How to Make a Paper Mache Airplane

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Model airplane kits can be fun to assemble but are often expensive to buy and limited in design. Paper mache is a inexpensive alternative to model kits and allows you to use your imagination to create any airplane design you like. Paper mache, or papier-mâché, originates from ancient Egypt. Because of its lightweight durability, paper mache makes a great option for a airplane that needs to be light to fly but durable to last through many crash landings.

Things You'll Need

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered glue resin
  • 4 drops cinnamon oil
  • Saucepan
  • Medium bowl
  • Fork
  • Whisk
  • Water bottle
  • Paper towel cardboard tube
  • Thick cardboard
  • Masking tape
  • White copy paper
  • Brown paper bags
  • Newspaper
  • Paintbrush
  • Gesso
  • Model paint
  • Clear varnish or spray

Mix Paste

  • Boil 3 cups of water in the saucepan.

  • Combine flour and powdered glue resin in a medium bowl with a fork.

  • Add 1 cup warm water into the bowl containing the flour/resin mixture.

  • Stir the flour, resin and water mixture with a whisk until no lumps remain.

  • Pour the flour, resin and water mixture into a saucepan when the water boils.

  • Let the mixture boil for two to three minutes, stirring constantly with the whisk until the paste turns clear and smooth. Add cinnamon oil and let cool.

Create Mold

  • Decide what you want your airplane to look like. You can look in books about model or real airplanes or design your own airplane. If you want the plane to fly or glide, you must keep aerodynamics in consideration. Design the plane with a thin body and long wings.

  • Use a water bottle or cardboard tube as the airplane body. The water bottle is good for a model airplane that will act as a decoration. The cardboard tube is better used for gliding planes.

  • Cut out wing and tail fin shapes from the thick sheet of cardboard.

  • Use masking tape to attach the wings and tail to the body of plane. Try to keep the tape smooth and wrinkle free. Tape all edges so they are smooth.

  • Shape the nose of the plane by crumpling a sheet of white copy paper into a ball and inserting it into the end of the tube or bottle. Tape it in place with masking tape.

Add Paper Mache

  • Shred white copy paper and brown paper bags into 1/2-inch strips, keeping the paper separate. You should have one pile of paper bag strips and one pile of copy paper strips.

  • Start with the white paper strips and dip one strip into the paste. Make sure the strip is covered.

  • Hold one end of the strip with one hand and grasp the strip between two fingers of your other hand. Gently press your fingers together and slide them down the paper to remove excess paste.

  • Apply the strip to the model, smoothing it so the paper has no air pockets or wrinkles. Repeat until the model is covered with white paper strips. Let dry 12 to 24 hours.

  • Repeat steps 2 through 4 with brown paper strips. Continue to alternate paper colors, ending in white. Let dry.

  • Use a paintbrush to paint the model with gesso, which acts as a primer, and let dry.

  • Use model paint and a paintbrush to paint over the airplane model in your desired colors and patterns. Let the paint dry.

  • Add a clear coat spray acrylic or brush-on varnish and let dry. Your airplane is ready to use.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you do not need the plane to be durable with a strong finish, you can use a simple no-cook paste by mixing 1 cup flour with 2 cups water and 2 tbsp salt. This recipe is great for kids, easy to clean and can be stored for three days, covered in the refrigerator.
  • Cinnamon oil acts as a preservative. If you are using all the paste immediately, you do not need to add the oil.
  • If you do not have cinnamon oil, salt prevents your project from molding in high-humidity areas. Dry ground cinnamon makes the paste smell sweeter.
  • If you use cinnamon oil, you can store either paste for up to three weeks.
  • Add landing gear if you want the plane to sit as a model. Do not add landing gear if you wish the plane to fly.
  • You can also paper mache a traditional paper airplane to make it last longer. Just reinforce the wings with thin sticks or strips of cardboard.
  • Spread newspaper on your work surface to prevent resin paste from sticking to your surfaces.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area when using model paint and resin glue.
  • Wear latex gloves when applying resin paper mache to avoid paste sticking to your skin.

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