How to Make Awesome Cardboard Paper Mache Anything

Awesome Paper Mache Hats

Awesome Paper Mache Hats

A few weeks ago a friend of mine had a “bad movie night” where he was showing the film1Sharknado.”  Inspired by the theme for the party, I decided I had to wear a shark hat for the event.  After making my hat, my daughter requested a monkey hat.  This was not a request I could refuse.

I took pictures of the process to show you how you can make your own.  I haven’t ever tried to make paper mache hats before, so this was not only a lot of fun – but a great learning experience.  While I own the really great paper mache monster books by Dan Reeder, I only used them for inspiration and tried out a few new things on my own.

Even though I used this process to make hats, the directions here could easily be adapted to making anything out of paper mache.

1. Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

All the things you need to make your own awesome paper mache anything

All the things you need to make your own awesome paper mache anything

Here’s what you need to get started:

  1. Cardboard Boxes.  Cardboard forms the “skeleton” of the structure.  It’s cheap, ubiquitous, sturdy, and easy to cut and form.
  2. Masking Tape.  Once the cardboard has been cut, liberal use of masking tape will keep your creation together until it can be covered with paper mache.
  3. Scissors and Utility Knife.  Scissors can be very helpful in cutting cardboard or paper.  While scissors can be helpful, and appropriate for kids, I find a utility knife gets the job done faster.
  4. Measuring Tape.  If you’re not making a hat (or other apparel or armor) you won’t need this.  But it is helpful when making measurements.  ((In a pinch, you could just use a piece of yarn or string to mark lengths, and then put the yarn on the cardboard for reference.))
  5. Plastic Wrap.  Whether you’re working with gluey paper or paint, the process is messy.  I would recommend covering the work surface with plastic wrap.  I happened to have a really large plastic bag, which I taped directly to the table.
  6. Glue.  I just used a big bottle of Elmer’s white glue from the hardware store, but I’m pretty sure wood glue would have worked as well, if not better.  It’s also more versatile and sturdy.
  7. Plastic Tray.  The next time you get take-out or have a plastic liner from inside some packaging, save it.  It makes a great wide tray for mixing water and glue or when your project is dry, it is also great for mixing paints.
  8. Paper Grocery Bags.  The “twist” with this process is that I used torn up grocery bags, rather than the traditional newspaper.  It turned out this was a really good idea for a number of reasons.  Paper bags are a cheap and plentiful material.  When thoroughly wet strips of paper bags are easy to place, mold and shape. However, the most important features of paper bags is that they hold glue and water really well and then dry quickly into a sturdy hard shell.  In fact, they form such a sturdy surface that I only had to do a single layer of paper mache around the entire hat.  This means that you can quickly put down a single layer of paper bag strips all over your cardboard form, wait a few hours for it to dry, and then get to work finishing the project.
  9. Paper or Newspaper.  While grocery bags work really well to cover your cardboard form, they can leave some small gaps where they overlap.  When I found gaps in the project, I simply used a few thin strips of the newsprint style paper to cover the holes and smooth out spots on the rough paper bag layer.
  10. Cup of Water and Paintbrushes.  An old mug is best and pile of cheap dollar store brushes is probably fine.
  11. Paints.  I prefer acrylic paints.  They are cheap, can be diluted with water, easy to mix, they stay wet long enough for you to blend, but not so long that you have to wait days for it to dry.  They also clean up well with water.

2. Step 2: Create Cardboard Form

Process for creating awesome hat

Process for creating awesome hat

The process I used to create the cardboard forms for the hats was pretty quick and easy.  I measured the circumference of my daughter’s head and then the distance from her ears to the top of her head.  Using these measurements, I cut out a strip of cardboard as tall as the distance from her ears to the top of her head and as wide as the circumference of her head – with a little extra to allow for overlap.

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In the pictures above you can see the strip of cardboard cut out and then taped into a cylinder with the masking tape.

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Cut strips into the cardboard cylinder, fold them down, and add enough masking tape to mold it into a hat-shape.

3. Step 3: Add Embellishments

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A paper mache hat is way more interesting with some kind of embellishment, like ears, shark fins, wings, or whatever else.  Here I cut ear shapes out of cardboard, curved them slightly, taped them to hold the curve, and then taped them to the hat.  When I made the shark hat, I cut a long slit into the hat through the tape and inserted the shark fin through the underside of the hat.  Don’t be afraid to use a lot of tape.

