Thursday, September 10, 2009

Letter Blocks

Our new Letter Blocks were a huge hit at Swiss Days. If you made it into our booth you might have noticed our LOVE and BOO blocks on display. What's great about this project is how easy it is to make. You'll have a finished project in no time!

  • Decide what word you want to display.
  • Pick coordinating papers that complement the word.
  • Locate pictures to go with the theme and you're ON YOUR WAY to making your own fun set of blocks.
Here's what you need to make your own set...

For you to Gather:
3, 4 or 6 blocks (depending on word). Our blocks measure approximately 3.5 inches.
3 coordinating scrapbook papers to match theme (more to cover top and bottoms of block)
Decoupage Glue - We like ModPodge's Matte Glue
Printer -black ink works best for printing letters
Foam Brush
Sanding Block (Not really needed, but it goes a long way to saving your hands during the sanding process!)
Distress Ink or Chalk
Finishing Spray
9, 12 or 18 pictures formatted to fit your blocks. The Photo Wizard will help you format your pictures to fit our blocks perfectly!

Step 1:
Determine the theme that you want to display. Our Letter Blocks .pdf provides letters for the following words...
Pick coordinating paper to match your word choice (i.e. fall colors for BOO, red's and green's for JOY, etc.). 12x12 scrapbook paper works great. Just trim the paper to 8.5 x 11 before feeding it through your printer. Save any extra scraps for covering the top and bottom of the blocks. Print the Letter Blocks .pdf on your selected papers. Cut out each square using the trim markings. (Trim depends on the block size that you're using. Project formatted to Stories by Me blocks.)

Step 2:
Prepare your pictures. You have two options here. Either print each picture to be at least as large as your blocks. Use the edge of the block to trace around each picture and cut away the excess. Or, you can use the Photo Wizard to get your picture to the exact size that is needed for this project. Need help using the Photo Wizard. See our demo. Still need help? We're only a mouse click away. Just email us at www.mythoughts@storiesbyme.com. Cut each picture to size.

Be sure to print your pictures using a LASER printer! Ink jet colors tend to smear when they get wet!!

Step 3: The cut ends of the wood absorb more glue than the grained ends. Before beginning this step, apply a thin layer of glue of glue to the ends with the rougher (cut) surfaces. Let glue dry.

Apply a thin layer of glue to the first side of one block. Place picture over glue and press in to place. Remove any air bubbles. While the glue is drying, repeat the process for other blocks. Check for overhanging paper edges. It is important to WAIT for the glue to dry before attempting to remove any excess paper. Add picture's 2 and 3 following same procedure. Once all of the picture are in place, add one letter square to each block. Complete this step by adding a decorative top and bottom paper square to each block. Don't worry about matching sides. A random look is great!

Step 4:
Once the glue is dry, carefully sand the edges of each block. Add a distress look by rubbing ink or chalk along the sides of each square to darken the exposed wood and remove any white paper edge.

Protect your project with several light coats of decoupage glue or matte Acrylic spray.

That's all that's to it! Remember, you CAN'T ruin this project. Fix any mistakes by simply sanding down the offending side and adding another layer.

Sit back, enjoy your handiwork and start telling the stories that accompany each picture!

Copyright 2009 Stories by Me


ermakaluso said...

Oh, these are awesome!!! I MUST make some!

Anonymous said...

I really like this idea and would love to make them. Where do you get the wood blocks?

Stories by Me! said...

Check out your local craft store. These are 3.25" which is a pretty standard size around here. If you find something bigger or smaller, and you use our Photo Wizard to format your pictures, you can play with the scaling on your printer to adjust your picture size.

You can also try cutting your own blocks...but I don't recommend it. It's not as easy as it sounds. If all else fails, you can order them from our website!

Anonymous said...

Could one use pictures printed off at wal mart photo lab and fit to scale, or would the modge podge smear it also like the ink jet.

Stories by Me! said...

We suggest using printed copies because we don't want to encourage people to use their only photo copy for the project. Because of digital pictures this is becoming less of an issue, but you will find that the plain paper is easy to work with and typically cheaper to produce.

You can use any photo editor to crop your picture to a standard square shape, but if you use our Photo Wizard (free service on the website) it will allow you to zoom in on the features that you want to highlight.

If you decide to use a photograph, we suggest using ones with a matte finish. The glue can change color tones, but we've seen it happen less on the matte finishes.

