How to Repair a Broken Paper Mache Sculpture

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how to repair paper mache

Oops. I moved last week, and my Raven wasn’t packed correctly. (Note to self: label all boxes!)

All things considered, I think just one casualty isn’t bad, and he was pretty easy to fix. The two things I really worried about – the ears on the paper mache baby elephant and the horns on the antelope head – suffered no damage at all during the move.

I used the air dry clay recipe when I first made the raven, so he might not officially qualify as “paper mache,” although the recipe does contain a lot of paper, and the way he was fixed will work no matter what type of paper mache the item is made with. Doing the repair was remarkably easy, with just a few torn strips of newspaper and some Titebond II wood glue. That stuff is incredibly strong.

I’m very glad that the raven’s legs have a wire inside, since the wire helps the strengthen the newly repaired leg. It also kept the pieces together, so I didn’t have to go searching through the box to find the feet – that would have been really discouraging.

Since the glue is strong and dries really hard, I’m sure this same method will work for any broken paper mache sculpture. If a piece is crushed and a portion of the original shape is damaged, it might be necessary to fill out the missing space with crumpled paper or aluminum foil, and then continue with the paper and glue. Small indentations might be rounded out with some spackle, which would then be covered over with the paper and glue once the spackle is completely dry. A hollow piece that’s missing a section would need a temporary support on the inside, at least until the new paper and glue has a chance to dry and become hard.

I’m going to repair my baby elephant’s tail just as soon as I’ve unpacked all my boxes and get my studio organized. I’ll let you see her newly-repaired rear end just as soon as I get it done. 😉

49 thoughts on “How to Repair a Broken Paper Mache Sculpture”

    • No, I don’t. But you might be able to find someone if you call your local university art department and explain what kind of work you need done. If it’s an antique piece, a local antique dealer might be able to give you a name for a repair artist.

  1. Hi Jonni. I have a papier-mâché, bird sculpture where the legs got bent as well, and it does not stand up any longer. They seem to be around a wire post inside. Before I tried to bend them back into shape so that the bird can stand is there any suggestion you can give me. Fortunately, the paint is not broken, only have to bend back into shape. Your suggestions would be appreciated.



    • Is it bent just a little? Sometimes you can get a two-legged sculpture to stand up just by putting a little bit of thickness under one leg – like we do if a table is a little wobbly. Without seeing it, I can’t give any more advice. If you have a photo, you could put it up on the Daily Sculptors page, with an explanation of what’s wrong. I’ll try to help, and someone else might have some good ideas for you, too.

  2. Hi, Jonni. Thank you for all the tips. I have finished applying super smooth air dry clay and am sanding it before applying gesso. I discovered that the tail piece over the armature wire has cracked near the body because of the weight of the long tail. I was considering using wooden splints (toothpicks or dowels) on each side of the break, but then I read about loctite. Do you have any suggestions?
    Thank you

    • It looks like that company makes a lot of products, but I haven’t used any of them. I don’t think any adhesive would help support the tail. That’s the spot that is most prone to cracking, so it would need to be reinforced in some way. Would you be able to drill through the air dry clay and the armature to add a thin wooden dowel that’s supported inside the body, and extends out into the tail?


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