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The Whale o’ Love: Waterproof Paper Mache

Today’s guest post is by Esther Rovin, who found a way to make waterproof paper mache. I can’t wait for Spring so I can give Esther’s method a try.

Waterproof Paper Mache “Whale o’ Love”

Titebond III

Titebond III

Concrete Acrylic Fortifier

Concrete Acrylic Fortifier

©2017 Esther Rovin

I am a Scenic artist and general crafty person. A friend of mine commissioned me to build a whale that was light weight, easy to move for 2 people, water proof and big enough for 2 people to sleep in.

I used Titebond III, a waterproof carpenters PVA glue, joint compound, flour and Acrylic clear additive (same consistency as thin glue) and a little water for the paste recipe. We weren’t sure it would work but we were willing to try! We tried a sample submerged for 1/2 hour. It held up.

We started with welding a pencil rod frame, added chicken wire. We used nylon pantyhose on the tail and fins to enhance the shape of them. The mouth was trimmed with insulation foam for pipes.

Welded Frame for waterproof paper mache whale

Welded Frame for waterproof paper mache whale

We applied the first layer of newspaper with the waterproof paste. In between layers we watered down the Titebond III just enough so it brushed easily and applied this between every layer, inside and out. Let dry, added another layer, more glue, etc. we did this for 6 to 7 layers of paper.

Once the layers and last glue was applied we used plaster of Paris mixed with the clear acrylic fortifier (no water) as a sandable gesso. This product is available in any good hardware store and can be used for cement, plaster or grout.

The eyes are 7-ll big gulp lids, glued in and paper mache’d around to set.

Nylon pantyhose on the tail and fin

Paper Mache’ing the Outside of the Whale

Paper Mache Whale Ready to Paint

Whale Ready to Paint

Next the whale was primed inside and out using KILZ oil based primer (stinky and messy) tinted blue. This became our final coat as well.

We lined the interior over the chicken wire with paper mache applied the same as the outside and then spray glued a red fuzzy-ish vinyl lining.

Whale Primed, with Bed

Whale Primed, with Bed

The cheesy hippy flowers and hearts were spray painted and then the entire piece was given 3 coats of clear non-yellowing marine varnish.

A removable bed foam mattress bed was placed inside. We covered it with a custom made fuzzy velveteen duvet.

Waterproof Paper Mache Whale

Finished Waterproof Paper Mache Whale

The last time I talked with my friend it had held up outdoors for 2 years! And even been to the Burning Man Festival once (although a fin was damaged there.)

*Disclaimer: we live in LA and don’t get a lot of rain as some places. Also I’m not sure if its stored covered or in the open.


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