Anonymous said...

So when you sand the edges what happens to the paper and pictures if they are exactly the same size as the block? Should the pictures be cut smaller than the block?

Stories by Me! said...

We like to take the pictures to the end of the block so there is no paper edge.

If you format your picture so that the facial features aren't right to the edge it won't matter if you sand the edges of the block. We distress the block by sanding it and darkening the edges with chalk or ink to give it a vintage look.

Have you checked out our video on the website? (find it at: www.storiesbyme.com/demos-and-tutorials/block-ornament-instructions.) It's pretty long and somewhat boring, but it walks you step-by-step through the process of making a block.

ciaobaby1998 said...

I love this idea

Stories by Me! said...

Sorry about the above link not working I was in a hurry and typed the address wrong. You can visit via our website:
storiesbyme.com / Demos & Tutorials / Block Ornament Instructions

or try this link:

Anonymous said...

If you don't have access to a laser printer would you suggest prints from Wal-mart over inkjet?

Stories by Me! said...

We prefer FedEx Kinko's...but we haven't tried printing anything from Wal-mart. We have used inkjet prints when laser prints aren't an option; we just are careful to spray the picture with a clear coat of matte acrylic spray before applying the glue. That helps to set the ink.

Anonymous said...

Why do you need to use a Mod Podge glue instead of glue stick to attach the pictures to the block since you'll need a sealer on top anyways?

Stories by Me! said...

I can't imagine a glue stick would work with wood. Has anyone tried this and had success? We like to use Mod-Podge (or any brand of decoupage glue) because once applied the pictures are permanent. (That means no curling or lifting!) The good news about using wood as your backdrop is that it's very forgiving. Try a glue stick and let us know if it works. (If it lifts, you can always sand down the layer and add new pictures using decoupage glue!)

Lynnae said...

this is so great! my parent have a big box of blocks we played with as kids and the grand kids are all done playing with them. when they all come to visit this summer this will be a great memorie making project!

Anonymous said...

I have tried to find the blocks in craft stores and even looked into making them myself but I havent been successful...do you know when you might have them back in stock or a specific location to get them?

Julie said...

My husband went to Home Depot and had them cut a 4x4 wood into blocks. All of them weren't perfect, but if they were all layed one a certain side then they were the same height. He sanded the edges for me and they came out great!

Stories by Me! said...

Great information Julie! You can cut your own blocks...the trick is to make them a perfect square. The good news (as Julie will agree) even if they aren't perfect, they become perfect when you add your pictures! We really are trying to get more blocks in. Sorry to slow so many of you down. We like to think that our blocks are perfect in every way... square, smooth, just the right weight, and READY for you to finish! We'll let you know when our next shipment arrives.

Nataleejean said...

When using the photo wizard, I go through all the steps and hit print in order for it to send the project to my email. But it never sends. Could I be doing something wrong? help! :)

Melissa Braun said...

Can you let me know when the next shipment of blocks arrives? I've tried looking everywhere for them and have been unsuccessful. Thank you so much!

Stories by Me! said...

Melissa... and everyone else who wants the 3.25" blocks. We are trying to find the right manufacturer to make more blocks for us. We were spoiled with our last overseas shipment. They were the perfect weight, perfectly square and not a blemish on them. Unfortunately, they are no longer in the block making business. We will keep trying and will let you know when we've located our new source.

Britt said...

I am really confused on how to use the photo wizard. It opens up a photo on the grid. Can I make the photo as big as one of the small squares on the grid or does it have to fill the entire grid? What happens when I add other photos? They don't appear on that same grid.

Stories by Me! said...

Britt, what project are you trying to do? It sounds like you've selected the puzzle block project. That uses six pictures total, but each picture is cut into 9 pieces for the puzzle effect. You can only load one picture per grid. Since you have commented on one of our Letter Block projects, I am assuming that you are doing the letter block project. You need to click on the Block / Box project and select LETTER Blocks option. That will size the pictures to fit a 3.25" block. If you are using blocks that are a different size, you'll want to play with your scaling to get the blocks to fit (or use any photo editor to resize your pictures to the shape that you're using. I'll take the rest of this conversation off line and email you directly as I jumped into your account and formatted your pictures. Let's get you on your way to creating!

Anonymous said...

What if I don't have a laser printer? Is there somewhere I can go to use one?

Stories by Me! said...

