Why do we need a recipe for paper mache clay without flour?
A lot of people have told me that they’re concerned about the flour in my original paper mache clay recipe. This is usually because they live in places where there are a lot of mice or insects that are attracted to flour. And some people are very allergic to the gluten in flour, so they can’t use the original recipe.
We recently received a comment from Suzan Gamble, who told us that she makes her dog sculptures with paper mache clay – but she doesn’t use the flour that the original recipe calls for. She didn’t mention mice, but she did say that she’s never had any problems with mold, even when she keeps the wet clay for long periods of time.
So I gave it a try, and used it for one of my latest sculpture patterns, the giraffe. The pattern is now available (and you can make with any paper mache recipe, including this one).
Why is there flour in the original recipe?
The flour is in the original recipe to soak up extra moisture so the paper mache clay won’t be too wet.
And the extra moisture is in the original recipe because it makes the paper soft enough to fall apart when you use a cheap mixer to make your paper mache clay, like the one I own.
The flour absorbs the extra water and makes the paper mache clay stiff enough to actually use.
This week I decided to experiment. I wanted to see if I could make a paper mache clay recipe without flour that has the same thickness as the original recipe.
And it had to work without a big food processor like the one Suzan uses, because I don’t have one.
The gadget that makes this recipe work:
The new recipe requires a small, cheap food processor/chopper, like the one I bought to chop up walnuts. I think it cost about $12 when I bought it. It was $16.69 yesterday on amazon.com, but today it’s $18.95. Go figure….
I would not use an expensive food processor to chop the paper, but if you’re brave and you don’t think it will burn out the motor, go ahead and try it. (But don’t say I told you to!)
Step 1: Get the Toilet Paper Wet
This recipe starts just like the original recipe for paper mache clay – we get the toilet paper wet so we can measure it.
But then we do something very different…
But this time, because I’m going to use that little cheapo food processor, I squished all the water out.
Step 2: Squeeze Out the Water
As you can see, I’m squishing as much of the water out as I can.
Step 3: Chop up the Paper
Tear the damp paper into smaller pieces, so the blades won’t have to chop through a big hunk of paper. We don’t want to burn out the motor.
Turn on the chopper and leave it on until the paper looks like shredded coconut, as shown below.
Step 4: Add the Other Ingredients
The amounts I used for this small batch of No-Flour Paper Mache Clay:
- 1 cup shredded damp paper
- 2/3 cup of drywall joint compound
- 1/2 cup of PVA Glue (Elmer’s Glue-All or Clear)
- (Optional) 1 tablespoon baby oil/mineral oil or linseed oil. If you don’t have any, just leave it out. It won’t hurt anything.
Use the premixed joint compound, not the powdered kind that contains plaster.
And remember – don’t use DAP joint compound. When that brand is mixed with PVA glue it turns into rubber. Use Sheetrock brand, or the joint compound they sell at Walmart in the paint department – or any brand you can find that isn’t made by DAP. If you can’t find any locally, you can order it from amazon.com.
If you aren’t sure what what drywall joint compound is called in your country, some of our readers have made suggestions here.
Use any PVA glue. (I’ve tried wood glue before, and it didn’t work.) Elmer’s Glue-All and Clear are PVA glues, and they’re easy to find in the US. Most white glue is PVA glue.
Step 5: Mix
I’m using a $13 mixer. It’s plenty strong enough for paper mache clay.
Note: If you have problems with the motor on your mixer getting too hot, you might be using too much paper, or the paper hasn’t been chopped up enough. If you’re making the original recipe and the motor gets hot, you might be squeezing too much water out of the paper.
I added my paper shreds a little at a time so I could see how thick the paper mache clay was getting. Because the paper is almost dry, it will soak up the moisture in the mixture and thicken the PM clay, just like the flour does in the original recipe.
I only added one cup of paper this time, but I used more paper for the first layer on my giraffe.
Less paper makes the mixture smoother. More paper makes it thicker, and it isn’t quite as easy to get a very thin layer on your armature – but the thicker paper mache clay can be used to sculpt small details.
The texture of the mixture with more paper added:
The first layer on my giraffe – you can see the natural texture of the paper showing through. You can use a knife to make it a little smoother, but you’ll always have some texture.