4. Step 4: Prepare the Work Surface, Paper Strips, and Glue Mixture

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Cover the work surface with plastic sheeting.  I used a big plastic bag from a helium balloon order from my daughter’s birthday.  However, a big garbage bag or plastic wrap would also work well.  Paper bags from the grocery store work really well – but there are too thick in places.  Tear off the handles and pull the paper bag apart at the seams.  You’ll probably need to discard some of the sections where the the paper bag is too thick to use.

Add some glue (I used about a tablespoon) and warm water (about a half cup or so) to the plastic pan.  It should look like milk or heavy cream once you’ve mixed it up.

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Completely soak the strips of paper bag in the glue mixture.  They should be completely soaked all the way through until they’re nearly translucent.  Unlike paper mache with thin pieces of newspaper, you won’t need to put layers and layers of paper on the form – just one layer where the pieces overlap a little should work fine.  The excess glue from the strips of paper will soak into the cardboard and help make the entire structure sturdy.

5. Step 5: Set Model to Dry, Patch Holes with Paper

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Since the cardboard helps soak up the water, the entire structure should dry relatively quickly.  I put the shark hat outside in the sun for a few hours and it was ready for painting.  Once the hat is dry (or dry enough), you’ll probably notice some holes and gaps from the paper bag strips.  Tear up some newsprint paper, soak those in the gluey mixture, and cover and smooth out any defects.  Once these pieces dry, the project will be ready to paint!

6. Step 6: Paint to Suit

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The great thing about acrylic paints is that they are so easy to work with.  They dry really quickly, so you can paint one side of the model, work on the other side, and then come back to the first side to add details.  In any case, just paint the project to suit and you’re done!

Each hat went together really quickly.  I put the cardboard form together in about 15 minutes, covered it with the gluey paper bag strips over maybe 30 minutes, let it dry for several hours, and then paint it over the course of maybe an hour.

If you make your own paper mache hat (or other sculpture), let me know in the comments!

  1. And I use the word “film” loosely here []

Help cleaning up an STL?

I’m trying to import this STL of a Mini Cooper on Thingiverse into OpenSCAD without much success. I’ve run it through Netfabb’s cloud service, but that still isn’t fixing the problem.

I have a sweet sweet mashup I’d like to make…  so, do you think you could help out?  Much appreciated!

I cheated

Just a little.  I completed the body assembly of my Thing-O-Matic, but not the MK5 Plastruder.
I just finished up the plastruder, so I’m going to bolt that in and move on to flashing the firmware.

Ideas for improvements on the Open Source Disc Shooter

Here are some of the ideas I’ve been kicking around:

  • A magazine1 that you clip in the front of the shooter.  When you clip it in it should depress a spring, or more likely, tension a rubber band.  When you press the button clipping the magazine in, it could actually eject the empty magazine.  That would be sweet.
  • Lower profile.  In looking at insides of the Tracer Guns, it looks like the only reason for the bulky barrels over a long thin slot is so the toy looks more like an actual gun.  I’d rather have an optimal design that uses minimal plastic than something that looks like a gun.
  • A variety of discs for maximum aerodynamics.  In the designs uploaded to Thingiverse I included 18 variations on a disc.  Perhaps some will fly or spin better than others.
  • Rubber band powered mechanism.  Rubber bands are easier to find, cut to size, and replace than metal springs.  It could also lead to a more compact design.

I’m sure other ideas will come to me.  I just wanted to jot them all down before I forget them.

Now that I have my chess set complete, it would be pretty cool to have a working OSDS prototype before Botacon.

  1. Hey, Dave, happy??? []
November 29, 2010 | Comments Closed

DIY laser cutting

Peter Jansen's reciprocating laser concept

Peter Jansen's reciprocating laser concept

Peter Jansen’s latest post about selective laser sintering (SLS) is nothing short of amazing.  Most of his posts on the RepRap Builders blog posts deal with his adventures and research into SLS fabrication – basically directing a laser over a bed of powder to fuse powder in successive layers into a 3D object.  Since the object is being created in a bed of powder and any new layer is supported by the powder above it, the powder print media becomes it’s own support material.

