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Paper Mache Clay Without Joint Compound? My Latest Experiment

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If we make Paper Mache Clay without joint compound – will it come out just as good as the original recipe?

What about the Silky-Smooth Air Dry Clay recipe? (Same ingredients, different proportions…)

People kept asking me if it was possible, so I decided to find out.

Although we should do more experiments to get the measurements more exact, I think the result may be (gasp!) even better than the recipes that use the drywall joint compound.

It sticks to the armature as well as the original paper mache clay, holds really fine details just as well as my air dry clay recipe, and it dried hard as a rock.

But it isn’t easy to mix in the beginning while it’s still really sticky.

For this experiment I used:

  • Newspaper (or you could use toilet paper if you can find any…) 24 grams dry, 120 grams wet.
  • 1/2 cup (130 grams) Elmer’s Glue-All PVA glue
  • 222 grams (approx) powdered marble/calcium carbonate
  • 1/2 cup (approx) corn starch

The original recipes:

Where can you get powdered marble?

You can buy 4 pounds of powdered marble from amazon.com. That should be enough for over 8 batches of the air dry clay recipe.

If you need more than that, it’s a lot less expensive if you get it in bigger bags. Azure Standard sells 50 pounds for about $25 – but they have an unusual way of delivering their product, so read about that before ordering. That’s where I bought mine for an experiment I did several years ago. It’s a lot of calcium carbonate. You could make a whole house-full of sculptures with that much product. (Or share some with your friends.)

If you try this, let us know how it came out. And if you have ideas for mixing it without making a mess, let us know that, too. 🙂

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39 thoughts on “Paper Mache Clay Without Joint Compound? My Latest Experiment”

  1. So I actually tried this with powdered eggshells run through a coffee grinder, since eggshells are made of calcium carbonate! We save our eggshells throughout the year, boil them to sanitize them and then use them in different crafts and in the garden.

    I decided to give this recipe a go substituting the same weight in ground eggshells and Tbh it worked well, although I didn’t grind them down as finely uniform as I liked, and I still had the membranes mixed in too as the shells had been crushed prior with the membranes still on. So it was a bit rough (probably mainly because of the membrane not just the grinding size, as the membrane is tougher to grind as finely) and because I used paper I had on hand and not newspaper/toilet paper, which probably also contributed to the roughness. I used titebond III wood glue and the pieces I have are bricklike in texture, rock solid, and HEAVY.
    You’re absolutely right about the beginning stages being sticky, tbh it remained that way for me as I didn’t want to overdo the starch beyond the recommended amounts as I was worried it might mold (hot/humid climate, and no it didn’t) Likely the roughness could be fixed with time spent in the preprocessing and grinding stages and then adhering more closely to your paper recommendations, just make sure to wear a dustmask/respirator cos the particles are FINE.

    As a side note Due to it being so rough, I’ve been testing using it to make the cores for various projects as once it hardens I’ve found it difficult to break, especially when reinforced on a paper maché or cardboard backing support structure, such as an animal mask I made. I’ve also tried chucking a fully hardened and 4-5mm thick x 2 inch wide cured test puck I made of it at the concrete floor just now and it didn’t break at all or even crack.

    Because of this I’ve been planning on using it as the core material in the base of a cat tree I’m making out of mostly paper maché and paper clay, as it can be used to not only weight the bottom but reinforce the structure quite well, and the grippiness of it fuses to any cardboard/paper glued to it and adds pretty solid adhesion to fabric/fiber/padding. If I can up the smoothness I may also use it to help in the middle to finishing stages. All in all though, I wound up with a neat heavy duty filler material that I’m curious to play around with more.

    Reply
  2. Loving all of these recipes!! I am wondering if you would be able to use this clay to do a face cast like with paper mache, or with plaster. It seems like it could make a very smooth face cast or mold.

