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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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  • Document pagesPage: 6 of 6

Sealers compared

Adventurers are listed in the order of their endurance.

Brian BushybeardPVA11 daysEasy to apply. No fumes. Colour changes when wet spoilt appearance.Pretty useless.0/10
Mad MajorPaverpol3 monthsEasy to apply. No fumes. Colour changes when wet spoilt appearance.Not very satisfactory.1/10
Eric EnamelEnamel paint4 monthsFumey to apply. Looked very good - Bright and shiny.OK for a short term project.3/10
Angela AcylicOutdoor acrylic paint7 monthsEasy to apply. No fumes. Colours looked a little lack lustre.Not bad for a water-based paint.5/10
Gary GlossGloss paint9 monthsFumey to apply. Looked very good - bright and very shiny.Very good for a household paint.6/10
Flora FloosieExterior varnish11 monthsFumey to apply. High gloss finish only very slightly darkened paint.Extremely good protection.9/10
Neville No-NeckYacht varnish1 year+Fumey to apply. High gloss finish. Darkened paint a little.Brilliant!10/10

My advice for outside papier mache

The most vulnerable part of the adventurers was the thin edge of their bases (which if you remember were made from old DVDs and covered). This may be due to the fact that these tight areas are harder to ensure that they are covered sufficiently with enough paper strips and sealer. I was very careful when making them to get plenty of sealer on the edges as I was aware that the whole thing needed the same coverage - though I think when push came to shove, it was usually around the bases that the first cracks appeared.

I would therefore advise that objects made for outside are made as rounded as possible with sharp edges avoided.

I have also found that the water based sealers are not too good and I for one will stick to solvent ones (if I am ever tempted to make anything else for outside, which at the moment I'm not!).


I have really enjoyed doing this waterproofing experiment and I'm delighted that some of them lasted a long time, and that one year on I still have one in perfect condition. I had nightmares at the start that I was going to lose them all very quickly, especially after I lost the first one, Brian Bushybeard, after only 11 days!

The adventurers didn't go unnoticed and brought a lot of reaction from visitors and passers-by. The strange looks, the grins, the "sypmpathetic" looks (they're the worst!). Comments such as "what are all those funny little gnomes doing in your garden"? Gnomes!

I would like to say thank you for all the wonderful emails I have received from people expressing their interest in this experiment. It has been so worthwhile. Please keep emailing me with your own experiences, and if you can send a photo too that would be great. I hope that it will help others to not make too many costly mistakes with their treasured artwork.

The Champion

I will leave you with a photo of the champ…

The Champion
The Champion