Want a Crackle Finish? Try Elmers!

Want a Crackle Finish? Try Elmers!

A few weeks ago, fellow Curblier ericson posted a question regarding crackle finishing. Ericson’s conundrum was that he is in the Phillippines and was unsure if he would be able to find the crackling medium used in the process. I’ve always had my suspicions as to what the medium was, but–and let me stress this–I really have no clue as to its chemical make-up. That being said, I went about doing a bit of experimenting anyway. This is the outcome.


As with all crackle finishing techniques, I started with a coat of LATEX paint. Here I used a foam brush to apply navy blue on a scrap piece of pine.

Next I put a generous coat of regular old, available-just-about-everywhere Elmers Glue over the navy. Keep in mind that the direction you apply the glue will determine the orientation of your cracks. I applied the Elmers WITH the grain, which I would recommend.

I waited about five minutes to let the glue set up a bit, and then I put a coat of white LATEX over that. In about a minute or two, the crackles started to appear. UNLIKE the traditional crackle medium, which forces the cracks to appear rather quickly, Elmers takes a little longer. So give it a little time before you let frustration take over!

IF you decide you want to try using Elmers to get your crackle finish, you should practice on a similar piece of material before beginning your project. Even if you are using the specified crackle medium, the technique does take practice. Timing is crucial in applying that second coat of latex. And, like all crackle methods, you should end by applying a coat of polyurethane or varnish to protect the crackle finish. (I used a water-base poly, which worked well.)

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DIY Maven on Nov 02, 2007:

No problem! I hope you post pics of the project. I'd love to see it!

sumusumu on Nov 02, 2007:

Thanks! I think I will settle for what crackling I do have and do the vaseline technique for the rest of the bed frame.

DIY Maven on Nov 02, 2007:

sumusumu--that's a good question. I think applying it with a foam brush would work. I'm not a big fan of crackle finishing in general because of  getting that second coat of latex on at just the right time. Do you have your heart set on crackle for the bed frame? If you're looking for an distressed/shabby chic look, have you considered the Vasline trick? That would give the metal dimension and would be A LOT easier than the crackle route. Here's a how-to I did awhile back distressing a picture frame. The same steps can be applied to any paintable surface. And instead of  Vaseline, you can use a candle. Just rub the edge of the candle on the edges of the bed frame where it would get naturally worn.

sumusumu on Nov 01, 2007:

How does this work on a quasi wrought iron metal bedframe? I tried the spray kit but it uses up too much spray paint because the surfaces are so small. How would you suggest applying the Elmer's. Would a natural sponge work assuming I use a thinner solution?

Thanks for any tips or clues.


DIY Maven on Oct 23, 2007:

That's great!! I can't wait to see pictures!!

ericson on Oct 23, 2007:

hey there friend.got your comment and thanks a lot for your helpful idea.i did a sample of the crackle stuff and i used the same glue,ELMERS,but i used the clear one.its hard to find a crackle medium here in the philippines but luckily and with your help,i got what i wanted.i used the transparent ao the clear glue then afterwards,i did the top coat using a paint spray gun and showed different but amazing effect.i will post some pictures.thanks a lot for that wonderful idea!!!! more power!

DIY Maven on Oct 23, 2007:

P.S. I think I'm going to try this Elmers technique on paper. Oh, the possibilites!

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