Papier mache !

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Papier mache !

Postby Pat Plant. » 02 Dec 2006, 15:41

Hello,
Can someone please provide me with an up to date tried/tested/proven/successful 'recipe' for papier mache suitable for the manufacture of puppet heads ?
Thanks,
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Postby Chris » 03 Dec 2006, 00:26

I really wouldn't be seeking a modern, up to date method for papie mache. I would suggest that you stick to the traditional methods which have been tested over the centuries. And I'm not talking loosely, papie-mache furniture has indeed survived for hundreds of years.
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Postby Chris » 03 Dec 2006, 21:00

I was thinking about the wording of your question - and wondered at your use of recipe. I guess you are perhaps thinking not of what I consider papie mache - ie layers of paper pasted over a form or within a mould - to give a lightweight shell of immense strength - but of some form of paper based modelling material which is also sometimes called papie mache. This is paper, soaked and shredded and rubbed and squeezed and sieved until it resembles breadcrumbs, then some form of adhesive (anything from flour paste to woodworkers glue) to make a horrible sticky mess which is almost impossible to model except into very basic shapes. To make it less sticky and easier to model some form of filler is added. I always used whiting, and this was rubbed in and kneaded until the mixture resembled plasticine in texture. This could be modelled to a very fine degree of detail and is a splendidn way of making marionette heads. However the addition of the whiting reduces the strength of the paper-glue mixture and this method is definitely not suitable for Punch heads.

The traditional layer method does make heads of very great strength, but does require great patience.
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Postby Tony James » 04 Dec 2006, 14:58

Chris - how strong is papie mache when used for hollow glove puppet heads?

I have some beautifully made large heads (not Punch) which are very light considering their size. I'm inclined to treat them with kid gloves as they feel so fragile comared with wood heads.

Heads are carelessly banged sometimes and dropped, or have other wood heads drop on them, especially when you're tired. Will they really stand hard knocks.?

I know furniture has lasted well but that is solid. These are hollow.
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Postby James » 04 Dec 2006, 15:02

I've found hollow mache heads (or even latex ones as long as you are careful) can be filled with expanding foam filler, increasing the strength but not adding much to the weight.
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Postby Chris » 04 Dec 2006, 16:10

<blockquote>James means that's how I've told him I make mine. As far as I know I was the first to use this method. Any hollow head is vulnerable to crushing. Polyeurythane foam is used to add buoyancy to canoes and can be used inside heads to add strength without weight. You buy the stuff as two chemicals which you mix and pour, and they rapidly expand to fill the interior.
Not available thirty odd years ago when I was experimenting but now in the B&Q or other DIY supermarkets you can now buy an aerosol can of a rather similar product, an expanding filler for wall cavities. This is just squirted into your head and works just as well. It is slightly heavier than the two part product, but much more convenient to use.
Hollow papie mache heads are very strong if made with sufficient layers and if the paper is well chosen - I use tissue for the surface layers, but kraft paper inside. It will take a much greater battering from a slapstick than will wood. What it won't tolerate is being stood on, on being crushed beneath a weight. This is where my foam-filled heads score.<br>
<img src="http://www.puppets.inuk.com/punchboard/violin.jpg" align="left">To give you an idea of the durability of paper, I have a marionette violinist, over 3ft high, His head and torso are papie mache shells, as are his legs. These have not been foam filled - I made him before I had invented the technique - but even so he has survived over the years being repeatedly packed and unpacked in travel trunks throughout the years of clubland touring and all over the world on cruise ship work. He even survived being soaked in salt water from fire hoses in a ship's fire (Achille Lauro 1981) He has never needed repair or repainting to his head.<br clear="left"></blockquote>
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Postby James » 04 Dec 2006, 16:55

I think it was Nigel and Robin (Presto Puppets) that told me first - The Da Silva Pinnochios had foam filled heads, but yes, you probably were the first to use it. Either way, it's a neat little trick (but keep the latex heads in the moulds, or they'll swell like balloons).
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so to actually answer the question

Postby CvdC » 04 Dec 2006, 21:32

So even even if do use a pulp of mache you do need to make a basic shape. Half blown up balloons or scrunched up paper covered in small pieces of paper until it is thick enough to hold its form when dry.
When I make papier mache these days I use PVA watered down a little.
In the old days it was wall paper glue and before that was it not just flour and water with some alum in it?
Once you you have this basic shape and it is dry you can build up features using the pulp or pieces or well soaked paper.

