Paper Mache Raccoon Part 4 – New Toes, Shop Towel Mache, and Corn Starch Paste


Paper Mache Raccoon

You’re probably starting to wonder if I’m ever going to finish this silly raccoon – but I am, I promise! There just seems to be so many other things to do when the sun is shining…

There are two important things in this video. The first thing to notice is that I took the hands and feet apart and rebuilt them – it was too hard to wrap paper mache around the toes as they were originally built because they were too close together. I think the new way of doing it was much easier, and it looks better, too. I’ll be doing it that way from now on.

Click here to get the Raccoon pattern.

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. The corn starch paste took a long time to dry because it kept pulling moisture out of the air. You can find the paste recipe I like better on this page. I use the same recipe for home-made gesso.

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.

Here are the links to the two web pages I mentioned in the video:

Corn starch paste – remember to add at least one more cup of water if you’re using it with the Scott blue shop towels! (If I made another raccoon, I’d go back to the paste made with drywall joint compound and white glue. It dries much faster, and you can also use it as DIY gesso to smooth the final layer of paper mache.)

There is one benefit of using the corn starch paste that I didn’t mention in the video:

Wild yeast doesn’t like corn starch, so you can keep the paste for several days without having it go bad. With wheat paste, the wild yeast that’s attached to the wheat, right in the flour, will start to grow just as soon as you add water. Since the yeast eats the starch (and turns it into alcohol), the longer the paste sits, the less sticky it becomes. (It’s trying to turn your paste into sourdough starter, which would be nice if you were making bread instead of paper mache!)

I always throw out any left-over wheat paste and start with a new batch the next day. With this corn starch paste, that isn’t a problem. The vinegar probably slows down any mold spores, too, but that’s something that should be tested in a more humid environment. However, the next day you’ll need to add even more water if you’re using it with shop towels, because the paste will thicken overnight. But I still think the joint compound and glue paste is better. You can find the recipe on this page.

In the next video I’ll add the air-dry clay to make the eyes and nose, and I’ll test the tissue paper technique that Pedro showed us, to see if it works for fur as well as feathers. I haven’t used this particular brand of air-dry clay before, so I’m not sure if it will stick to the paper mache. I guess I’ll find out in a day or two. And I’ll be using colored tissue paper with the fur – another experiment. This paper mache raccoon might be a slow project, but at least I’m learning a lot.

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12 thoughts on “Paper Mache Raccoon Part 4 – New Toes, Shop Towel Mache, and Corn Starch Paste”

  1. Good afternoon Jonni 🙂

    I have spent today experimenting with the Corn starch recipe, while nothing yet is dry to check for strength, I can tell you this:
    I followed the recipe you posted except, instead of using 2/3 Cup corn starch, I only used 1/3 Cup.
    Once the water, sugar and vinegar were boiling, I turned my burner down to just a “hair” above simmer (I have a gas stove, so not sure what that setting would be for an electric burner) and added my corn starch mixed with the additional cup of cold water. I stirred with a whisk for 2 to 3 minutes, until I felt decent resistance caused by thickening, but it was still someone what “white” in appearance. I then turned off the burner and poured it into a different container to remove the heat source. After about 3 hours of sitting on my table, it was at room temp and still liquid, VERY close to what white glue is like.
    I used a half cup of the mixture once cool and made a batch of your silky smooth clay in place of the white glue. I left a portion of that spreadable and then took another portion of that mix and added flour to make it mold-able. I work tomorrow and if the rain holds off for the most part, it should be dry enough for me to see how strong the different blends are when I get home 🙂 I’ll keep you posted

  2. I’m wanting to make a bunny doll. I couldn’t tell how big the head shold be so I began with the dress to get a proportion. Also don’t have local access to the cotton body fabric so am using a light weight fleece instead. The cornstarch paste sounds good…will try it. I love that you are sharing with us your ongoing findings. Thk u thk u. Will keep u posted.

    • I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. I’m still experimenting a bit with the corn starch paste, so you might want to play around with a bit before committing to using it for your doll. I think there might be ways to make it work better, but we’ll see…

  3. I have started a simple cat sculpture and I hope to complete it with recipes like those you posted on the Ferrocement Face sculpture. My main goal is to imitate this neat life size ‘alien’ concrete thing we saw one time. Wished we bought it, now trying to remember it! If I ever bring it to ‘life’, I will post a pic! THANK YOU SO much for your site, your how-to’s, your pleasant easy way.