His latest post diverges from his adventures with SLS 3D printing and details his efforts at building a DIY laser cutter.  His idea is for a “reciprocating laser” which would change the focal length or the height of the laser above the material being cut.  Peter points out that commercial high power laser cutters essentially brute force burn through the entire depth of the material to be cut.  They’re so powerful that it doesn’t matter that the laser is out of focus and “cooler” at different depths.

He has demonstrated a proof of concept using much lower power laser to cut material by lowering a much lower power laser as it cuts material.  The downside is that the lower power laser requires a much longer time to burn through the material – having to hit the same area several times at different depths to cut all the way through.  His proof of concept setup was about the size of a CD/DVD drive – since CD/DVD drives, motors, and housing provided most of his building materials.  So far he’s been able to burn through most of two CD case backs – about 2mm together.  He’s hoping to push it to cut thicknesses up to 3.0mm to 4.5mm.

The incredibly small size of his setup means that it can only very small pieces of material.  However, this gave me two ideas:

  1. If the low power lasers are so cheap, why not install multiple lasers at different focal lengths?
  2. If the entire setup is that small, what about making the entire setup mobile? 1  Think hexapod CNC mill.  If a laser cutter wheeled or hexapod robot was as small as a CD drive, you could conceivably just take out a large sheet of acrylic or thin plywood, set the robot in the dead center, and let it go. 2
  1. This reminds me of one of my favorite sayings.  “If Mohammed won’t go to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed.” []
  2. The robot could stay oriented in any number of ways.  You could draw a grid on the material, the material could have a thin paper coating with LeapFrog style micro-dots that told the robot it’s location, you could project a grid onto the material with light or guide it with another laser like a laser guided missile. []

Sonic Screwdriver – first draft

Sonic screwdriver, first draft

Sonic screwdriver, first draft

To the right is a first draft print of my latest designs for the sonic screwdriver.  It’s next to a USB cable for scale and perspective.  There are several things I need to fix:

  • It’s too small.  I was guesstimating the scale based upon the size of hand holding the sonic screwdriver in one of the photos I saw.
  • Too much warpage.  I need to build my heated build platform.  :)  I’ve got my SMT1 soldering Toolkit, now I just need a hotplate.
  • Better connectors.  The connectors I designed are adequate, but not that great.  They need to be much larger to ensure a proper grip between parts.
  • Fix a connector.  I have a hex connector on one piece and a 16-sided connector on another.  That’s not going to work.
  • Consider changing the fit.  Some parts have a 0.25mm clearance on all sides between the male and female connections.  Other parts have a 0.5mm clearance instead.  I tried both on different sections so I could test the fit.  The 0.25mm clearance on all sides is fine for some parts, but other parts could use a little more wiggle room.
  • Change the thickness.  My earlier draft was a whopping 0.5mm thick all around.  I printed these parts at varying thickness to test their durability, flexibility, conserve plastic, and maximize internal space for future electronics.  A 1mm thickness seems to be the most optimal mix.

I’ve posted my sonic screwdriver designs to Thingiverse for people to tinker with and, hopefully, improve.  I would sincerely appreciate any help anyone can provide when it comes to designing the upper half of the sonic screwdriver – especially the moving parts.

  1. surface mount technology []

Design-print fail

I’ve been slowly working on the design of a printable (and fully MakerBottable) sonic screwdriver.  This model of the sonic screwdriver is built up of a number of concentric cylinders, has several significant overhangs well in excess of 45 degrees, and is larger than the MakerBot’s built capacity.  In order to deal with these design problems, I modeled it in sections.

In order to make the overall result something I could just pop/snap/slide together I designed it making some sections which were split vertically and other sections which slide around those sections to keep them together.  In order to make the parts quickly printable I designed all the parts at around 0.5mm thickness.

About 40% of the way through the print one of the vertical sections wasn’t coming out properly – probably because it was too thin.  The parts were too thin and flexible and ended up tearing between layers and just being too flimsy.

I also noticed something odd – the extrusion was too thin on that side of the model.   I can’t be sure why this is happening – but I suspect it’s due to the extruder not getting a good enough grip.  Perhaps I need to floss the extruder pulley or install a new extruder idler wheel.  However, it doesn’t explain why the extrusion was too thin on just that one side and no other spots.