I knew of one person who made paper furniture soaking the paper in epoxy. He used magazines so the end result was very colourful.

I shall for interest sake refer to my copy of Toy Manufacture by J.T. Makinson, 1921 for a recipe for a doll making composition
Paper-pulp 1 /12 lb, whiting 4 lb and plaster of paris 2 lbs (sieved). To make the pulp you boil newspaper which is then rinsed in cold water.
He says the japanese use rice paper which makes it very hard.
10 parts paper pulp, 8 parts whiting, 5 parts rye flour made into a paste with water.
The rice paper would be good for the final layers I should think.
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Postby Tony James » 04 Dec 2006, 22:29

Thanks all of you for that. I shall see how I can gain access and fill the head. I suspect the additional weight will feel better too. I'm so used to the weight of the other wood heads.

Interesting that some use kraft paper and others newspaper. Very different.

Kraft is a chemical paper, the wood chips being cooked in a liquor. The result is a pulp with long fibres and the resultant paper is very strong and wet resistant, due to the criss-crossing of the long fibres.

Newspaper is a mechanical paper, the wood being ground mechanically almost to dust. The result is a pulp with very short fibres and the resultant paper is weak and absorbant, due to the very short fibres.
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Postby Chris » 04 Dec 2006, 23:03

Tony:
The differences in the paper used are perfectly logical.
Kraft paper is used for layer method - true papie mache. The long fibres make for greater strength.
Newspaper is used for making a modelling material - the shorter fibres allowing it to be speedily pulped to a fine flour as a prerequisite for making the dough.
CVDC
If you want a lightweight core on which to model in papie mache:
Roughly tear up a couple of newspapers. Pour on boiling water. Pound vigourously. Take handfuls and squeeze around piece of broom handle to form a large egg shape. Carefully remove broom handle to reveal neck hole. Leave to dry slowly in a warm place.
No paste or glue is required.
When dry you can overmodel on this very light weight base. It is easier to do this if you re-insert the dowel.
I've made dozens - probably hundreds - like this.

The dolly mixture sounds OK for 1921 dolls which tended to be fragile. I would imagine this might be a touch heavy and brittle (plaster of paris) but probably will have a very nice modelling texture and be capable of a fine finish.

We didn't use alum (which I presume was to retard its going moldy) but did use oil of cloves which served a similar purpose but also had the additional property of covering the sour smell if the flour paste did go "off". I love the smell of cloves, as I do that of pure turpentine.
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Postby James » 04 Dec 2006, 23:46

re CVDC's comment about glues.

I (and others) still use wall paper paste. Lapp (available in small bags from HomeBase) is very useful.
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Postby Chris » 05 Dec 2006, 00:04

<blockquote>Yes, wallpaper paste is nearer to the traditional starch paste and I find it easier to work with than PVA adhesive. The latter seems to become tacky too quickly for comfort even when well thinned with water. When layering intricate shapes with small fragments of paper it doesn't help if the paste is stiffening up on you.<br>
I suspect that the PVA product is more waterproof and may well be stronger. It doesn't provide as good a ground for painting. In the past I've tried Cascamite and various wood glues. Always I come back to the traditional starch paste. Surprisingly some glues add an enormous amount to the weight of the finished product.</blockquote>
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Postby Miraiker » 05 Dec 2006, 13:04

Peter remembers that Claude North used to use the old blue sugar bags for some of his puppets.

The Amazing Adrian told us a strange story of his meeting with Wim - who performs the Jan Klaassen show in Dam Square, Amsterdam.
He says that his ghost (a long neck made from paper mache), is made entirely from obituaries.

Perhaps we could start making clowns from circus programmes?
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Postby Pat Plant. » 06 Dec 2006, 22:30

Thanks everyone for your advice...I'll 'stick' with the wallpaper paste !
Can you folks now come up with as much help in my search for a picture of a Frank Spence 'devil' ?
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