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Update on the MethylCellulose Paste – Elmer’s Art Paste Substitute

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This is a follow-up on my previous video about this no-mold substitute for Elmer’s Art Paste.

Some of the comments I received on the previous post made me a little nervous. Some folks thought the paste had to be mixed with really hot water or it wouldn’t be sticky after storing it for awhile.

If you saw my last video about methylcellulose, you know I mixed it with cold water, not hot. It worked great for my jackrabbit, but would it work again, after sitting on the shelf for a month?

I had to find out, so I took my left-over methycellulose paste off the shelf and tested it – just to make sure it still worked.

I discovered that if you try using it without re-mixing it,  it doesn’t stick any better than plain water.

But if you mix it up again, it works really well. You don’t have to mix it very much – I just turned the jar over a few times, nothing fancy.

Maybe if I used hot water to mix it the first time I wouldn’t need to mix it again – but I don’t need another quart of paste so you’ll have to do that experiment yourself. 🙂

This is the brand of food-grade methylcellulose that I used. I doubt that the brand makes much difference, but this looked like the least expensive option, and the only one I’ve had a chance to play with.

Especially after today’s experiment, I’m really happy with this paste. It holds the paper mache on really tight, and it sat on my shelf for a month without even a hint of mold. It’s a great option for humid areas or school classes, or for anyone who doesn’t like mixing up a new batch of flour and water paste every day.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. 🙂

15 thoughts on “Update on the MethylCellulose Paste – Elmer’s Art Paste Substitute”

  1. Hi Jonni!
    I had an issue with my papermache paste molding and producing an EXTREMELY foul smell. Is that something that you have run into with your projects? I work with high schoolers and after about a week sealed on the counter it gets really rough.

    Reply
    • Paste made with flour and water will smell bad if you keep using the same batch day after day. That’s because yeast from the air (and from the flour itself) will try to turn the paste into sourdough batter. The yeast eats the starch, turning it into alcohol, and the result is a really bad smell. Your students might enjoy learning that the clear, sometimes brownish water that collects on the top of sourdough starter was called “hooch” by Alaskan goldminers, and they drank it when they couldn’t get anything better.

      🙂 But digressions aside – I don’t recommend keeping flour and water paste from one day to the next, because the starch is what makes it sticky. When the starch is changed by the yeast, the paste doesn’t work as well. I always make up a new batch each day.

      Reply
      • I really wanted to edit my comment to say that I made it with Methyl Cellulose but couldn’t! The kind I got was not food grade, so I’m wondering if that was the issue?

        Reply
        • Oops – I should have noticed the page where you posted your comment.
          The brand or type of methyl cellulose you used might be the reason it didn’t work. I kept mine on the shelf for months and it didn’t change at all. The only thing that was different after sitting in the jar was that I needed to mix it up again, because the sticky stuff sank to the bottom of the jar. This is the brand of food-grade methyl cellulose that I used. I haven’t tried any other brands or kinds of methyl cellulose.

          Reply
    • I never let student put their hands in the “mother batch” of an paste, even when I used Elmers Art Paste. Whatever they used, was poured into smaller containers and if it didn’t all get used, it was dumped out.

      Reply
  2. June 26,2023
    Good afternoon!!!
    First and foremost, I truly really enjoy your videos; which are very informative.
    I would love ?? if you would demonstrate how I can turn a photo of a person (mom) into a mask like you do with the animals.
    I’m needing each steps from the photo phase to understanding how to create the pattern that makes up the mask.
    After I have an understanding on how-to the rest I can do.
    Any suggestions you are able to provide are greatly appreciated.
    Ansim
    Ikigai Art Studio

    Reply
  3. So interesting that you managed to get methylcellulose to work. I failed miserably. I will try again! Thank you!

    Reply
    • So – what went wrong with your first attempt? I just mixed the powder in water with my little electric mixer. There was a lot of foam but it went away and didn’t hurt anything. Can you describe what happened to yours? Was it not sticky?

      Reply
      • I mixed it the same way and it just didn’t thicken. I am going to have another go after seeing your success!

        Reply
        • Mine didn’t really get thick either, but it still stuck the paper down really tight. Was your paste sticky, even though it wasn’t thick? Someone mentioned that adding glycerine would make it thicker, or just using more of the powdered methylcellulose.

          Reply
  4. Thank you for the update, Jonni! Quick question. I’m going to be teaching a paper mache class this coming fall to a classroom of homeschooled children, ages 10 years and up. It’s a twelve week class that only meets once a week. I’m guessing that I’ll have between 20-25 students. Should I purchase a larger bag of MethylCellulose or will the 2oz size be enough? I’m going to have to go find the original video you made. I noticed the fun colored chicken you made sitting on a shelf. Can you provide a link to where I can find the tutorial? I think the kids would have fun creating their own in class! Thank you so much!
    As always, I greatly appreciate your talent and willingness to share this knowledge with us!

    Reply
    • Hi Janet. You can find that chicken here. A lot of people have made one, and every one comes out different. 🙂

      The two ounce package of methylcellulose will make a gallon of paste. That’s a lot of paste! But I don’t know how much each student will use. I don’t work with kids, and I’ve never measured how much paste I use for my own projects. But I do still have that quart jar of left-over paste, and it looks like there’s about a cup of paste missing, which I used on the jackrabbit. I only used one layer, although every piece of paper overlapped other pieces – but the jackrabbit had a smooth surface because of the cardboard pattern. On a project that uses an armature made with crumpled paper or foil, you might want to use more layers to smooth out some of the bumps. But it was also probably bigger than one of the chickens, because of those long ears. Lots of ‘ifs.’

      If I was going to guess, I’d say one cup of paste should be enough for each chicken (but that’s really just a guess) and the 2 oz package is enough for a gallon, or 16 cups. You might want to get two packages, just to be on the safe side – but you could make a chicken at home and see how much paste you use, to be scientific about it. Have fun! 🙂

      Reply

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