    Reply
    • Hi Michael. If you’re thinking about putting the paper mache clay directly on your face, I don’t think that’s a good idea. It would take up to 12 hours to dry, and it could dry out your skin, too. Use alginate for a face mold, instead. You can use it to make a mask, although it does have a texture that isn’t as smooth as it looks, so it’s best to make the first layer that goes against the face with paper strips and paste, and then add details with the paper mache clay on top of the strips and paste.

      Reply
  3. Hello,
    a few details for France (or elsewhere) if that can help some people concerning calcium carbonate with my research:

    Calcium carbonate is a chemical substance with the chemical formula CaCO3. It occurs in several natural forms, two of the most common being calcite and aragonite. Calcium carbonate can be extracted from a variety of sources, including limestone, chalk and marble.

    “Blanc de Meudon” is also a form of calcium carbonate. Historically, it was produced from chalk from the Meudon region, near Paris, in France. Today, the term “blanc de Meudon” is often used more generally to refer to calcium carbonate in the form of a fine powder, whether or not it comes from the Meudon region.

    Marble is another natural source of calcium carbonate. Marble powder is essentially calcium carbonate ground into a fine powder.

    In short, calcium carbonate can be extracted from a variety of sources, including marble, and marble powder is a form of calcium carbonate. Meudon white can also be considered a form of calcium carbonate, whether or not its origin is linked to Meudon.
    I’ve also read in my research that meudon white is a pigmented filler whereas marble powder is a neutral filler.

    Talc is hydrated magnesium silicate. Its composition is different from that of blanc de meudon (characteristic white colour with a fine crystalline structure), as it may contain traces of other minerals, which affect its colour and purity, generally white, grey or greenish, depending on its purity and origin.

    I hope this helps you to better understand and find this in your rental country.

    Reply
  4. Hi Jonni!
    Long time listener, first time caller here lol.
    I found powdered drywall joint compound at the local hardware store, I was wondering if you think that would be a good alternative to use in this recipe.
    I would prefer to not use flour due to attracting small animals and insects, but for some reason I’m having a difficult time finding the calcium carbonate in powdered form locally,(pelitized is the only way I have found it so far) and I’m really not kean on the shipping costs lately to order it offline lol.
    Anyway, thank you for all your wonderful videos, and sharing you knowledge withlop.

    Reply
      • Thank you for the link & info! I must have missed that somewhere along the way. I will be sure to check it out and get to experimenting over the next few days.
        I was able last night (with the enlisted help of my husband) able to find ball field chalk that might be available simi-locally, if the powdered joint compound is a flop for me (I ended up carting home the ProForm 90 min quick set formula – as that was the longest set time between their availabe formulas). I am a slow worker as it is, so I am interested to see if I can pre-make some of your recipes with it and how long (if at all) I can keep it refrigeratorated for use throughout the week.

        Reply
  5. Just wanted to add: In german “powdered marbel” is “Kalk” and you can use “Gips” as substitute.

    Have a nice time crafting!

    Reply
  6. Hi Jonni,

    Longtime reader and lurker, just wanted to let you know the links to calcium carbonate supplier on Amazon are routing strangely – at least for me in southeast US – to an item surely NOT what you intend.

    Any alternate product recommendations?

    Thanks for your amazing videos and knowledge share.

    Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth. Thanks for letting me know about that link. I fixed it, but you can also just do a search for calcium carbonate. They usually sell it on the Dick Blick website, too, but it looks like they’re out of stock. I guess that’s something we have to get used to… 🙁

      Reply
  7. Hello! I was wondering, since egg shells are mostly composed of calcium carbonate, do you think it will work as a substitute for this recipe?

    Thank you.

    Reply
  8. Hi, I would like to know if there was a substitute for calcium carbonate/chalk. Since quarantine started, I haven’t gone out much and I would like to find a recipe with things I have at home. Is that possible?

    Reply
    • The calcium carbonate in this version of paper mache clay is a substitute for pre-mixed drywall joint compound used in the original paper mache clay recipe. If you have some joint compound out in the garage or in the basement, left over from a DIY project, be sure to use that. The original recipe is quite a lot easier than this one, but drywall joint compound isn’t sold in a lot of countries. I don’t have any variations that don’t use either the joint compound or calcium carbonate, but the traditional paper pulp is always an option. This website uses it a lot and they have quite a few tutorials.

