Applying paper mache over wood is one way to get a smooth finish that will cover the wood grain and allow you to paint the surface in whatever design you like. If you have a piece of wood furniture or a wood sculpture that you would like to refinish with some paper mache, follow a few steps and you'll end up with your very own unique wood and paper mache piece.
Sand down the wood with medium-grade sandpaper to remove any finishes or paint. If you have a large wood piece and know how to work an electric sander use this, otherwise stick with using sheets of sandpaper and your hands. Wipe down the piece with a dampened cloth to remove wood dust.
Cut up strips of old newspaper. For larger surfaces, such as a wooden tabletop, make the strips about 2 inches wide. For smaller pieces, such as small sculptures, cut strips that are about 1 inch wide.
Mix together 1 quart wood glue with 2 cups water. Stir the mixture thoroughly with a wooden stirrer and keep the stirrer on hand, as the two fluids will slowly separate and you will need to keep stirring throughout the process to keep them mixed. Mix more mixture as needed for larger pieces.
Dip a strip of paper into the glue mixture, then run it between your index finger and thumb -- holding it over the glue -- to remove the excess. Gently lay the strip atop the wood piece and wipe it down onto the wood. Make sure to smooth it out and remove bubbles.
Dip another strip of paper into the glue and lay it slightly overlapping your first piece by about 1/4 inch and running parallel to it. Smooth down this second strip to remove bubbles and continue applying strips until the wood is entirely covered. Let the paper mache dry for 2 hours, then apply another layer and let it dry overnight.
Paint over your paper mached piece with acrylic latex paints and paintbrushes. These thick paints will allow more coverage over any print or designs on the newspaper. Apply the first layer in the design of your choice, wait 1 hour and apply another layer and then let it sit overnight.
Spray down the entire piece with shellac sealant spray. Make sure to spray a good even layer and let it dry for 24 hours before using your wooden piece. Shellac will not only preserve and strengthen your paper mache finish, but it will also give it a glossy shine.
Use this method for a variety of projects. For example, you could use old magazine photos and paper mache a wooden tabletop for a retro coffee table -- just use the design already in place instead of painting over it. Paper mache old jewellery boxes or even old dining chairs to give them a unique look. You can easily give whatever wooden piece you like a funky or updated look with this method. You can also sand down your dried paper mache prior to painting to make the finish even smoother; just use fine-grade sandpaper and light strokes to avoid sanding through the paper mache.