Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Crackling With Elmer's

I hope you're not still buying expensive crackling medium at the craft store for all your crackle finish needs. You do know there's another way, right? It's cheap, easy and effective. I'll show you how.

You start with whatever it is you want to put a crackle finish on. It works on just about any surface. I've crackled both wood and metal. Today I'm crackling a wooden frame I got at a thrift store for $3. It's actually a nice frame but all the other frames on my wall are light colored and this one just overpowers the whole wall.


I taped off the areas I didn't want to get paint on. Whatever color your item is now is the color that will show through the crackles. So if you want the base color to be different, paint it now. I thought the golden brown color of the frame would look fine showing through the crackles. Actually, I was just too lazy to paint it.
















Now you slap on a fairly thick layer of plain ol' Elmer's glue. I buy it by the gallon at WalMart because I use it for a lot of different thing. Sometimes I even use it as glue.


I found instructions for this technique on several different websites and they were all a little different. One site said a thin layer of glue won't crackle, another said a thin layer of glue will give you finer crackles. I avoided this controversy all together by just using a thick layer of glue.


You're supposed to let the glue set just until it's tacky. Don't let it dry all the way or it won't crackle. Personally, I wasn't aware that Elmer's ever got tacky. In my experience it goes from extremely wet to extremely wet but with a skin on top. Then 4 days later it's dry and whatever you put it on is buckled beyond all repair. That's the joy of Elmer's.

One website said it should be tacky in about 5 minutes. Another said it should be tacky in just over one hour but under two hours. Normally I would average two conflicting suggestions but that's a big dang gap. So here's what I did. I brushed on a thick layer of glue then played Zuma Blitz while waiting for it to tack up. I got my best score EVER in Zuma so naturally I got all absorbed and played a bunch more games and forgot all about my wet glue. By the time I remembered it was mostly dry. You could call that a mistake but I prefer to call it research. Each game of Zuma lasts one minute and I only have 9 lives so I probably wasn't playing for more than about 15 minutes. That bit of valuable research told me that the one hour drying time must be for people who live under water and I should use the 5 minute drying time suggestion. See? Research.

I slapped on another layer of glue then tried not to wander too far away from the table or else I'd forget about it again. I used the leftover glue that I left sitting out in a bowl so it had thickened up and started drying faster. I liked that and decided to make sure I leave the glue out for a while before using it since it not only dries faster but it sticks better since it's not so runny. I really hate Elmer's glue, I just have to say that.


For the record, I don't think it ever got what I would call tacky. In fact it was still pretty wet when I brushed the paint over it. I think the key is just to make sure that you're able to paint over it without mixing the paint with the wet glue. Letting the glue thicken helped with that a lot. Also, you want to load your brush with lots of paint so that you can cover an area with one stroke. If you go back over it or use back and forth strokes, you are more likely to get some glue mixed in with your paint and then your crackle is screwed.


I did the four sides of my frame one at a time which worked just fine. If you try to do too large of an area you run the risk of your glue drying before you get the paint on it. After painting one section I moved to the next section and brushed on the glue. By the time I was ready to paint the second section, the first had already started to crackle.


Here is the finished frame which blends nicely with the rest of the frames on the wall. Well, except for the couple that I haven't painted yet. I can't say exactly how long it took the whole thing to dry but it took a while. I set it outside in the sun (100 degree sun) for a couple of hours which worked great.



I have a theory about how this works. I don't know for sure and it's not like it matters but it fascinates me so I have to try to figure it out. I think that Elmer's glue buckles paper so badly partly because it's such a wet glue and partly because it seems to shrink as it dries. Shrink is probably not the right word. It draws up. Paint doesn't shrink when it dries and the paint dries a heck of a lot faster than the glue. So basically the wet glue draws up under the dry paint causing it to crack. I think it's plausible. 
 


So now you know how to crackle on the cheap and believe me...you're a better person for knowing.

17 comments:

donnaj said...

frame turned out great-i learned this a few yrs ago from stephanie-needless to say, i stock up when it's cheap back to supply prices~
glue on!

Penny @ The Comforts of Home/Flea Market Makeovers said...

LOL! This was the best post. Thanks for the smiles and the tutorial on crackle paint. I will try this some time - minus the Zumba, because I tried that once and just couldn't get it :-)

Betsy (BB) said...

I love this idea! Thanks for a great tutorial!

Shauna said...

Great idea and wonderful tutorial! I am glad I found your link on tip junkie.
Take care,
myshaenoel.blogspot.com

Scribbler said...

Funny! I use Elmer's all the time, but never tried to crackle with it. Your theory makes sense to me!

imklvr said...

Wonderful tutorial!! LOVE your research! Thanks!

Lauren @ My Wonderfully Made said...

Really enjoyed your entertaining post and of course, thanks for the great technique and tips on crackling!

Shannon Green said...

Thanks for stopping by everyone! I'm glad you liked it and hope you'll try it yourself.

Shannon Green said...

Of course you can skip the indepth Zuma research step since I've already done that one for you :)

Screaming Sardine said...

LOL - love your comments. Thanks for sharing your research. I'm going to try this technique.

Pinning this on pinterest. :)

Cheers,
Tracy Screaming Sardine

Shannon Green said...

Thanks Tracy! I'll look for ya on Pinterest.

laniebp said...

I did a large kitchen cabinet in this method only I used Hyde glue. And I can't remember whether it was spelled Hide Glue or Hyde glue. But at any rate, it worked well. It is a yellow glue and I put it on thick enough that I had a few runs on it but I get so many compliments on it anyway.

You are a great write......laughed at your remarks all the way through.

Christina said...

This is great...I am going to try it on canvas???? Those crackle mediums break the bank!

Shannon Green said...

Bet it would look great on canvas!

Arnee said...

could i do this on furniture? i have a table i want to paint to put my tv on, or do you think that's not a good idea?

DeAnna Foate said...

I normally zip right through all the "jibber jabber", to just get to the point ! LOL But, this was a great read ! I love your humor ! And I'm off to try this on a ceiling fan blade ... to make those nifty lookin' dragon flies I found on Pinterest too ! =) Thanks for the info ! I'm trying spray paint on a spare one to see if it works ... a little research of my own lol !

Jeni nugent said...

Really excited to try this on an old wood ladder for decor in my bathroom!