Paper Mache Raccoon Part 3 – Padding the Armature

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The paper mache raccoon’s armature is almost done, except for the head and a bit of fine-tuning that I’ll do between videos. I changed my mind and decided to give him some corn to hold instead of a fish.

If you don’t have the pattern yet, just click the button below.

No, I didn’t sculpt the corn – I ordered some Indian corn online. It should be here this week. (I ordered extra so I could make a corn cob wreath a few months from now).

This raccoon was an experiment to see if we could use the blue shop towels with a paste made with corn starch. It worked, but I much prefer the joint compound and glue paste with this kind of paper.

That said, this is now one of my favorite sculptures, and the pattern has been downloaded by many of my readers for their own raccoon sculptures.

Links to the other videos in this series:

About that raccoon head – it will be sculpted with aluminum foil, not crumpled paper. I find it much easier to get the finer details that way. And this time I’m not going to use the paper mache clay recipe.

I decided to use paper strips and paste and then try out Pedro’s toilet paper and glue trick to make the fur.

I have no idea if it will work for fur, since I haven’t tried it yet. I’m not expecting it to be entirely realistic, but it should create an interesting texture. And if it really just doesn’t work for raccoons as well as it does for Pedro’s birds, I can always just change my mind again and do something else.  ?

21 thoughts on “Paper Mache Raccoon Part 3 – Padding the Armature”

  1. Hi. Love this project! I have a quick question. Is there something else we could use other than newspaper for the padding? I dont subscribe to the newspaper and its a bit pricy to buy. Just wonderimg if there were other various material that will work the same..

    Thanks so much

    • Hi Meisha. If you don’t have any free want-ad papers in your area, you can use anything inside your sculpture that will hold it’s shape. Aluminum foil is one of my favorites, although it might cost more than a newspaper. Scrap paper from an office, old plastic bags?

      • Thanks so much Jonni for some new ideas. I have TONS of plastic bags that I save from shopping that would work great. I can’t wait to get started. I love your blog. Have a great Easter.

        – Meisha

  2. I just found your web site and have been looking at your videos for an idea I recently had. I am a dentist and would like to make a large dental implant with a tooth crown on top to use in the lawn in front of my office. I have a good idea for the implant armature ( Cardboard concrete tube). But was wandering if you can make a suggestion for the tooth. I want the tooth itself to be about four feet tall. The diameter will depend on which tooth I decide to model, the largest being a molar, but most likely will use a bicuspid. Do you have a book that would be good for referencing for large pieces? The photo I am attaching is of a small plastic model I will use as a guide. The implant is in the center with a bicuspid on it. The tooth to the right is the molar.

    • Hi Terry. The photo you attached to your comment didn’t come through, but I think I understand what you’re trying to do. I know you wouldn’t want to make your sculpture with paper mache, though, because it wouldn’t last very long outside. The best material to use would probably be carved foam, with a hard waterproof foam coating over it. I’ve seen two suggestions online for the coating – Rosco Foamcoat and Aqua Resin. Both can be sanded and painted, but I’m not sure if the Rosco product is meant to be outside. That would be something you’d want to check.

      The people who make props for theaters are experts in this field, and there are a number of forums, like this one, where people can get good advice for foam sculpting. (It looks like a lot of fun, and I do hope to try it some day.) The foam from the lumber store, the blue stuff, is much cheaper than foam sold for sculpture, of course.

      If you have a lot of wind in your area, you might need some advice from a carpenter or engineer, to make sure your sculpture stays in your yard. There should be a simple way to anchor it to the ground.

      • I just checked the Rosco website, and it looks like their FlexCoat would be a better choice. They say it will not become brittle with age or exterior exposure.

    • Thanks for your suggestions. I did try to reduce my photo and resend it , but you have the general idea. ( I’ll try the photo with this reply again.) In Fayetteville we have a number of “Flying Pig ” sculptures that were done as a fund raiser and than auctioned to businesses to place outside. I thought I had heard that they were made with paper mache, covered with fiberglass, painted, and then clear coated. They are about seven feat long and seem to be holding up well. I’ll check into the foam idea though as it might actually be easier for me. As far as anchoring to the ground, another idea I have for the implant portion is to use a concrete drain pipe as the implant part.

      • Hi Terry. Fiberglass over paper mache (or the AquaResin – same thing only non-toxic) would certainly give you a waterproof sculpture. You could do it that way, but you’d have to do a lot of work to get the smooth enamel – and foam can be shaved, sanded and carved to get that nice smooth look. But if your final sculpture is coated in some kind of waterproof resin, it should hold up just fine. The concrete drain pipe idea sound workable, too – I think you’re on the right track. Be sure to let us see your sculpture when it’s finished!

