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Waterproofing Papier Mache

Waterproofing Papier Mache by Jackie Hall

Now you have made your papier mache item, would you like to place it outside? Use my experiences with sealers and paints as a guide.

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  • Date addedAdded: July 5, 2005
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Update - 1st August, 2005

It is less than two weeks since I placed my balloon people and paint blobs out in the garden, so I didn’t think I would be updating on them quite so soon.

The weather was dry and mild for the first week (not a drop of rain). All the adventurers stayed in top form.


Brian
Brian

Major
Major


On 26th July we had a light shower. They all seemed alright afterwards, but Brian Bushybeard was covered in white spots! Mad Major also had one or two, less noticeable, around his feet. As both these two were coated in water based sealers, it appears that the rain made them revert temporarily back to their natural colour (white) in some areas.

However, the sun came out and dried them all up. The white spots completely disappeared. Just as the original white coating had turned clear on drying, it had done so again.

I felt confident that although the spots (which looked a bit unsightly) were liable to appear each time it rained, basically they would be unharmed.



However, on 28th July, we had torrential rain. It made up for the previous dry spell. Brian Bushybeard and Mad Major were almost completely white again. This time though, they didn’t have white dots but an all over white “staining”. They looked dreadful, as if they had been involved in a fight with a tin of white-wash!

Brian
Brian

Major
Major

It was a shock to see them like this. I wasn’t sure what to expect next. On inspecting them, Brian Bushybeard felt soft and pliable. As he was hard (as all of them were) before sealing, this was a very bad sign. It indicated that moisture was getting through to the papier mache. Mad Major was ever so slightly soft, but not nearly as bad as Brian Bushybeard.


Angela: Under observation
Angela: Under observation


I inspected the others. They were all fine except Angela Acrylic (the only water based paint finish). Although colour-wise she looked fine, she too was very slightly soft. This means that moisture is getting through to all three of the water based products.

The sun dried them out yet again and, as before, the white completely disappeared. The following day, though, disaster struck! Another heavy downpour did for poor Brian Bushybeard. He became so soft he deflated to a flat mess. I had my doubts about the pva over a long period, even using the good quality pva with added water repellents, but I hadn’t reckoned on it being a total flop. Although he has dried out again and the sealer has turned clear once more, he is mis-shapen. Brian Bushybeard has now been withdrawn from the experiment as he is ruined. It is 31st July today, so he lasted a measly 11 days.


Brian is out!
Brian is out!

Update - 9th October, 2005


Major
Major


Mad Major has struggled for a long time to survive. Turning white every
time it rains, then drying clear again, he had to contend with being made
soft and rather vulnerable.

I recently noticed some hairline cracks appearing along the base of his
boots. After a heavy downpour yesterday the cracks split open and his
body absorbed water like a sponge. A small area of his head has sunk in
but this doesn't show up in the photos. He feels much heavier due to the
added weight of the water and he squelches if you prod him.



A soldier can't function with leaky boots and a drenched body, so Mad
Major has now retired from public duty!

Close up
Close up

Close up
Close up

This is the second, and last of the water based sealers. I was very
disappointed in the Pavapol as the maker's claims sounded wonderful. It
outdid the weatherproof pva by quite a number of weeks but it was never
very satisfactory. The regular colour change is unsightly, and after
all, you are making your artwork to be looked at and admired. Also, his
body went very slightly pliable from the very beginning and not "rock
hard" as it was expected to do. He survived just over three months.

This leaves us just with the two solvent sealed figures and the three
paint blobs. More on those later.