    • Hi Elizabeth. I can’t wait to see your sculpture – and to hear about your experiences with the cement recipes. I hope you enjoy working with it, and that you’re able to make that alien sculpture soon, too. What a fun idea!

  4. Jonni,
    I am excited to try this new paste! I stopped by here to check your raccoon progress before heading out to my paper mache work shed and found your update! I grew up with a pet raccoon, so I can’t wait to see how this looks once you have finished it 🙂 I have a question, did you pre-wet the blue shop towels before adding this new paste (like you did with the plaster/glue method) ?

    It’s interesting that you found this to be a nice shell once dried, I once read on a train modeling site, that several people use a layer of home made liquid starch, made with corn starch, brushed over their PM hills and landscapes as they feel it adds an extra layer of strength, so it has made me wonder about trying it… so, I do believe I will be headed to my stove before the shed this morning 🙂

    P.S. Sylvia LOVED her Laughing horse head, but is sad it won’t be started to be painted until tomorrow ha ha sooooo until then, I am starting another project or two… or three

    • Hi Becky. Oddly enough, my second batch of the paste turned out quite differently than the first – I think it was because I turned up the heat too much. I’m going to try again, just barely heating the paste enough to let it begin to gel, and then removing it from the heat.

      Your mention of the train modeling article is interesting to me, because I actually started looking for a corn starch paste recipe because of a youtube video about making home-made plastic. His recipe includes glycerine, and I think I might experiment with it, too.

      I didn’t wet the towels first, but I think it might be helpful. If the towels aren’t fully saturated and well stretched, they can gradually saturate themselves over time, and that creates a bumpy skin – like our own skin looks when we spend too much time in the bath. The trick is to fully saturate the towels, either with the paste or with water first and then paste, and the carefully stretching them over the form with your hands. Clearly, there is more experimenting to do…

      Let us know how your own paste turns out! If we work on it together, we might come up with the perfect paste. My next goal is to get the recipe to get sticky, dry hard, but not continue to thicken up in the bowl and turn into a ball of rubber, which it seems to want to do if you save it overnight in the fridge. 😉

      • Jonni,
        My batch turned out VERY thick. I believe I cooked it a little too long. But, I added another half cup or so of water and it while still thick, it was usable. I did try wetting some shop towel pieces and then tried it on some dry pieces, I liked the way it spread on the wet/damp pieces better, but of course, took a little longer to dry than the non pre-moistened towel pieces.
        I have some more work with it planned for Tuesday, so I will keep you posted 🙂

        • Hi Becky. My second batch came out really thick, too, and I agree that the heat is the variable in this recipe. I also found that the paste is so absorbent that it was drying really slow yesterday, because we had some very humid weather.

          Two experiments I did yesterday:

          1 – I took the paste off the stove as soon as it started to thicken, even when most of it was still watery. I kept stirring, and quickly transferred it to a bowl so the heat of the pan wouldn’t continue to cook it. It didn’t gel as much, and seemed to soak into the paper better.

          2 – Then I tried adding a small amount of all-purpose flour to the paste, which kept it from stiffening up in the bowl. It stayed runny, but I don’t know why. It was easier to apply that way, and seemed to dry much faster.

          Next – I plan to try adding a small amount of drywall joint compound, to see if we can get the hard shell with just a few layers of the shop towels.

          Can you think of anything else we should try that might improve the recipe?

          • Jonni,
            My batch came out almost like the school glue paste… and Sunday, as I sat thinning it slightly to play with it by using a small wet paint brush, by thinning small amounts at a time as I needed it. I had a light bulb go off…I wonder if this “glue” couldn’t be used in your clay recipe, to replace the White glue that is added????
            Since it made such a big batch, I am going to try it in the clay recipe, and leave it spreadable to cover my current armature, instead of strips of paper towel and the corn starch mix….
            I may try another batch of the corn starch mix using maybe 1/3 C. CS instead of the 2/3 C the recipe called for.. I’ll take pictures and notes and keep you posted 🙂

            • Great idea, Becky! I can’t wait to see what happens with your latest experiment. That would make the pm clay recipe so much less expensive, if it dries hard and strong like the original. Aren’t experiments fun?

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