  3. Hi Jonni
    Great site. I watched several of your videos and plan to watch more before attempting my project but I am a little confused as to what recipe to use. There seems to be so many differnt choices of recipes. I need something with a smooth surface (i hate sanding as well!!) I love the smoothness of the weighed pape mache air dry paste but needs to be strong as it will be a large headpiece and has ears that stick out. I do not want these to get broken off. I noticed you said that recipe not as strong??? It will also need to be light as it will be worn on the head. I already have my form made of cardboard and masking tape. Would you suggest the paper mache paste? I guess the next recipe is the paper mache paste?? is that stronger but can be smoothed with a knife over the cardboard form? Does it need any support on the inside?
    Thank you for any suggestion you can give

    • Hi Bonnie. I think if I was making something this large that needs to be quite strong, I would reinforce those ears with wires, and then “cheat” by using two layers of plaster cloth over the cardboard shape. You can then use the air dry clay recipe over the plaster cloth, and the two materials together will be very strong. The air dry clay is a bit tricky to use because it isn’t very sticky. You’ll probably need to brush on a mixture of glue and water before adding the clay, to make sure there’s a good bond.

      The original paper mache clay recipe is stronger, but it is more difficult to make it smooth because it has more paper. One way to do it is to put on some rubber gloves and dip your fingers in the glue and water mixture. (The glue makes the water “slick,” so you fingers glide over the pm clay instead of dragging.) Don’t use too much of the mixture, though, or your pm clay will get quite wet. It doesn’t hurt anything, but it makes it harder to get fine details, if you need them. With the original recipe, the plaster cloth would not be needed if the cardboard will be staying inside. If you’ll be removing the cardboard support, I would recommend using the plaster cloth, or some other form of support. Do a small test ahead of time to see if you think it would be needed.

      If any part of the headpiece will be worn over the face, be sure to use mineral oil instead of the linseed oil, which contains chemicals.

  4. Thank you so much. I am learning a lot just looking at your videos. You are a wonderful teacher and it is a real pleasure to learn from you

  5. Thanks so much, for your advice, Jonni! How does the pm clay compare with the smooth recipe, in terms of hardness? I have used some air dry clay on parts of my pieces and covered them with 3-4 layers of paper strips which seems to help with the chipping.

    • Hi Helen. The original recipe is harder than the air-dry clay. In fact, it’s so hard that it’s difficult to sand (but I hate sanding anyway, so it doesn’t bother me that much). The pm clay can chip in thin areas, like ears, if you drop them. I like to use the air-dry clay recipe as a very thin film over a layer of plaster cloth. My rhino was made that way. I moved it to a new house last month, but it wasn’t damaged at all during the move.

  6. I just love your wonderful video tutorials, Jonni. I feel that I personally know you just from watching them! What a blessing you have been to the sculpting /paper mache world!
    God bless you!

  7. Good post, interesting to see how you build the armature. Love racoons and you have captured the shape well.

    If you can’t put bells on the cats then maybe put some loud bells on the fence (or chimes from the tree branch or wherever they jump up) so they make noise when they land. That is usually enough to help the birds.

    • Good idea, Ingrid. The neighbor’s cat has a bell, but she moves so quietly that it doesn’t seem to help. A bell on the fence would be much harder for her to control. I’ll try that.

  8. Hi Jonni, thanks for showing how you pad your animals. I really loooooooove the dynamic pose of your raccoon! I’m looking forward to your next tutorial video!

    I like for my pieces to be really rock hard when they are completed. Does using layers of your paper clay over your padded armature make them super hard and durable? Right now I am using really tightly wadded paper and aluminum foil, with tape [as you suggested]. Then I use strips and wads of magazine paper with methyl cellulose.

    Watching this video makes me want to do some paper mache art!! I know how you feel, when the days are so beautiful this time of year and I just want to be outside, also tending my garden!!

    • So Jonni, the way I’m working takes a lot of time. I’d love to get the same results and am looking for more efficient ways of accomplishing a final hard “shell” so to speak. 🙂

    • Hi Helen. Yes, the paper mache clay is a recipe I developed specifically because I needed to get a lot of sculptures done in a short amount of time. And the 1/8″ to 1/4″ layer of paper mache does dry rock-hard. It is possible to chip an ear if you drop a sculpture, or you might get a crack at a joint (like when I backed my elephant’s tail up against the wall) but the pm clay is very hard when dry. You can also get a very hard skin with paper strips and paste, of course, but it takes much longer to build up enough layers. You might want to give the pm clay a try and see if you like working with it.


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