6 Best Things To Do With Old Lino Blocks

If you are into lino printing, you probably have stacks of old lino blocks stashed somewhere in your home or studio. These blocks can take up a lot of space, and as they get older and harder, they become more of a token of your early efforts than functional printing blocks. 

You probably don’t want to throw them away and waste the materials and effort you put into carving them. So, what are you supposed to do with those bulky blocks clogging up your workspace? 

Here are the five best things to do with old lino blocks: 

  1. Create colored prints.
  2. Convert your linocut into a new piece of art. 
  3. Reuse the block backing. 
  4. Convert the blocks into stamps. 
  5. Restore the blocks. 
  6. Repair the blocks. 

So, let’s look at some easy ways to reuse and repurpose your old linocut blocks. 

Things To Do With Old Lino Blocks

Create Colored Prints

You can also use your old lino blocks to create colored linocuts. Here are some ways: 

  • Use washable markers to color an old lino block. Block printing ink is expensive, but washable markers are not. You probably have a few markers lying amid your art supplies, so why not use them to create more prints? You can blend the colors if you want to create gradients. Create new prints using papers of different colors and weights.
  • Color linocuts by hand. Hand-paint watercolor or colored ink onto the black-and-white linocut prints. 
  • Use the Chine-Collé method. Place colored tissue paper on the print before pressing. This method creates an image with colored patches where there would have been white areas.

Convert Your Linocut Into A New Piece of Art

If you can’t bear to get rid of your linocut blocks, you can hand-color the block’s design and hang it or use it as decoration. I have used mine like tiles to create a backsplash for my desk, but you can use them for anything. I had an old art professor who used them to decorate picture frames, box lids, bookends, and anything he could glue the linoleum onto, so keep using your creativity to display your blocks!

Just give your prints a clear coat to ensure that they don’t crack. I often use polyurethane to seal the linoleum, but I’ve also successfully used mod podge in a pinch. 

Reuse the Block Backing

Instead of purchasing new blocks, why not stick down some discount linoleum onto the old prints? Reusing your blocks can save materials and money, helping you keep your practice more sustainable and budget-friendly. 

Convert the Blocks Into Stamps

If you have a pile of old lino blocks somewhere in your studio, take some time to pore over the designs. You will be amazed to find many interesting patterns within the original design. 

You can create stamp-sized lino blocks containing these patterns. 

Use a craft knife or a linoleum cutter to divide an old lino block into several pieces with varying patterns. You can use each piece as a stamp to print clay or paper. If you want to add a bit of panache to them, you can use some glue and a piece of wood to create handles on the back of your lino blocks. 

Restore the Blocks

Old lino blocks stashed away in some obscure corner of the house can accumulate dust, mold, humidity, and heat. As they build up gunk and age, they become brittle, warped, or cracked. 

Don’t throw away these old and damaged lino blocks because you can restore and reuse them. Here’s how: 

  1. Dilute PVA or polyvinyl alcohol (If you are into crafts projects, there’s probably a tube or two lying around the studio) with water. 
  2. Use this mix to coat the back of the lino block. 
  3. Apply a coat of undiluted PVA on the entire surface. 
  4. Place the lino block on an MDF sheet. 
  5. Place weight on top of the lino block and the MDF sheet. 
  6. Let the block dry for a couple of days. 
  7. Apply plaster gap filler on the large cracks. 
  8. Use sandpaper to smooth the surface gently. 
  9. You can re-cut the lines before reusing the block for printing. 

Repair the Blocks

Old lino blocks languishing in the attic or a forgotten corner of an art studio develop deep cuts and tears from objects scraping and brushing against them. However, you can repair damaged lino blocks and use them again. 

You can use the widely-available and cheap plastic glue or an adhesive specially formulated for plastic and PVC. 

Here’s what you can do if you want to repair and re-cut a damaged area on the lino block: 

  1. Smear the damaged or torn patch on the lino block with plastic glue. 
  2. Let the glue dry for a day. 
  3. Add more glue if you find the dried glue has sunk. 
  4. Let the glue dry completely. 
  5. Re-cut the area as you do for a standard lino. 

You can use glue made for plastic and PVC to fill minor cuts. The adhesive hardens quickly, so you have to be fast when you use it to fill a crack. However, you can scrape it to make it level after it has hardened. 

You can also use a car body filler to repair an old lino block. A car body filler is a polyester putty product that is also used for household repairs and by sculptors. 

Here’s how you can use it to repair cuts and marks on an old lino block: 

  1. Wear gloves and a mask before handling the car body filler. 
  2. Choose a well-ventilated place to work because automotive body fillers tend to smell strongly of chemicals and produce vapors that can stifle you in a small space. 
  3. Apply painter’s tape around the area you want to fill to prevent the filler from getting into places you don’t want it to. 
  4. Mix the filler according to the instructions on its package. 
  5. Use a plaster spatula to apply the filler to the desired area. 
  6. Ensure that you apply enough filler on the entire area you intend to repair and not just the detail you want to mask. 
  7. Let the filler dry. 
  8. Use 60 or 80 grit sandpaper to level the patch of filler and align it with the surface of the lino. 
  9. Use 100 grit sandpaper to smooth the surface of the filler. 
  10. Use 220 grit sandpaper to achieve a smoother look and ensure the filler layer blends with the lino surface. 
  11. Check with your fingers to ensure the filler surface is smooth. 
  12. You can apply another layer of filler if you can feel the crack’s texture with your fingers. 
  13. Sand the new layer of filler to smooth it. 
  14. Your old lino block is now ready to be re-cut. 

Repairing an old lino block with these adhesives lets you reuse the block and keep it in tip-top shape. 

Final Words

Knowing how to reuse old lino blocks lets you extend their lifespan and helps you save money. Reusing old lino blocks also frees up valuable space in your home or art studio that you can put to other uses. Most importantly, you play your part in reducing wastage and preserving natural resources while decreasing your carbon footprint. 

WATCH – How to recyle and reuse a backing board with your lino – linocut printing tips

Laura Boswell

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Ines

Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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