vintage Image Books, available for instant download at
The VIC Store!


The Craft Room


Crafts and cards for every holiday and occasion in The Craft Room


Vintage Crafts e-Books

e-book cover image

"Cards With A Past" will show you how to create vintage-look greeting cards from vintage images.


Grab a Badge for your Blog!

VintageImageCraft.com badge

Copy and paste this HTML code into your blog or website for an instant 150x150 VIC Badge.

April 2012 Creative Challenge Winner

Creative Tins by Lyneen Jesse

Creative Tins by Lyneen Jesse for Vintage Image Craft

Click here to view Lyneen's artwork and all of the winners and entries.