As part of My New Backyard, I decided to make a little paper mache table after spotting this one at West Elm. Paper mache is probably not the best idea for an outdoor table, but since this was made with recycled cardboard and newspapers, it cost me all of $10. Why not? I also sealed it up pretty well, and I’ll show you how.
You could make a paper mache table in any style for indoor use and it would cost you a fraction of store bought furniture. And bonus: it was a really fun project to do with the kid. Learn how to make a paper mache table after the jump!
How to Make a Paper Mache Table
First you’ll need some cardboard. Why not use a shipping box?
I decided I wanted my table to be 22″ High and 15″ in diameter. So I figured the circumference at 47.12 and cut a piece of cardboard 47.12″ X 22″ with a box cutter. So you figure the same for your table heigh and size. You can also make a square table, or an octagon, or a decahedron, really it’s up to you.
Because we are making a circle we need to make our cardboard more flexible. So peel off the top layer of paper as best you can.
You may see that it doesn’t all come off, like this:
Use your fingernail or a knife to slash all the spaces in between the corrugations so it looks like this:
Now roll it up just to get it nice and pliable.
Roll it back and forth, bending between the corrugations, until it is more flexible.
Now bring the ends together to form a tube,
and tape together with duct tape.
Now we need to make it more sturdy, so let’s put a support inside. You’d think your supports should be cut the height of your table by the diameter, but you also need to account for the thickness of the cardboard on each side and the top & bottom. My cardboard is 1/4″ thick so I cut my pieces to 14.5″ wide by 21.5″ tall. You need to cut two pieces.
Then I measured from the center of the width (7.25″) to the center of the height (10.75″) and cut slits 1/4″ thick right down that line.
Now slide the two pieces together at the slots you cut to create an X.
Slip your support inside your tube.
At this point you should add the top and bottom. You could cut a top and bottom out of cardboard (make them 2 or 3 pieces thick for extra stability) but I am bad at cutting perfect circles and I wanted my top and bottom extra sturdy, so I ordered two 15″ round masonite cake board for $9 each from amazon. Since I was on a roll, and my cake boards would not arrive for two days, I went ahead and added my decorative elements first.
So I drew lines 1/2″ apart across a piece of 4″ wide cardboard leftover from my giant recycled shipping box.
Then I cut them out.
Then I whipped out the trusty hot glue gun and began gluing them on around my cardboard tube in a chevron pattern.
I didn’t get all crazy neat and specific with this, it’s going to have paper mache on top so I went for a more laid back look (and easier process).
I did four rows of chevron zig zags.
Now my table looks like this.
I went ahead and sprayed the whole thing with polyurethane in an effort to mitigate the wetness that will occur when we apply our paper mache and make the table a little stronger.
Finally, my cake boards arrived. I slipped one on each side of my cardboard frame and duct taped around the edges.
I also experimented with taping around the embellishments, to see if it made a difference when applying the paper mache (by protecting from wetness), but it didn’t, so don’t worry about it.
Time to make our paper mache! I used a pulp, but you could do strips. Here is how I made my pulp. I ripped up about 6 copies of the LA Weekly and throwing them in a bucket (so there are a lot of ads for escorts and lap-bands in my table).
Soak it all in water.
In the morning agitate the whole mixture. I actually let mine sit for four days, because that’s how long it took me to get around to finishing the table, so it was nice and pulpy. But if yours is still too paper like, you could boil it for 30 minutes while mixing it and the fibers will separate. So now it looks like this:
Strain it and put the pulp back in a bucket. Get as much water out as you can. Put on some gloves. Mix in wallpaper paste until it is a clay texture.
Apply to your table, making sure to cover everything. You can let the kid help here, just make sure they don’t eat it.
Let it dry. A long time. Until it is really really super dry.
If you need to, make more pulp and do some touch ups. Let it dry again.
Now it’s completely dry. I decided to smooth out the texture a bit with some plaster, but I didn’t take pics. Suffice it to say I mixed up some plaster and used a gloved hand to smooth it on. Next step it to paint it. You can use any kind of paint you want, but I used spray paint because it’s so dang easy. I used two cans of gloss ivory. Make sure it is an oil based enamel to get a good seal. Let it dry, then coat it with acrylic sealer spray. Let it dry. Coat it again.
It definitely looks homemade, but I don’t mind, I love using the table with my daughter and listening to her tell everyone that she made it herself!