DIY Holiday Countdown Blocks

*This post does not contain affiliate links.  All opinions and suggestions are my own.

I'm absolutely the worst about taking pictures.

I forget to document my craft projects until they're totally done, which is frustrating, because then I have to make ANOTHER one to show you how I did it.

I actually did that twice with this project.  I made Thanksgiving countdown blocks.....

and then (because I completely forgot to take pictures) I made Christmas countdown blocks.

And then I forgot to take pictures of most of the process.
That probably testifies that this project is lots of fun to do, and that you'll get so caught up in doing this DIY that you won't realize that other things exist.  Like dishes.  Or something.

And unless I get less lazy than I currently am, or unless I decide to make a set as a gift to someone, I'm not doing another set just to take more pictures.

So.  Here's how you do it.

Materials and Tools:
- two 4x4* cubes
- a belt/disk sander or sandpaper
- 6 different patterns of cute Christmasy paper
- scissors
*optional* - A Cricut Explore One --- No cartridges! Don't despair!
 *optional* - white paint (or the color of your choice) and a paintbrush or foam brush
- Mod podge & foam brush

1. You get a giant 10 foot pole of 4x4 wood from Home Depot, because, for some reason, 400 feet long is the only length they sell wood in.

FYI: 4x4 wood is generally NOT 4 inches by 4 inches.  It actually happens to be about 3.5 inches by 3.5 inches.  The wood shrinks when it dries out or something, apparently. So, if you're a perfectionist and you want your blocks to be (close to) perfect cubes, measure the thickness of the wood first.

2.  At Home Depot (at least at mine) you get 5 free cuts.  Have the wood person cut your wood into 3.5 inch sections, so that you have little cubes, like this:

3. Sand your edges. Here's where you've got some options.  With my Thanksgiving blocks, I sanded the edges by hand with some sandpaper, and I'm happy with the results.  It ended up a lot more "square" though, so if you want rounder edges, I suggest using a belt/disk sander like I did, or you're going to be sanding until the Holidays are over.

If you choose to sand it with a belt sander, be careful not to shave your hand off.  I warned you.  Don't hurt yourself.

Look at that beaut of a sander.  $20 at a yard sale.  It ain't perfect, but it does the job.
Home Depot or Amazon have them for around $80-$90, but that's an awful lot of money for some DIY Christmas blocks haha, so don't splurge unless you're really going to use it.

Alright.  Sanding.  Roll the block slowly while applying even pressure, being careful not to sand your fingers.  Sand it to the amount of roundness you want, and viola!

A beautiful cube.  I love how the sanding brought out the veins in the wood.

Also, sanding it with a machine tends to make the corners sharper, like this:

So I just dabbed each corner on the sander to dull them a little bit.  See?

Alright. On to the fun stuff.

4. *OPTIONAL* Paint your blocks.

I did this with my Thanksgiving blocks, and I thought it was cute, but it's all about personal preference.  Let the paint dry before you continue.

5. Figure out your numbers.  In order to do a date countdown, you need to put 1 and 2 on both blocks, and you need to include 0.

Here's how that looks for me:

Block 1:  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Block 2:  0, 1, 2, 7, 8, 9

That basically allows you to count down 30 days by switching the blocks around as needed.  If you can figure out a way to count down higher numbers consistently, please let me know in the comments!

So, you actually have to put those numbers on your blocks.  You have options here, as well.
       Option #1:  Draw on your numbers.  Probably the cheapest option, so if you're confident with drawing, do it.
       Option #2:  Use an Xacto knife to cut the numbers.  This one would require some precision.
       Option #3a: ( I'm not being paid to say this.  I just love this machine.) Use a Cricut Explore One to cut a silhouette of the numbers.  I did this with the Thanksgiving blocks, using a free font called Combustion.  I made the numbers about 2.5 inches tall.  This was semi-effective.  If the contrast is good enough between your paper and your block, it should work great.  However, some of my super-cute paper against the white paint basically turned the numbers invisible.

       Option #3b:  Use a Cricut Explore One to cut the actual numbers from a different color (like black).  I did this with the black numbers on my Christmas blocks, using a font on the Cricut Design Space called Paper Lace 2.  Holy moly, I just looked up how much it would cost you to buy that font (I'm getting it free for right now) and it's like 20 bucks.  Don't pay that.  There are lots of cute free number fonts out there.
Back to the block, I really like how you can see the numbers, but I don't particularly love how dark it made the overall effect.

Moral of the story:  Choose your colors wisely.

6. Cut your paper squares.

Now, honestly, because my 4x4 board was skiwampus and not even square (see picture), I just eyeballed the shape of each square and trimmed it as necessary.

Can you see that? Can you see that that's not a square?  Comment below if that would annoy you too much to use, or if I'm ridiculous for caring about such a tiny imperfection.

The colors of your squares is up to you, but I liked having 6 different patterns, and using each pattern once on each block.
My paper squares ended up about 3 inches square.
If you end up doing Number option #3a, you can cut out the numbers first, then cut the paper around the numbers... if that makes sense.

Isn't that paper just so cute and festive?

Total, you should have 12 paper squares. (Also probably 12 numbers!)

6. Mod podge time!  *Funky dance music*
This is the part I forgot to take pictures of, so bear with me.

Take your blocks, and do the following 12 times (which sounds like way more times than it feels):

- Take a sponge brush and evenly spread mod podge all over one face.  I used matte mod podge.  Don't worry if it goes on super opaque; it will dry clear.

- Press one beautiful paper square into the center of that face
- Wait until it dries.
- Spread mod podge evenly on top of that paper.

** If your paper numbers look like my Thanksgiving blocks (silhouette), you're done; wait until it dries!

- If your paper numbers look like my Christmas blocks (added on top), quickly stick the numbers on top of the layer of wet mod podge.  After the glue dries, add one more layer of mod podge to seal in the numbers.

You should have a finished product as soon as it all dries!

Isn't it lovely?  The mod podge will help make the blocks more durable (for many holidays to come)!

Drumroll, please......

days until Thanksgiving!

days until Christmas, ya'll!

Merry Christmas, I don't care if it's October!

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