Most any print shop will offer laser prints. We use FedEx Kindo's ALL the time because we can forward the PDF (not the email link) to our local office and dash in to get the print.

Anonymous said...

sand the paper and picture also that way they get that worn in look and it sort of looks like its a part of the block

Unknown said...

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nice picture

Anonymous said...

Do you have your blocks in stock yet and if so can you give me the link please?

Stories by Me! said...

Thanks for asking!! Yes, we have received an order of the 3.25" blocks for the letter project.

You can check them out here...

Anonymous said...

These are so fun and they were a hit at my friend's Birthday. Another friend made them for her (made all of our gifts look like junk) hahaha I am planning to do this for Christmas gifts this year. Can't wait for the reactions!!!

Anonymous said...

Hello! if i order the blocks today, how long for shipping? I'm in southern california.

Lauri Hyer said...

We ship within 48 hours of receipt. We typically use USPS for our shipping. To make it to CA will take about 2 -3 additional days.

Anonymous said...

Can I use regular stain on the blocks first? I printed pictures with my laser jet but they look cheap. Did you use photo paper?


Stories by Me said...

You can pre-paint (or stain) the blocks, but we like adding the distress last because it's just SO easy! (Check out a video of the process on our website: storiesbyme.com / Demos & Tutorials / Block Ornaments

I'm surprised that your laser prints are looking cheap. We like using paper that is 24lb, but 20/22lbs work as well. (I'd stay away from 18lb because it's so thin.) You can always send your pictures to a copy shop (like FedEx Kinkos). They are reasonably priced and look good. We stay away from photo paper because the colors tend to change from the dampness of the glue.

Enjoy the project!

Dawn Chew said...

Can i do the same on glass?

Anonymous said...

I would like to us my last name as my letters on the blocks however those are not listed on the letter sheet.. How would I make different letters to print off ?

Stories by Me said...

Dawn - sorry that our earlier comment didn't get saved properly. You have us curious about trying the process on glass. We've tried a similar process on glass pendents, but not on glass blocks. I don't know how you'd finish the edges. I also think the cost of glass blocks would be much more than wood blocks. If you give it a try, let us know the outcome!

Stories by Me said...

You can create any combination of letters using a basic text editor. You might need to play a little with the font size as different fonts measure different heights. Take a standard sheet (letter size) and divide it into 6 equal sections. Each block measures 3.25 so you'll have 1" margins on the left and right and .625" margins top and bottom. I'll try to get my act together and share a recent project from someone who created these blocks as wedding decor. They turned out awesome!

Andrea Nicole said...

I'm trying to do this project but there is no option for the photo blocks. :-(

Stories by Me said...

Hope you got our direct email Toni Ann. You need to click on the Block / Box project and then select the Letter Blocks from the project type in the pull down menu.

ABowman0609 said...

I used Mod Podge Gloss, and my blocks turned out sticky. So, I applied a finishing spray and they are worse! They are so bad that if you stack them then try to pull them apart it rips the paper! Do you think it is because I used the gloss? I am working on another set and do not want the same problem- any suggestions?

Stories by Me said...

ABowman0609 - What brand of decoupage glue are you using? Is it Mod Podge? There shouldn't be a difference between gloss and matte. If you put on multiple layers, I wonder if you didn't give it proper drying time between coats. Here's a couple of suggestions: 1. Use a new bottle of glue. I don't think they have expiration dates, but maybe you have a super old bottle? 2. Use a name brand, like Mod Podge. 3. Give adequate time for drying if you're adding layers of glue over the picture. 4. Or...don't put glue over the top of the pictures (just use it for attaching the picture to the block). Use a spray finish (should feel gritty...not sticky!)

The good news is that you can still use the blocks that are sticky. You'll want to sand off the sticky mess, but once you get to a smooth layer, you can add new pictures and try the process again. Wood is so forgiving!

Kellie's Kreative Korner said...

I have had, or should I say I AM having the same issue with the blocks sticking together after using Mod Podge GLOSS as a sealer. So I did some researching and found where somebody was saying NOT to use the gloss mod podge as a sealer because it will make all the blocks stick together. But if you do use the brush on glue to make sure you put a few layers of spray sealer on top of that to eliminate that problem. So I have about a dozen sets of blocks sitting here that I had made for Christmas presents but due to the tackiness I didn't give them out, and trying to decide what to do now. I had sealed all of them originally with a spray sealer, half with matte & half gloss, and they just didn't look or feel like I had even put anything on them, minus that gritty feeling. So that's when I decided to go back over them with a sponge brush & matte glue. And NOW not only are they sticky but I guess I brushed it on too thick because I have VERY noticeable brush lines on almost all of them! Guess I'll be sanding them all down & starting completely over. :-(

Anonymous said...