3x2x1 Rubik’s Cube assembly pictures

The design should be pretty intuitive.  However, I went ahead and took some pictures of the assembly anyhow.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I think this one came out really really well.  :)

August 8, 2010 | Comments Closed

Tyvek Sled Kite… from office supplies

Tyvek Office Supply Kite

The picture to the right is of a kite that I built several weeks ago and only got around to actually flying this weekend.  It’s basically made out of office supplies.  :)

Originally I just wanted to make the Tyvek sled kite from the Howtoons shown in Craft Magazine, Volume 81  But then I wanted to see how much of the kite I could assemble just using things from the office.  The answer is, basically all of it.

The Howtoons calls for:

  1. A large sheet of Tyvek
  2. Tyvek tape
  3. A washer
  4. Ruler
  5. Scissors

Instead I used:

  1. Tyvek from Tyvek office envelopes, rather than a large sheet or roll of Tyvek house wrap.  My office is sent dozens of these things a day.  It didn’t take long to collect 30 plus.
  2. Clear packing tape.  I used this instead of Tyvek tape.  Tyvek tape would have worked a LOT better, but I have no complaints.
  3. Rather than use a washer, I used a spare keyring.  I had other various office supply bits hanging around in case this didn’t work out.  Paperclips, binder clips, etc.
  4. Yardstick.
  5. Scissors.

Since the envelopes are significantly smaller than the sheet of Tyvek rolls, I had to either make my kite smaller or stitch them together into a larger sheet.  I did both.  I scaled the plans down to about 2/3rds the size from the diagrams and then used packing tape to put them all together.  To get the most surface area out of each envelope, I burst all of the envelopes at the seams and then taped them up.  Once I had a 36″ tall sheet, I started cutting it into the pieces I needed, re-taped it back together as indicated by the diagram, and then set it aside for weeks while I didn’t fly it.  :)

On the day of the launch I made the tail out of strips of leftover envelopes taped together with the gluey bits from some of the envelope flap sealants and more packing tape.  I punched a hole in the three ribs using a pen, ran the line through each of the three ribs, reinforced it with more packing tape…  and launched.

The only non-office supply things used in the construction were:

  • Crayons for coloring the kite (hard to see)
  • The ruler – I don’t have a yardstick at work
  • The kite line, purchased from Amazon

It flew pretty well.

  1. I found a copy of all three pages after googling around a little.  Howtoons: Sled on a Thread pages 1 2, 3 []
| Comments Closed

3x2x1 Rubik’s Cube – done!

I’m so happy with the way this has turned out.

I’ve made a bunch of changes since the last revision of this printable 3x2x1 Rubik’s Cube puzzle:

  • I’ve totally redesigned the center barbell connector.  I simplified the design, removed the five support struts for each end and replaced it with a single support strut and a flat hexagon in the center of the piece.  The purpose of the hexagon is to give the barbell more contact area with the raft.  One of the earlier drafts didn’t have as many supports or this flat hexagon, and it tore off the build platform partway through the build.
  • I increased the diameter of the tube between the barbells.  This enabled it to print easier, made it a little more sturdy, and decreased the wobbliness of the barbell when everything is assembled.
  • I also shortened the entire barbell by 1mm, so that the entire puzzle is held together more closely.
  • I made the flat semi-circular tabs slightly thinner so they rotate a little more freely.
  • I significantly redesigned, thickened and simplified the two brackets that the barbell snaps into.  It’s been able to easily withstand numerous couplings/decouplings as well as numerous rotations.  With a few rotations, all parts now rotate easily.
  • All of the parts fit together SO much better than my first draft held together with a nut and bolt.
  • There is a slight bit of sideways flex that can occur with the use of the barbell.  It is really minor and it actually seems to help the puzzle be more forgiving as you manipulate it.  I see this more as a benefit than a design flaw.

The was one design choice on which I waffled.  I considered making the center cubes non-identical, with one having half a barbell stick out and with the other having the internal connector you see now.  This would have removed much of the sideways flex – since the barbell would be stationary.  I did not go with this design choice because whether the puzzle used one barbell and two connectors or male/female center cubes, there would always be some flex caused by the use of a connector rather than a static pin.  And, to be honest, I much preferred the symmetry of having everything assembled out of just three unique parts.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I really like the idea of a MakerBot printable toy that can be printed in one go and then assembled without tools or any additional hardware.  I also think this would make a great MakerBot print demonstration.

I’ll post some pictures of the parts a little bit later.