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Paper mache is a versatile, inexpensive and sturdy modelling medium good for creating both small and large structures. The major drawback to paper mache, however, is that it takes quite a long time to dry. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can speed up this process through maximising airflow, applying the materials for optimal drying and reformulating your recipes for the most expedited drying.
Decrease the amount of time it takes for your paper mache to dry by placing it in a dry, sunny area when it's done. If there is a lot of humidity in the area, the project will take significantly longer to dry. Meanwhile, sunlight will warm the moisture in the paper mache's wheat paste and help it to evaporate more quickly. If you live in a warm, dry climate, place the project outside to dry. If inside, open and uncover the windows when you can.
To create a paper mache paste that naturally dries more quickly, substitute rubbing alcohol for one-quarter of the water in the wheat paste mix; add this to the wheat paste after cooking it with the reduced quantity of water. Use this only with homemade wheat paste; do not use this method with store-bought glues, which may have formulas that react badly with the alcohol. Speed up the drying of the paper mache by using only as much paper mache paste as you need. Use a sponge brush to wipe up excess paste.
Set up fans as close to the drying paper mache to significantly reduce the drying time. If you have enough of them, set up fans in a circular perimeter around the project and turn them on full blast. Monitor the fans for the first few minutes; however, if your project has any fragile or papery portions that may be blown out of shape by the air blast, you will need to turn the fans down or move them farther away.
Use a hair dryer for hand-held, quick drying. Hold the nozzle of the dryer at least four inches from the project to avoid shorting out the dryer. Use this method for touching up spots that are drying more slowly than other areas. It is less efficient for large portions of a project, but good for focused, powerful drying.
With small projects, use a warm oven to dry the paste in a matter of minutes. Set the oven to 93.3 degrees C, let it heat for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and place the project on a tray in the oven. Leave the oven door slightly ajar.
- "The Big-Ass Book of Crafts;" Mark Montano and Auxy Espinoza; 2008
- Todd Warnock/Lifesize/Getty Images