      Reply
  9. Hi Jonni,

    I love your sculptures and have been so excited to try your papier mache recipe. But I’m concerned about the toxic chemicals in the joint compound like fermaldehyde. I notice you apply it with bare hands. Are you not concerned about the toxicity of the product?
    My sister yelled at me when I told her I was going to use joint compound to make papier mache sculptures.
    What do you think?

    Thank you!

    Judy

    Reply
  10. Back in old days my grandmother used to make paper mache by using the water from boiled ric as a binding agent. It’s mainly the starch.

    Reply
  11. Interesting experiment — I quite liked the details you were able to get, and how hard it was when dried. I’m curious now though — how was it to sand? (ie, did the powdered marble make it in anyway *too* hard to smooth effectively, should that be needed?)

    Thanks for a fun new video, and — as always — the generosity with which you share your creative expertise 😀 Stay well!

    Reply
    • Good question, Kim. I hadn’t thought of that so I went into the studio and tried to sand my little guy. The clay did have a texture after it dried, which didn’t show up when it was wet. Not much, but enough to notice. I tried sanding it with both a fine and a coarse sandpaper, and I can now say that it’s technically possible to sand it – but I can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to. It’s really hard. Maybe if you had one of those little electric detail sanders you could do it more easily. You’d want to wear a mask, of course.

      I had a tiny bit of joint compound left in the bottom of my tub so I tried smoothing the little face that way. It’s much easier! You can sand the joint compound, but it’s easier and less messy to use a damp sponge. And DAP joint compound would work for that purpose, even though you can’t use it to make paper mache clay. Here’s how it looks with a small portion smoothed with the joint compound, spread on paper-thin with a finger and then smoothed off with a wet finger. Much easier. 🙂

      paper mache clay smoothed with joint compound

      Reply
      • Good to know — I love that the powdered marble makes it really durable! Thinking this might be helpful for all those folks who want to make something usable outdoors… Thanks for checking out the sanding options.

        Reply
        • We have to do more testing to see if it’s waterproof, though. It would be interesting to try the powdered marble with Titebond wood glue instead of Elmers – that might make it more weatherproof – or it could turn it into something unusable. The only way to know is to try it. Unfortunately, I’m out of wood glue at the moment, so that experiment will have to wait.

          Reply
      • I wonder if calcium carbonate would also be a good additive to the silky smooth air dry clay recipe? It seems likely that replacing a small amount of the joint compound with the calcium carbonate would strengthen a project while still being easier to sand once dry than all calcium carbonate.

        Reply
  12. Thanks Jonni- so one question-does the extra need refrigeration? Maybe yes because of the corn starch? Also, how long does it last while being stored before going wonky? You may need to add an addendum to this post! It would be a game changer if it lasts indefinitely.
    I use calcium carbonate for my ph neutralizer for my well water(to raise the ph so the water doesn’t eat through the copper pipes)It comes in granules though as it is meant to break down over time. So people would really need to be cognizant of getting the powdered form. I wouldn’t try to break down or crush the granules as it would put out way too much dust. Great post!

    Reply
    • Good questions, Eileen. I don’t know the answers, though, because I just did the experiment this morning. I’ll keep everyone posted as time goes by.

      The calcium carbonate I got from Azure Standard is “Solution Grade … an ultra?fine, white, natural limestone powder with proven advantages far above standard Ag lime approved for use in organic agriculture.” For our purposes, “ultra-fine” is the important part. I think most lime found at farm stores isn’t ground up fine enough for these recipes, even if it isn’t granulated. I hope the finely-powdered marble is available in India, because it’s hard to find the joint compound in their stores.

      Reply
  13. I love your experiments. The fast face looked good; I like the way you slapped the eyebrows and nose on it. This is why you are the mentor — the horizons are always widening. Thank you.

    There is definitely something appealing about saying, “I made this with powdered marble!”

    Reply

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