What is the font used for LOVE?

Anonymous said...

Is there an option for photo blocks?

Stories by Me said...

You can use our Photo Wizard at storiesbyme.com to format photos for this project. (Select the Letter Block option from the pull down menu under Block / Box)

In response to the question about what fonts we used...sorry for the delay. We did this project years ago and I honestly can't remember. I searched through years of designs and can't find the original file. As we regularly use 100's of different fonts for our projects, your guess is as good as mine. If you're looking to do a different letter block project, play with your font options until you find something you like. There are so many great fonts to choose from!

Unknown said...

My husband took leftover 2x2's, you can get at Lowe's, and cut them with a table saw.

Marjolein said...

Thia is such a great idea. Pinned it to my stuff I want to make board. Just one question. What is Mod Podge. Is it the same as regular white glue? I have never seen mod podge in stores here.

Stories by Me said...

Glad you like the idea Marjolei! We like Mod Podge (a name brand glue that also has a sealer and finish), but you can use any brand of decoupage glue. A quick search of the internet says you can make decoupage glue using Elmer's Glue-All and water. I'd test it on one side of the block (you can always sand the picture away if it doesn't work). Just be careful to make sure the finish isn't sticky. We've heard this complaint with some other brands of decoupage glue which is why we like Mod Podge so much.

Unknown said...

Can you use pressure treated wood for the blocks?

Stories by Me said...

Hi Jeni,

We haven't tried pressure treated wood, but I don't see why you can't. The only concern I'd have long term is the chemical composition affecting the printed pictures. To help protect your pictures, be sure to seal the wood with a couple coats of Mod Podge BEFORE applying the pictures.

kplacenio said...

Hello, I'd like to make the letter blocks for my husband for father's day, however you do not have the letter "D" available to print on your pdf file. Would it be possible to get this from you?

thanks :)

Stories by Me said...

As we have had several requests for DAD letters I thought I'd take a few minutes to make a set available. Enjoy! Access the google.docs file using this link: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6j-J0cNz1LNN2hvLUtVRXR0UGc/edit?usp=sharing

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Did you find out what font was used? I was wondering the same thing. Thanks.

Stories by Me said...

Hi Anonymous, Here's the response I gave earlier:
We did this project years ago and I honestly can't remember. I searched through years of designs and can't find the original file. As we regularly use 100's of different fonts for our projects, your guess is as good as mine. If you're looking to do a different letter block project, play with your font options until you find something you like. There are so many great fonts to choose from!

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

I am wondering how you pull individual letters from the "Our Letter Blocks.pdf" file? I am working to make the LOVE blocks for a bridal shower, but the PDF that opens from the link has the necessary letters spread over three pages, rather than all on one. I don't have enough scrapbook paper to print all the extra pages, and can't seem to figure out how to pull the individual letters I need from the PDF.


Stories by Me said...

Unfortunately, the file wasn't made to be altered...unless you have software that will let you edit PDFs. It's not hard to create your own letters using any text editor. Just make each letter large enough to fill your block.

Anonymous said...

I found the 3.5 inch blocks at a website called scrapbook.com. They come in sets of 3.
Thanks for the great project!

OSr Group said...

Omg it's so fabulous!!
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Anonymous said...

I absolutely LOVE this idea. I'm making a "I love you" blocks for my boyfriend but I do have a quick question. Since I do not have a laser printer, where else can I go to print my pictures?

Anonymous said...

Great site with great ideas.
Having a little problem with the
Photo Wizard link--when you click on it from your blog post all it dose is go to some random page that lists related links--can not seem to find a link that takes you to the actual program for use.
Am i doing something wrong or is this by design--if so how can i find the actual program ???
Keep up the good work and thanks for the help-Cindy

Anonymous said...

I need help finding the distress ink and finishing spray. Where do I get those?

Anonymous said...

The website that this links to is no longer in use.

Unknown said...

What gives the brown color around the blocks? Do I need to stain the wood?

Anonymous said...

is it possible to have black borders instead of brown??.

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