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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 - 24th November, 2005

We have had an enormous amount of rain in recent weeks. Our winter is starting early this year, so it is pushing the adventurers to their limits much earlier than would normally be expected.

One of the paint blobs, Eric Enamel, has had the smile wiped off his face. The constant (sometimes freezing) rain proved too much for him. His colours look as good as new and, unfortunately, he didn't last long enough to see if his tones altered in the sunshine. His enamel coating has cracked in numerous places and the papier mache has absorbed a lot of water. He has collapsed under his own weight.


Eric Collapses
Eric Collapses

As the two solvent sealers (Neville No-neck and Flora Floosie) have looked just like they did the day I put them out in the garden, I wasn't surprised to see that the next one to bite the dust would be one of the paint blobs. I am surprised, though, that it was Eric. I thought he would have been the last of the three to go. Angela Acrylic has looked dodgy since the early days (she seemed to absorb moisture and feel a little soft), but amazingly she is still holding her own. Good on you girl! I didn't think there would be much to choose between Eric Enamel and Gary Gloss, but I did think Eric might survive the longest as I always assumed that enamel paint was slightly more protective than gloss. Just goes to show you.

With the weather forecasters predicting a severe spell (starting tomorrow!) it may not be too long before I am back to update this saga.

Update - 5th March, 2006

Severe frosts are pushing the adventurers to the limit. The temperature has been below freezing day and night for several days. Angela Acrylic has finally given up the struggle. It all became just too much for her! She performed magnificently over the bulk of the winter and kept her shape and beauty throughout. The bitter temperatures have killed off a lot of my garden plants but she stood out amongst the barren twigs and brown leaves for very much longer than I ever expected her to. Back in August last year, she appeared slightly soft, yet against all the odds she kept going.


Angela exits - Back
Angela exits - Back

Angela exits - Front
Angela exits - Front

When I picked her up after taking the photos this morning, she crumbled into tiny flakes of brittle paint. It reminded me of films where someone picks up a really ancient book and it crumbles to dust in their hands. She reacted completely differently to all the other adventurers. This one went out with a bang!

Lasting seven months, Angela Acrylic proved that a simple water based, inexpensive acrylic paint is capable of really good protection to outdoor papier mache. While not as good as the gloss paint and outdoor varnishes which are still going strong, it gave a good run for its money and I would be happy to use it again.

Update - 9th May, 2006

It's been quite a while since I had anything to report. The three remaining adventurers; Neville No-neck, Flora Floosie and Gary Gloss stood proud out in the garden through the whole of the absolutely awful winter we have just had.

Temperatures way below freezing day after day after irritating day, put these chaps through their paces. They got covered in snow and ice, were pelted on by heavy rain and hailstones but still they carried on right until the Spring.

A dry spell eventually befalling us made me think all three would carry on now for a good while. However, a terrifically strong wind blew them across the garden and Gary Gloss just lost his puff! He flattened under the stress of the fall. On close inspection, some cracks which had obviously formed in his base must have let in water, making him a bit soggy on the inside, but the gloss paint had provided him with a durable protective coating on the outside.


Gary Goes!
Gary Goes!

When I picked Gary Gloss up, I found I could push and pummel him into all sorts of shapes without any further cracking. The gloss paint had become a flexible "skin" with a lot of strength. Holding him felt rather like holding a deflated child's plastic ball. This flexibility is what must have held him together for so long. I was very surprised that this type of ordinary, household, run-of-the mill type of sealer would fare so well.

Lasting nine months, I wouldn't have much hesitation using gloss paint again on an outside object.

We are now left with just the two adventurers. Both of them are solvent based varnishes. I haven't noticed any decline in colour so they are running neck-a-neck.

Update - 18th July, 2006

We have an outright winner!

It is now a year since I put the adventurers outside to face the elements. Although when I last updated there were two little folk remaining, I didn't report on the bowing out of one of them as it would spoil the surprise as to who would win! I also wanted to see if the remaining one would reach the grand old milestone of one whole year. And it did!

Flora Floosie was a close runner-up. She lasted for an incredible 11 months. Her sealer, which was exterior varnish proved to be a very good protector. Her troubles are all behind her now though – literally! She looks perfectly alright from the front, but she has gone all saggy at the back. Maybe she should have paid more attention to her rear view in the mirror! I've no idea why this should have happened.

Floosie - Behind
Floosie - Behind

Neville No-Neck is still going strong and looks as good as the day I finished making him. It is hard to believe that he has withstood 12 months of wind, torrential rain, snow, frost and blazing sunshine. The only change is that the varnish has darkened a little, as varnish so often does, but this is only really noticeable on his skin colour (he now looks as though he has got a slight tan!). However, the difference is so minimal that it doesn't show up in the photographs.

Neville - One year on
Neville - One year on

I reckon that a year is long enough for anything to be left outdoors without any maintenance work on it. If you have wooden garden furniture or ornaments, you would normally expect to re-treat it with a sealer each year. I don't see the point of leaving Neville No-neck out any longer. He has done his little bit for mankind and I think he now deserves to retire!

It was a not a surprise that the boat varnish (or yacht varnish as it's sometimes called) was the best. A lot of people have already told me that they use this varnish for outside work. What is a surprise is how short a time some of the other sealers lasted.